Sustainability – an Imperative for Golf
The ever more critical issue of global sustainability in the game of golf was the topic of the week at the HSBC Golf Business Forum, held recently in Shanghai.
Event organisers IMG elevated the topic to the opening morning of the conference, emphasising the crucial role of social and environmental responsibility to the future success and viability of the sport.
Facilitated by GEO (the Golf Environment Organization), the session brought together contrasting viewpoints from inside and beyond golf, with The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), The R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) leading a lively debate that covered many of the key big picture and technical issues.
In his opening keynote, Dr Arab Hoballah, Senior Director of Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry with UNEP, hit home on the fundamental need for all sectors to embrace sustainability; set out clear targets to deliver maximum social and environmental value; and report performance and progress.
Moving from poverty to resource depletion, and from climate change to the world’s future Sustainable Development Goals, Dr Hoballah left the room of industry leaders in no doubt as to the scale of social and environmental challenges faced by society, business and government.
Turning his attention to sport, and then golf, he said:
“On an ever more pressured planet, with increasing competition for finite resources, governments and the public expect to see responsible action, and want to know the net impact of any given land use, recreation and product. The sport needs to get more active and communicate even more strongly about their “greening” efforts and their “mitigation” actions so that people grasp the game’s commitment and value.”
Continuing, Dr Hoballah added: “You have all the ingredients, and I’d encourage the sport to unite around sustainability. The issues are so wide-ranging and inter-connected that it requires collective initiative for a collective impact. On your return to The Olympic Movement, there has never been a better, nor more important moment for golf to truly stand up and be counted”.
Dr Arab Hoballah of UNEP addresses the audience of golf industry leaders
Following the UNEP perspective, Steve Isaac, Director of Course Management at The R&A and Pat Gross, West Region Director of the USGA Green Section outlined a number of ways in which golf’s governing bodies are advocating and leading by example and have also been investing in education, further targeted research and a credible platform of sustainability standards, certification and reporting.
Steve Isaac said: “We fully appreciate the significance of the issues highlighted by UNEP, and willingly accept the challenge to do more, and be seen to do more. We see this as a complete win win – where the further enhancement of nature, greater resource efficiency and new levels of community integration are good for business, as well as resulting in golf providing even greater net gains to people and the environment. As an organisation, we are already significantly scaling up our own leadership around The Open Championship venues and staging, as well as investing more revenues back into real, long term sustainability solutions for clubs, developments and tournaments, primarily through our support of GEO.”
Echoing those views Pat Gross added: “The USGA has led a dialogue and invested significantly in environmental research and education for more than 95 years. We continue to offer expert consulting services to all golf courses, as we strive to offer solutions that can foster real change. By developing new tools to help facilities manage their resources more effectively, and reduce their managed turf, we can help owners, managers and communities make smarter decisions for the future. We encourage continued collaboration and innovation, to the direct benefit of our sport, and others.”
Dr Hoballah is joined on stage by (l-r) Pat Gross, West Region Director of the USGA Green Section, Steve Isaac, Director of Golf Course Management at The R&A and Jonathan Smith, CEO, GEO (the Golf Environment Organization).
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