As a Philadelphia native who has also lived in the die-hard football cities of Pittsburgh and Denver, watching both the Steelers and the Broncos win Superbowls during my residency, I have to admit I was a bit jealous. Despite nearly 50 years on this Earth, I had yet to witness the same for my beloved and often beleaguered Eagles. The Eagles have broken more hearts than any of the other Philadelphia team. Obviously, all of that was put aside and supplanted by joy this past Superbowl when the vastly underrated underdog Philadelphia Eagles, beat the mighty (some say Greatest of All Time) New England Patriots, besting the great Tom Brady with a backup quarterback and a handful of franchise player injuries.
But what most football fans don’t know is that while the NFL set a big, audacious goal of having Superbowl LII be the first, large-scale zero waste event, one of the two competing teams is already light years ahead of the rest of the league when it comes to sustainability initiatives.
A few years ago, when I found out my friend Lindsay Arell of Honeycomb Strategies was working on a sustainability plan for the Philadelphia Eagles, I was intrigued. Using a combination of renewable energy and innovative waste diversion/disposal methods, the organization is setting new standards for a league that usually doesn’t bother measuring its waste impact on the planet. Further, these efforts strategically also engage fans/customers. With the success of a fan-built Green Team, last year Lincoln Financial Field (the home stadium of the Eagles) went 100% landfill free! In addition, the stadium features the largest installation of solar panels in the NFL, thanks to a partnership with NRG Energy, leading to large energy cost reductions.
Beyond waste diversion and energy usage reductions, the Eagles organization has been innovative in reducing the use of harmful cleaning chemicals, reducing bottled water usage by staff and fans, and realizing additional wastewater reduction through the expansion of flushless urinals. And last year, the organization took sustainability to a new level with the installation of a food waste digester to optimize efficiency and properly dispose of pre and post-consumer food waste.
But, to be fair, the Eagles aren’t the only team working to reduce their ecological impact through sustainability initiatives. Both of their Superbowl rivals, the New England Patriots, and their Superbowl hosts, the Minnesota Vikings, have programs of their own. The Eagles were really just the first team to comprehensively address sustainability and they continue to set the standard, pushing the league further into environmental responsibility.
“Our organizational philosophy has always been that the path to sustainability is a journey not a destination, which is why we developed our robust Go Green program with the opening of Lincoln Financial Field in 2003,” said Christina Weiss Lurie, President Eagles Charitable Foundation, Eagles Social Responsibility. “We view it as our responsibility to be leaders both on and off the field, and that starts with our commitment to serving as environmental champions in the Greater Philadelphia region. We hope that our Go Green measures inspire others to adopt sustainable practices, all in an effort to enhance the quality of life for people around the world.”
For a complete summary of the recent sustainability achievements of the Philadelphia Eagles, you can check out this handy infographic.
Of course, it wasn’t only the Eagles who made an impact on the Superbowl by being a great example of CSR and sustainability, but also the corporate sponsors who bought expensive ad time to run commercials. It seemed as if CSR was the focus of the majority of the commercials. From beer companies like Budweiser and Stella Artois addressing water security to others addressing diversity (Coke) and inclusion (T-Mobile), CSR was front and center during every break in the action.
It doesn’t matter whether you were rooting for the Eagles or the Patriots in Superbowl LII, a casual commercials watcher or a halftime Justin Timberlake fan, or even if you land on the side of anti-football (which, admittedly, is fodder for an entirely different kind of article on Corporate Social Responsibility). Regardless of where you fall, I think we can all agree that what the Eagles’ organization is doing with regard to sustainability, community engagement, and protection of the planet is to be admired and emulated. In the end, the Eagles are winners both on and off the field.