III: Strategic management, policy and education for the sport-environment relationship

Sport and environmental policy

Efthalia (Elia) Chatzigianni

The topic of sport and environmental policy is relatively new in academic research. This chapter begins by introducing the concept of environmental policy and then moves to the inclusion of such policy within sport with an overview of the academic literature. The chapter concludes with suggestions for further research in an effort to encourage and enhance the discussion on how sport could further environmental policy worldwide.

The concept of environmental policy and sport

Continuous and diverse pressures have been exerted by the emergence of globalization on communities throughout the world. In this context, sport is frequently used as a medium by which communities and policymakers deal with policy issues in order to encourage humanity to cooperate, build consensus, and achieve progress and economic and social cohesion (Hoye, Nicholson, &. Houlihan, 2010), environmental policy included. According to Eccleston and March (2011), environmental policy focuses on goals and principles within a society that aid to protect and enhance natural benefits for its citizens. The benefits of such policy are difficult to measure because they may be long-term or difficult to quantify (Burns, Eckersley, &. Tobin, 2019).

Sport has been linked to environmental policy for decades as a relationship between sport and the natural environment was officially acknowledged by the Olympic Movement at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games - also known as the “Green Games” (Trendafilova et al., 2014). The event Organizing Committee initiated 20 sustainability projects that promoted environmental friendliness at the Games (Trendafilova et al., 2014). Since then, measures have been taken to protect the environment, or environmental sustainability (ES), at many sporting events to mitigate what Dingle (2016) notes as threats to the sustainability of the natural environment.

Sports actions to safeguard the natural environment can make an impact beyond sport to society in general (Harvey, 2008). This impact stems from sports ability to influence organizations, including governmental and non-governmental groups, to develop and implement environmental policies.

Sports impact can transend borders and extend to organizations at the local, regional, and global levels (Andrews & Grainger, 2007; Chatzigianni, 2018). The examination of sport environmental policy is, thus, important.

The inclusion of the environment in sport policy academic literature

The relationship between the governance of sport and the natural environment has become a topic of academic research mainly in the past decade. Before that, as Mallen, Stevens, and Adams (2011) concluded in their content analysis research of ES in sport-related journals, which covered the period between 1987 and 2008, relatively few studies examined the issue of ES in relation to sport and proposed further sport-ES research. In recent years, however, a number of researchers have enhanced the discussion concerning sport policy and ES. Here is an overview of key manuscripts within this literature.

Book & Carlsson (2011)

Research topic: Environmental awareness and sport policy

Method: Literature review

Setting: Sweden

Area/sector of sport: Sport and environmental policy

Theoretical foundation: Sociology of law, human geography

Themes, issues, trends, best practices stated, if any:

  • • “In our view, the impact of sport on the environment and on sustainable development has to be challenged and discussed critically ... However, we basically find a lack of such a substantial ecological and environmental discourse on sport in society and in sport as well as in sciences" (p. 403).
  • • “Undoubtedly, the ecological perspective on development will increase and become even more imperative, even for sport and its organizations and forms. It is only our everyday imaginations - and our preconception of sport - that restrict possible ecological reflections on sport, environmental policy and sustainable development” (p. 405).
  • • “In any case ... sport in general seems to have little ambition to take genuine responsibility for the environment and the climate” (p. 408).


  • • “There is no doubt that urban and human geography stand out as crucial in the field of cross-disciplinary research on sport and environmental issues and in the implementation/localization of an eco-policy in sport” (p. 406).
  • • “The absence of a considerable eco-policy is quite illustrative, as it presents an inflexible, more or less outdated organization in relation to modern societal demands and developments” (p. 412).
  • • “There is a need for better environmental strategies, policies and support from the central level towards local practice; at the same time there remains a great deal for the central level to adopt and learn from local practice where things have actually started to move a little” (p. 413).
  • • “Sports are used more and more in connection with social issues, and society makes higher and higher demands on sports” (p. 413).

Stated gaps in the literature:

  • • “In the academic field of sport management, in particular, the ecological discourse appears to have been absent till now” (p. 403).
  • • “Sports geography exists as a sub-discipline to human geography but, unfortunately, not in combination with environmental aspects” (p. 405).
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