Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be involved with a variety of organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries. However, my involvement with the Green Sports Alliance – which just completed their annual summit in Chicago in July – is really proving to be one of the most important.
The reason is not just because it involves the professional sports industry, which we all love, but what professional sports means. Professional sports teams are leveraging their brands to help their communities. This is happening in the U.S. and around the world. Traditionally, they and their athlete members have focused on helping underprivileged populations, empowering and inspiring women, and encouraging youngsters to stay in school and get an education.
Now they are using their social influence to stress the importance for all of us to become more respectful of our environment and our natural resources; many believe this growing emphasis will prove very powerful. I’ve told the story before but it is such a dramatic example of the impact professional sports can have on society, I would like to repeat it.
In 1946, Jackie Robinson was hired to play for the Brooklyn (New York) Dodgers. At that time there was a “gentleman’s agreement” dating all the way back to the late 1800s that white baseball players played on the major league teams and black baseball players played on what were called the Negro Leagues. The two never mixed; it was just the way things were and it was universally accepted as such.
So before signing up Robinson, the club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers questioned Robinson for nearly three hours, asking him if he could face the racial hostility that might occur without reacting angrily and stay with the team. There were similar talks with the white members of the team.
Convinced this could work out, and the fans would soon recognize Robinson as the excellent ballplayer and accept him, he was hired, becoming the first black baseball player in the national leagues.
As we all know, nothing like this would happen today. That’s because professional sports set a precedent 60 years ago and within a few years of Robinson’s hiring, black players were hired by most all the major baseball teams and the Negro league soon faded into history.
Allen Hershkowitz, president and co-founder of the Green Sports Alliance sums up what happened here and what can happen when sports teams draw attention to the importance of green and sustainable issues when he says, “If the sports industry wants it and promotes it, the world can change. Sports has led [the way] to change race relations…it will now change the world in the environmental sphere [as well]. There is no turning back.”
And the “greening” of professional sports is likely to have a very big impact on how kids today think about Green and sustainable issues. I am “young” enough to remember that when Steve Jobs was promoting the early Macintosh computers, Apple made special financing and purchasing arrangements with schools and universities around the world. He did this because he believed – and rightly so – that if he could get young people to fall in love with the Mac, they would be loyal to the brand forever.
For the most part, he was right.
So, I strongly believe we are witnessing something very important today. The greening of professional sports is going to have a very big impact on the U.S. and societies around the world and together with the Green Sports Alliance, is going to open up many doors to the professional cleaning industry.
And just as with the evolution of Green Cleaning, it will likely be those that get on the bandwagon first that will be the big winners. So I am encouraging our industry to get on board.
Talk to you soon.
PS: You can download a copy of the Greener Cleaning Playbook by clicking here. The playbook was designed to help the sports industry implement a Greener Cleaning program.