The Jockey Club recently released its latest Annual Review and gave important time and space to outline its environmental initiatives, aimed at reducing carbon emissions and developing sustainability for a 21st Century sport.

Why is this so important?

2019 has seen considerable pressure put on Government, with the likes of Climate Extinction causing havoc in London with their protests.

Of course the effects of climate change affect the whole planet – and racing as a sport, suffers the immediate effects with extreme weather conditions causing heat issues with horses and significantly impacting ground conditions, grass management and the enjoyment of spectators.

Then factor in the Government’s own ambitions for the UK to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It is likely that in the coming years, Government policy will result in crackdowns on corporate business practice, to help achieve this goal.

That will extend to sports – so it is great to see The Jockey Club and racing taking on this initiative on a proactive basis.

What is The Jockey Club doing?

Within its Report, The Jockey Club acknowledges the importance of environmental consideration and how this topic is being pushed closer to the forefront of policy.

It says: “To deliver our long term vision for British Racing it is vital that the Jockey Club acts in the best interests of our sport, contributes to the communities in which we operate and protects the environment required to sustain racing.”

In 2015, The Jockey Club launched an initiative called “Going Green”.

The aim is to heighten employee awareness of environmental issues through a series of workshops, road shows and forums.

There is regular training of staff in areas of sustainability.

Each Jockey Club venue has an appointed Green Champion who oversees initiatives at a local level. The Green Champion network includes: a tool kit, monthly conference calls, annual away days, an incentive scheme and webinars and training.

There is a Green Employee of the Quarter Award.

Other initiatives include Battle of the Baseloads and Big Switch-offs over Bank Holidays and other extended holiday periods.

Site audits and process reviews ensure that the green strategy remains adaptable.

Investment strategy

The Jockey Club regards sustainability as a core consideration in all capital investment projects.

The Annual Review explains: “Impact on waste and energy consumption is considered for both during the build of a project and for post-implementation.

The Jockey Club’s dedicated Sustainability Manager sits on the Project Review Board and for example, was an active member of the project team for our successful £45 million redevelopment at Cheltenham Racecourse, as well as advising on smaller projects and refurbishments.”

But how much impact can The Jockey Club efforts have on the rest of the industry?

“We share best practice in sustainability within the racing industry and far beyond and became a founding member of the British Association for Sustainability in Sport (BASIS).

“Our Sustainability Manager is a regular presenter at conferences around Europe, sharing best practice and supporting smaller sporting organisations in their bid to go greener. In the UK, The Jockey Club leads masterclasses for Racing Together to share knowledge within the racing industry.”

Warren Hill Gallops

The results

Of course “Going Green” is very much an ongoing project, but results to date have been impressive:

  • 38% reduction in carbon emissions from mainline energy
  • 22% reduction in mainline energy consumption
  • 14% reduction in localised mainline energy consumption, from 2017 to 2018
  • The introduction of solar panels at four racecourses and The National Stud. It is anticipated that these solar panels will generate over 500,000kwh in 2019.
  • A 2020 target to send zero waste to landfill sites was accomplished in the summer of 2018.
  • A significant increase in waste recycling – which reached 73% in 2018, with the rest sent to waste to energy plans.
  • The reduction of single use plastics.
  • A change in supply chain management focus, with local venues prioritising local suppliers; reducing transport costs and emissions.
  • Reduction of food waste by working with local charities to redirect excess food on occasions such as racing meeting abandonments.

Among the racecourses taking part – and singled out as an example of what can be achieved, is Carlisle Racecourse.

At Carlisle, recycling has exceeded targets and in recent months has achieved 95%.

“It also became the first of our racecourses to offer the sale of reusable hot drinks cups and switch to canned waste, eliminating the sale of products served in single use plastic to the public.”

“We have set challenging sustainability targets to deliver and we strive to continue to lead the way in the racing industry.”

To find out more, Course Specialist recently caught up with Kirstin McEvoy, Group Sustainability and Corporate Social Values Manager at The Jockey Club

When did The Jockey Club first determine an environmental sustainability strategy?

 Our first sustainability strategy was set out in 2012.

Has there been any political pressure for racing to respond to carbon emission reduction or is this purely under your own volition?

The government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) legislation initially required The Jockey Club to account for energy consumption in 2010/11 and report in in July 2011.  Under our own volition, the opportunity was then identified to set targets to reduce this consumption.

Does racing have a “joined-up” approach to environmental work or is this purely a Jockey Club initiative?

The Jockey Club has shared its approach with other racecourses through a masterclass for Racing Together.

Have you worked with external environmental experts in developing your strategy?

The Jockey Club is part of BASIS (British Association for Sustainability in Sport) which is a community for sharing best practice and knowledge.  We also work with an environmental consultancy for support with both our employee engagement programme and technical efficiency identification.

Have you worked with other racing jurisdictions or seen what has worked well elsewhere?

We’ve engaged with Melbourne Racing Club – introduced via the BASIS link with the Australian equivalent – Sports Environment Alliance and had lots of engagement with other sporting venues across the world.

Is The Jockey Club a world leader in racing sustainability measure?

We know from the feedback we’ve had when sharing best practice with other organisations in racing and sport that we are doing many things well when it comes to sustainability. I’d like to think that others see us this way and as innovators in terms of sustainability, as we are in many other fields. It’s important that we’re always looking for new ways to improve what we do.

How much scope is there to influence other areas of racing to respond to environmental challenges, such as: other racecourses, suppliers, trainers, stud farms, etc.?

There is scope to influence other areas of racing.  To date we have taken the position of doing our best to improve our own sustainability and sharing knowledge when appropriate. 

Is there a case for a global racing approach to these issues?

If we want racing across the world to improve the way it tackles these issues then it’s really important to share best practice. That has certainly been integral to our approach to sustainability.

Is it possible to quantify how much financial commitment The Jockey Club has made to “Going Green”? Is this a costly initiative?

The Jockey Club has a sustainability dedicated employee plus 49 Green Champions across the group.  We work with consultants to support our initiatives and have invested in various energy saving projects as well as renewable energy.  The return on investment for energy reduction means “Going Green” needn’t be costly.

How important is it to educate the racing industry but also to convey this message to the racing public, in terms of what you are doing and why?

The biggest opportunity we have to make a real difference is through influencing the racing public.  As the second largest spectator sport in the UK, the audience is vast. If we are seen to be making changes, we can lead by example.

What are the next steps The Jockey Club plans to take over the coming couple of years and what are the long-term goals?

Maintaining the current mainline energy reduction is a target in itself as it will require continued employee engagement as well as investment in equipment in order to maintain its efficiency.  The plan is to make annual investment to go over and above this and make further reductions.  We have had a single-use plastics policy in place for some time and have made significant advancements towards our goals.  We are currently updating this policy, working closely with our catering team to set ambitious but realistic targets for the next year and beyond.