Environmental sustainability rhetoric in sport

Authored by: Michael E. Pfahl

Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138666153
eBook ISBN: 9781315619514
Adobe ISBN:


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The integration of sustainability principles and environmental awareness and action are now a part of the world of sport, albeit in inconsistent ways. The need for sport personnel to take action in the environmental sphere stems from many different reasons and contextual drivers, including strategic opportunities or threats; the rise of multiple levels of governmental intervention, regulation, and policy formation; demand for change brought about by various stakeholders; and the personal value systems of individuals and communities/groups of sport professionals (Hillman & Keim, 2001; Shrivastava & Scott, 1992; Pfahl, 2010; Pfahl, Casper, Trendafilova, McCullough, & Nguyen, 2015; Thibault, 2009). Environmental change manifests itself in different ways in different sports. Facilities and events are common areas of focus, as they are the most visible environmental footprint for a sport organization or event (Jin, Mao, Zhang, & Walker, 2011; Kellison & Hong, 2015; Mallen, Adams, Stevens, & Thompson, 2010). Many other areas of sport operations are also involved and acted upon (e.g., marketing engagement, corporate sponsorship) when dealing with environmental issues (Casper & Pfahl, 2015a, 2015b; Casper, Pfahl, & McSherry, 2012; Kellison & Kim, 2014; Lenskyj, 1998). This chapter is not prescriptive, but rather, it examines the rhetorical aspects of this process in order to raise key issues in relation to developing and to communicating messages about environmental issues in sport. Sport professionals must become responsible for developing processes and practices for their organization (and with any necessary stakeholders) just as they would any other strategic part of their organization. The chapter first explores key points about rhetoric and general communication strategy. Second, it will identify the connections between rhetorical aspects of communication and environmental sustainability in sport. Third, factors that enable and constrain message development regarding sport and the natural environment will be discussed. Finally, it will provide a set of beginning or foundational tactical concepts to help sport managers identify their own voice and strategy regarding these issues.

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