The latest industry news to your inbox.

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities


I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy


‘Climate change is the fight of our lives’: Arenas go to battle

James Drury takes a look at some of the sustainable measures being rolled out by arenas across the world, for the Global Arenas Guide 2023

By IQ on 09 Aug 2023

Oak View Group's Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle

Packed calendars, staffing levels, rising production costs, inflation, energy price increases, security… the list of challenges arenas are solving is as long as ever. But one of the most significant issues facing all arenas is environmental sustainability. Around the world, venue companies are rolling out initiatives to reduce waste, cut power consumption, find renewable energy sources, increase efficiency, and eliminate single-use plastics.

Among those leading the way is The O2 in London, which started in 2011 with a wormery to compost food waste and by 2015 was investing heavily in energy reduction projects. By 2019, the venue had reduced its Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by nearly 80% compared to 2010. Last year, it organised Overheated at The O2, a climate festival with Billie Eilish. And in December, it became the first arena in England to achieve its Greener Arena certification.

In 2019, Live Nation announced its Environmental Sustainability Charter, committing the multinational to reducing the impact of its venues and festivals, setting out eight priority areas: emissions & energy; resource use & waste (including plastic), water, food, public engagement, procurement, transport, and local impacts. “As the world’s leader in live entertainment, we have a responsibility to preserve the live music experience for generations to come and a tremendous opportunity to use our platform to inspire global environmental action,” the company said.

“The two areas that we are focusing on are climate change and resource efficiency”

It took greenhouse gas emissions readings from its events and venues as a baseline, with the aim of achieving a 50% reduction in these emissions by 2030. Patricia Yagüe is Live Nation’s head of sustainability EMEA. She says: “The two areas that we are focusing on are climate change and resource efficiency. Our climate change measures tackle everything to do with emissions – mostly energy and transportation; while resource efficiency is about reducing the use of waste, plastic, water, and so on.” She works across markets in the region navigating the differing regulations, cultures, systems, suppliers and implementing action plans to reach the company’s targets.

Among the challenges facing all arenas when it comes to environmental sustainability are emissions, both the energy usage at venues and for events, and the transportation of fans, supplies, and staff travel. “This can be a particularly tricky challenge because we don’t have 100% control over it, we just have a big influence,” says Yagüe.

“That’s why we’re working really hard on promoting public transportation and making deals with public transport authorities, running studies with universities to understand how we can influence the travel of the fans.” She says public transport firms are generally very receptive to Live Nation’s overtures to work together to help more people ditch the cars. For example, since 2008, the company’s Belgian venues have seen the number of people arriving by car fall from 65% to 45%.

“We’re also working out how we can power our buildings with renewable energy”

“We’re also working out how we can power our buildings with renewable energy. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, because in some countries green energy is more expensive.” She says the company has two very ambitious resource eficiency targets: eliminating single-use plastic at venues and festivals and working towards sending zero waste to landfill by 2030. “That’s a big challenge because it’s a systemic problem – waste is a big issue for the whole planet.

“Eliminating single-use plastic from our venues and festivals can present issues because when some of these venues were built, people weren’t thinking about things such as storing reusable cups or security issues around letting fans bring their own water bottles into a venue.” She says in trying to prevent the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles, the company can come up against local legislation – for example, in the USA, you can sell water in aluminium cans, but in some European countries, that’s not allowed.

The company is making strong progress towards its targets. Currently 75% of Live Nation venues in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa run on green energy, and the firm is aiming to have the final 25% on green energy by the end of 2023. As an example of the results of measures already implemented, the company estimates it’s reduced 500 tonnes of CO2 between 2018-2022 in its Italian venues Parcolimpico in Turin (Pala Alpitour – 15,450-cap and Palavela – 12,200-cap), thanks to the installation of a geothermal heat-pump, energy efficiency investments, and retrofits. Meanwhile, the installation of solar panels at the Trixxo Arena and Antwerp Hospitality Centre in Belgium has seen the production of 100% and 50% of daily energy use respectively (excluding events).

The “world’s first carbon-neutral venue” doesn’t use any fossil fuels in the arena for daily use

The Parcolimpico venues also saw a 10% reduction in total waste between 2021 and 2022, thanks to a variety of initiatives, even more impressive when taking into account two major events they hosted – the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 and the Nitto ATP Finals. A reusable cup programme introduced at the Royal Arena in the Danish capital Copenhagen in February 2023 meant 380,000 single-use plastic cups were avoided by June.

Setting a GOAL
Proudly trumpeting its flagship environmentally sustainable venue – the Climate Pledge Arena (17,200) in Seattle – venues giant Oak View Group puts sustainability at the heart of its business.

The “world’s first carbon-neutral venue” doesn’t use any fossil fuels in the arena for daily use – mechanical systems, gas combustion engines, heating, dehumidification, and cooking have all been converted to electric; solar panels combined with off-site renewable energy means it uses 100% renewable energy power; and it offsets all carbon emission activities it can’t control – like transportation. It aims to be single-use-plastic free by 2024, and rainwater collected using the roof is turned into ice for the resident ice hockey team’s rink.

Manchester’s forthcoming Co-op Live features 10,500 sqm (1.5 x a football pitch) of rooftop solar panels

OVG EVP facilities development and management Brian Kabatznick says the sustainability initiatives implemented at the Climate Pledge Arena are being rolled out across its other new builds and renovations where possible. Among them, Manchester’s forthcoming Co-op Live features 10,500 sqm (1.5 x a football pitch) of rooftop solar panels, air source heat pumps, high-spec insulation, and a façade designed to reduce cooling and heating requirements. The venue’s architecture is paired with renewable energy, low carbon technologies, and intelligent building controls such as LED lighting design and smart building systems to minimise energy use.

But OVG knows that action without measurement and accountability is meaningless, so earlier this year it launched GOAL (Green Operations and Advanced Leadership) – a data platform that enables subscribers to measure their performance against a broad set of sustainability standards specifically designed for venues. It includes a tactical roadmap for achieving the standards, a customised tracking tool for long-term accountability, a library of resources, and access to like-minded operators, vendors, and sponsors who are committed to operating more sustainably.

Member venues can track their performance against scientifically backed standards on aspects such as energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, indoor air quality, and health and wellbeing. “We have 25 venue clients on board so far, including Fenway Sports Group (owners of Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox among others), State Farm Arena (15,590) in Atlanta, and many of our stadium and arena partners,” says Kabatznick. “We are launching in Europe as well, with some venues that we have a close relationship with.

“Everybody’s got a sustainability platform, but this is all about measurement”

“Everybody’s got a sustainability platform, but this is all about measurement. It means people can look at consistent information show-by-show and by venue. We’re really excited about that, because it’s one thing to say you’re sustainable, it’s another thing to say, ‘we’re comparing ourselves to events in our building and can compare ourselves to other venues, in other cities, regions, countries, and continents.’ It means everyone is challenged and working from consistent metrics that allow everyone to think about exactly how to make our businesses more sustainable and better.”

As one of the largest venue companies in the world, Oak View Group’s portfolio includes the Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, California, CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, and UBS Arena in New York.

Green Europe
The European Arenas Association, which represents 37 arenas in 20 European countries, has partnered with A Greener Future (formerly A Greener Festival) to roll out Arena Sustainability Guidelines. Based on foundational requirements of Greener Arena Certification, the guidelines are intended to help venues with the green transition.

“We are delighted to be partnering with AGF on this important initiative,” said EAA president Olivier Toth. “Our members are committed to reducing their environmental impact and promoting sustainability across our industry. This collaboration is an opportunity for us to share our expertise and work together to create sustainable business practices that will benefit not only our members but the entire industry.”

“Anything less [than a green business] will not survive the next decade”

AGF CEO Claire O’Neill said: “Being a green business is not only essential for creating a better future for life and communities, it’s the only way to do any kind of sustainable business. Anything less will not survive the next decade. Through this collaboration with the EAA, we have created guidelines to get arenas started that are relevant, practical, and effective, helping arenas transition to long-term, sustainable operations.”

Developed from the latest research and best practices in sustainable venue management, the guidelines act as a set of recommended practices to help EAA member arenas in their decision-making, planning, and implementation. The guidelines are also available to non-EAA members who want to adopt greener business practices.

With more than 40 certified green venues already, ASM Global is working with sustainability consultancy firm Honeycomb Strategies to offer innovative approaches and sustainable solutions to its portfolio of more than 350 venues around the world.
In March, the company pledged a number of environmental goals, including reducing energy consumption by 25% by 2030; ensuring 20% of all energy consumed is from renewable energy sources by 2025; and being carbon neutral by 2050 (milestones: 25% carbon reduction by 2030, 50% carbon reduction by 2040). It has also committed to diverting 50% of overall waste by 2025, eliminating front-of-house plastic by 2027, and reducing water consumption by 25% by 2030.

“We get involved in arena projects really early… so, we have a real influence over sustainability from the design stage”

In addition, ASM Global’s entire portfolio of UK-operated venues – including AO Arena Manchester, OVO Arena Wembley, OVO Hydro in Glasgow, P&J Live in Aberdeen, and others, is undergoing certification via A Greener Arena. “The independent  certification process provides external verification that carbon reduction and transition strategies are at the heart of all venue operations, from catering to materials used and circularity,” the company says in a statement.

In the Middle East, ASM Global recently opened Exhibition World Bahrain, adding to its portfolio, which includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai and is set to see the Jeddah Arena Airport City open in Saudi Arabia. “We get involved in arena projects really early, often before the architects do,” says Iain Campbell, ASM Global EVP of the MENA region. “So, we have a real influence over sustainability from the design stage.”

As an example, he cites measures installed at the Coca- Cola Arena: “We installed a huge air curtain in between the loading dock and the main floor, in order to prevent loss of cool air from the building during load-in and load-out. You wouldn’t do that in in London or in North America, but it’s so hot here that we’re very focused on ensuring efficiency of our air conditioning systems and monitoring the temperature of the building. In fact, we’ve got one guy that pretty much all he does is check the stairwells are airtight to make sure we’re not losing cool air.

“More regulation is coming in, especially in Europe, which is pushing governments to fix the systemic challenges we encounter”

“There are also water fountains, in order to reduce single-use plastics; all of the food packaging is sustainable; we monitor energy and water demand, air quality and air movement. We only have 1,500 car parking spots in order to encourage people to come by public transport or a ride-sharing service. At a recent 50 Cent show, we had just 700 cars here, which is great.”

Campbell says that educating audiences about sorting their waste into recyclable, compostable, and other waste has been very successful, and everyone adheres to it.

So, what does the future hold? Live Nation’s Yagüe says she’s feeling very positive. “In the last couple of years, more regulation is coming in, especially in Europe, which is pushing governments to fix the systemic challenges we encounter. Plus, suppliers are providing new products that we can use, such as reusable cups and batteries charged with renewable energy. Everyone is fully on board, and I feel very hopeful for the future.”

As OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told IQ: “Climate change is without a doubt the fight of this generation’s lives.” And arenas around the world are signing up in droves to join the battle.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Deprecated: File Theme without comments.php is deprecated since version 3.0.0 with no alternative available. Please include a comments.php template in your theme. in /var/www/html/wp-includes/functions.php on line 5653

Comments are closed.