'As a team we have been active on sustainability since 2010, but we did not expect a reward this soon', explains Emilie Fokker, who is responsible for communication and sustainability at this mega event.
The Sustainable Golf Index is an initiative of Breda based Between-us, an international consultancy company for Corporate Social Responsibility. In order to provide a broad overview on sustainable golf, all professional European based golf events were analyzed and benchmarked. Fokker: 'TIG Sports did not have any influence on the golf index. We just started focusing on various sustainability aspects at our own tournament. That is something you decide together. Not for one year only, but for many years. Sustainability is a serious issue, that fits the work we do.'
What does sustainability at the KLM Open exactly mean?
'On the one hand, it is about compensating the footprint of the event. The environmental impact is calculated by an external organization. The carbon emissions are measured in tons. The total amount is compensated by investing in a sustainable energy project in a developing country. Last year, we contributed 20.000 euro to a windmill project in Taiwan. This year, the money goes to Turkey, where fuel is gained from gasses released from waste at a landfill in Ankara.'
So the environmental impact is compensated with money?
'That is only one side of the story. What we aim to do is reduce the overall impact on the environment as much as possible. That is what it is all about. You can compensate, but the ultimate goal is to work climate neutral. So our focus is on optimizing sustainability at the event.'
Could you name some concrete examples?
'Last year, we implemented, together with Liander, a green electricity network at the golf course in Hilversum. The electricity is directly derived from a Dutch windmill park. A part of the compensation amount is reinvested into another sustainable energy project which is in partnership with Eneco. In fact, the entire process is focusing on partnerships with others in the value chain: stage builders, suppliers, sponsors, facilitating organizations and of course the visitors.'
'We talk with everyone about sustainability. The caterer, Maison van den Boer, is serving for 90% biological products. The transportation of the pro's from the hotel to the course is done with 'green' cars from BMW. The golf carts are driving on solar-powered energy. We changed to e-ticketing, so that printed tickets are not needed anymore. And: when we can make it in time, bio-fueled shuttle buses will transport the visitors. Transportation has the highest impact on the footprint of the event, so there’s a lot to be gained.'
So everyone needs to come by bike to Hilversum?
'If you live in the neighborhood, please do. If you take the car, try carpooling. The train is even better. And easier; the distance from the train station to the course is only a couple of minutes by shuttle bus. Yes, cooperation of the public is very important to us.'
'This is also important when we look at waste management; one of the focus points for this year. Together with Van Gansewinkel a plan has been developed to make the waste management more efficient than last year. If you want to reuse plastics, you need to separate it. Then you can really make it beneficial.'
Are the visitors going to experience these environmental actions at the event?
'Yes, of course. A special campaign has been developed. Without being to pedantic, we would like to make visitors more aware of the environment. In this, we partner with the World Wide Fund for Wildlife (WWF) who are helping us to create more awareness among the visitors. The revenues of the kick-off match between sponsors and Dutch celebrities on the Saturday before the event will be donated to the WWF. Last year, an amount of 60.000 euro was donated to the charity fund.'
Is the environmental impact on the course itself also part of the story?
'In the sustainable analysis of the event this is taken into account as well. At this moment, ‘The Hilversumsche’ is ‘GEO certified’ and ‘Committed To Green’, which means that the course meets international environmental standards and is managed in a responsible way; does not use any hazardous chemicals, implemented efficient water management and preserves biodiversity.'
'The people at the course and the golf club are participating in a great way. The cohesion is enormous. Everyone is positive on the various sustainable actions to not only focus on the event, but also on the impact of the event on the environment.'
The KLM Open is the most sustainable golf event in Europe and scores 62,9% in the Sustainable Golf Index. What will the score for next year be?
'It is nice that we top the list, but that was never our first intention. We would like to show that a mega event like this, can also be organized in a sustainable way. Maybe serve as an example for others. It is about professional sports, so we make sure that all the sustainable actions that we take benefit our beautiful game of golf.'
Article by Léon Klein Schiphorst, GOLFjournaal august/ september 2011, translated by Between-us