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Formula 1

Report finds most race circuits are failing to be sustainable

by Sam Smith
5 min read

A new sustainability ranking index of circuits has been formed in an effort to incentivise venues to enhance their green credentials after the inaugural report found the majority were falling short in sustainable facilities.

The initiative, dubbed the Sustainable Circuits IndexTM (SCI), identified the Circuit de Catalunya, Circuit Paul Ricard and Mugello as the three that ranked best in the first report of its kind which uses the UN’s SDGs, the ESG framework, industry-specific awards and accreditations to score the tracks.

The work draws from data publicly disclosed by circuits and collected between August 2020 and December 2020. The circuits were grouped into five categories of sustainability performance – low, medium low, medium, medium-high and high.

From 96 assessed circuits, 31 were shown to demonstrate some sustainability credentials but only three were found to show what was considered “a good stage of implementation” – Circuit de Catalunya, Circuit Paul Ricard and Mugello.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Tuscan Grand Prix Race Day Mugello, Italy

Additionally, a surprising 64 facilities fall into the bottom tier of evaluation, indicating a “substantial gap between the leaders and the laggards (at least in terms of disclosure practice)”.

Only one circuit (Mugello) falls in the top category, two in the next tier (Ricard and Barcelona), four in the intermediary group and 25 in the second-to-last group.

Mugello ranked first (although actually only scored 48 from 100) thanks to its array of accreditations, including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and ISO 20121, and the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

The Tuscan track, which hosted its first ever Formula 1 grand prix last September, has also obtained the motorsport industry-standard 3 Star FIA’s Environmental Accreditation.

Mugello also uses 100% renewable energy and produces 25% of its annual energy demand on site using photovoltaic systems installed in the premises. To save on energy, the circuit uses LEDs on the external lighting systems.

A rainwater recovery system is used to operate toilets and for irrigation purposes. There are also approximately 120 water fountains installed in public areas and additional drinking fountains are available to staff and racing personnel during the events. Limiting use of plastics and plastic waste production, was also strongly noted.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Tuscan Grand Prix Race Day Mugello, Italy

The SCI work has been carried out independently by the UK based Enovation Consulting Ltd, a full member of the British Association for Sustainable Sport, and Italian sustainability consulting company Right Hub Srl. They were partnered by Enel -X and TUV Nord Italy throughout the work which has been carried out for more than a year.

The report works on several areas but at its root suggests that most professional sports have strategies addressing the environmental impact that venues and stadiums have on their surrounding communities.

Yet, the SCI states that “motorsport sector as a whole has yet to effectively tackle these issues as part of the industry’s wider ambition to move towards sustainable motor racing”.

The report tackles race circuits across the world, including in the US. It gives a special mention to Pocono and Sonoma Raceway, who “in recent years have built a strong commitment towards environmental and energy management, share mobility and engagement with the fan

The report is expected to trigger an element of future change in the operations of circuits after presenting some new metrics to improve sustainability and provides circuits with an understanding of where they need to take action in order to become more environmentally aware.

The 2021 edition was carried out between August and December 2020. But the report has noted that some circuits are likely to have improved policies and procedures in 2021.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Qualifying Day Paul Ricard, France

The SCI has stated that it is planning a full review of the index in July 2022.

Dr Cristiana Pace, Founder and Managing Director of Enovation Consulting Ltd said that part of the SCI was devised in an effort to alleviate notions that motorsport has within its elements of “greenwashing, where stakeholders have used nice words and loose promises.”

“The Sustainable Circuits IndexTM proposes a robust assessment of racing tracks’ sustainability performances based on disclosed data and a well-developed framework, aiming to enable motorsport venues to benchmark each other and, ultimately, accelerate actions and changes. Because the time for vagueness has run out.”

The SCI also saw leading sustainability management professor, Paolo Taticchi, of the UCL School of Management, involved in the process of evaluating circuits

“Sustainability is one of the key issues of today’s society as confirmed by the increasing attention of governments, media, academics,” said Taticchi.

“In the context of Sustainable Development, business that is often referred to as part of the problem can be part of the solution. Eventually, the Sustainable Circuits IndexTM has the potential to influence both practice and policy.”


Part of the report’s conclusion stated that “for an industry driven by technological innovation, creativity and speed, relative to other industries, the pace at which the motorsport industry is moving to address sustainability is surprisingly slow”.

The report also cited the next four years as being crucial in circuits improving in its sustainability focus.

It stated that “for motorsport to remain relevant and sustainable in the long run, circuits must develop long-term ambitious strategic plans between now and 2025 that clearly identify their commitments concerning the sustainable management of their venues and events”.

It was also recommended that a more holistic approach to sustainability would be rewarded and would provide “countless benefits”.

Workers, fans, customers, organizers, teams, drivers, sponsors, suppliers, and the local communities were all recommended to be embraced in the venues more.

The SCI paper is the first of a family of indexes that will rank motorsport stakeholders on sustainability.

To view the entire report please click here.

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