On January 25, 2021, BBC Sport and the Sport Positive Summit named Tottenham Hotspur the Premier League’s greenest club. Congratulations! Can Spurs, which also just signed up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, drop AIA and find a shirt sponsor which shares their commitment to a healthy planet?
Ahead of Arsenal, Brighton and Manchester United, Spurs are the only club to achieve the maximum score of the 2020 Premier League Sustainability Table. The ranking is based on eight criteria, including the use of renewable energy, the promotion of public transport, and public communications for environmental action.
Notably, missing from the criteria is lending a good name to shirt sponsors which continue to destroy the planet, for example as coal financiers (AIA), car manufacturers (Chevrolet) and luxury airlines (Emirates).
As the Insure Our Future campaign and SumOfUs revealed two months ago, Hong Kong’s life insurance company AIA is a major investor in coal, with an estimated exposure to the sector of at least $3 billion, and more likely $6 billion. Dollar for dollar, the average emissions of the companies in AIA’s equity portfolio are nearly 50% higher than those of its peers.
We understand that, to their credit, Spurs have taken up AIA’s coal investments with their sponsor. In response to the NGO report, the life insurer said that they had already divested their equity portfolio (a small part of their overall investments) from coal, would announce a comprehensive divestment policy by the end of 2020, and put it into effect in January 2021.
It’s January 25 and AIA has so far not followed up on its commitment.
While the life insurer is dragging its feet, climate change is escalating relentlessly. The melting of ice across the planet is accelerating at a record rate, and is now in line with the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This year is critical for climate action. When they signed up to the Sports for Climate Action Framework, Tottenham Hotspur committed to “use sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens”.
Can Spurs now find a shirt sponsor which shares its commitment to climate action rather than tainting its good reputation? Will AIA immediately divest from all its coal holdings and become such a sponsor?
The planet is burning. Come on AIA, Come on you Spurs!