You are an athlete committed to the theme of ecological transition. How does this translate into your work and daily life?
Through the education I received, I was lucky enough to be made aware of the environmental issues at a very young age. I grew up in the countryside, and hence was very close to nature. When I left for my studies and went to live in the city, I discovered not everyone was taught the same respect for resources and those surrounding us.
This observation made me realize that through sport I could convey impactful messages. The starting point of my commitment was during the first lockdown in Spring 2020. My father had just lost 5 beehives, and it deeply impacted me. A few days later, I decided to shared a video on my social media concerning bees threatened by Asian hornets and pesticides. The aim was to show my community the essential role and impact these small insects have on the world.
I then decided to put forth my small daily gestures for a “zero waste” consumption. We have an incredible power as consumers: to decide what we want to consume, and to change how companies are producing.
In this on-going battle, we are all concerned. In order to congregate as many people as possible, I multiplied the number of speeches given at different companies, so that every adult out there is aware that we can all act now, without having to necessarily work in the environment or climate sector.
But what I appreciate most is to raise awareness among the younger generation. They are the future, they are the ones who will have to adapt to the world in which we will live in. In order to achieve this, I use the practice of sports in schools to make them aware of the actions they can take. For example: ban plastic bottles and opt for a reusable water bottle during training sessions, avoid industrial food and prefer a homemade snack, walk or bike to sessions… I want to make them want to act, to take responsibility and to spread the message around them. It’s also to reach out to Gen Z that I started posting on TikTok, and motivated them to exercise while defending the planet.
We can see on your social networks that you travel a lot to events or conferences, like here at the ChangeNOW 2022 Summit. How come?
I’m very interested in discovering eco-responsible initiatives. Good practices need to be shared. I cannot repeat this enough: this fight is collective! Alone, I am only a grain of sand, but together we can do much more than we think. The post-covid world is waking up and eco-responsible innovations have multiplied. This type of event is very inspiring and virtuous because it connects different sectors of activity. It allows me to find solutions for the environmental projects that I carry in my club. The people I met at this event are as committed as I am, which is a huge boost and I feel less alone.
In the context of your CSR mission at the Stade Français, what are your actions?
When I arrived at the club, we decided to embark on an AFNOR certification. Established over 3 years, it allows us to better structure our CSR approach and to base it on a strategic action plan. Quantifying and measuring our impact is the starting point. If we want to know where we are going, we need to know how far we’ve come. This encourages all of the club’s stakeholders to act with the vision decided by management in mind.
As for the environment, our CSR policy is based on the Carbon Footprint. By analyzing all of our activities, we want to identify those that emit the most CO2 in order to know where we need to act first. The Jean Bouin stadium is already innovative with its photovoltaic panel roof, rainwater recovery and energy saving system. It is planned that we will switch our lighting to LEDs, which would allow us to reduce our energy consumption by half.
Waste management has been one of our main concerns for the last two seasons, as we know that sporting events generate a lot of waste. Our goal is to make the players aware of the need to take their reusable water bottles to training sessions. We have gone from 75,000 plastic bottles used per year to 15 water fountains. We raise awareness among both professionals and young players with educational and fun workshops such as the Climate Fresco through our partnership with the Good Planet Foundation. We are currently working on better waste sorting, especially organic waste. Indeed, on December 31, 2023, the AGEC law will require us to sort it properly. We don’t want to wait for the law to take effect. An awareness campaign has been launched with the players, but there is still a lot to be done before we can have a clean stadium after a match. It is a very challenging task!
We are also committed to a soft mobility plan. We encourage carpooling through a partnership with an online platform. 40% of our fans travel to the stadium via the public transport network, but we want to encourage them to travel by bike. To do this, a free and secure parking lot for 150 bicycles has been set up in front of the Jean Bouin Stadium.
Our main area of improvement for next season will be the food for athletes and fans. We must be able to offer more vegetable-based, local, and seasonal products with less packaging. We hope that our actions will encourage other clubs and all sports institutions to make a greater commitment for the planet.
What role do you think athletes can play in the ecological transformation?
As athletes, we are listened to and admired, which allows us to convey the values of sport. We are recognized as experts in our disciplines and our goal is to win medals and titles. Communicating on our commitments is not necessarily something obvious, I experienced it when I published my first video. I didn’t feel legitimate to speak out on these subjects, and I was afraid of what people might think of me. In the end the video was accepted by my community and allowed me to feel free to express my ideas. The goal is to have more and more athletes who feel comfortable speaking out.
Today, committed sportsmen and women do not want to be moralizing, we just want to try, all together, to work together and reach a common objective. Not all athletes are committed in the same way. Despite my commitment and my desire to do well, I do pollute. But I change my habits. I had fun measuring my carbon impact last year: 6 tons of CO2 per year. The objective of 2 tons per person for carbon neutrality is difficult, but when you are a sportsman, you love challenges. Each initiative, even individual, will collectively change the world of tomorrow. And sport can be a great lever. I want to be part of this generation that acts and gives itself the means to make the world different.
Lénaïg Corson is an international rugby player. She plays for the Stade Français Paris, where she is also responsible for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) within her club.