Fiona Morgan: Making sustainability essential to the fabric of sport

Sail GP's Fiona Morgan

Sail GP’s director of purpose and impact Fiona Morgan is the latest guest on The Game Changers podcast. 

With nearly 20 years’ experience in the sports industry, Morgan has an impressive track record of shaping social impact strategy and delivering campaigns for some of the world’s most high profile sports brands. 

She has worked with icons such as Chris Evert, David Beckham and Bradley Wiggins, and now helps make sustainability essential to the fabric of sport with Sail GP. 

“I’m the chief conscious officer of our business,” Morgan said. “It’s how we embed thinking differently and be more sustainable in every element of the business. 

“It’s really spending time with teams and explaining their role in sustainability, what they can do and actually giving them a bit of responsibility and ownership to deliver it. 

“So not being worthy and judgemental, but really just explaining why they’re important”. 

Sail GP is a purpose-driven global sailing league. Athletes also take part in the Impact League, which tracks the positive actions each team makes to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing.

Sail GP race

Morgan, who was the mastermind behind the Impact League, explained why sport could be so vital in the discussion around environmental sustainability. 

“Sport really has this power. It inspires people and this problem is a problem for the world. Climate change is for everyone. And if people like it or not, we all need to change one or two behaviours and the world will be different.

“Sport and fashion will be big vehicles to educate people and help them change behaviour. Because if your favourite football team or your favourite player does something different, tribal fans will follow, listen and do more.”

Morgan also called on sustainability professionals to change the way they frame the conversation around climate change. 

“If we don’t have hope and try and change, then God help us all. Sell the vision of what world we want to be. 

“So don’t sell, ‘oh, this is gonna happen. Water levels rise, tennis won’t be played or be played indoors. There’ll be no fans at the World Cup’. That doesn’t help anyone.

“Paint the picture of what a new way of sport could look like. There’s loads of added value and we can do things differently, and it might be great.

So that’s the job for sport. Doom and gloom, we know scientifically, that’s not going to help anyone change their behaviour. It just scares people into retracting and saying ‘too big a problem, can’t cope’.”

Forest Green Rovers

Morgan praised Formula E and League One club Forest Green Rovers for leading the way with sustainability in sport, but warned of the obstacles such organisations face when balancing commercial income and choosing partners with the same values. 

“We are very reliant on sponsorship and broadcast revenue at the moment,” Morgan explained. “And host venues, they all fund your sport. So without them, you can’t survive. 

There’s a kind of commercial reality to everything that we do need to operate. And actually if we don’t operate, then we won’t do good and we won’t deliver a positive impact. 

“So that has been a challenge for me. And I think it’s a big challenge for, for every sport is to get that right, to educate commercial teams. 

To be honest they’re still operating in the old sponsorship model. They still don’t do due diligence and probably think through, reputationally, a lot of the sponsorships or the brands that they want to align with.”

Before discussing her childhood, which included a brief stint as a junior tennis player coached by Judy Murray, Morgan revealed the initiatives Sail GP had launched to advance gender equality in sport. 

“Internally, we’ve really kind of tried to develop more female voices. So, we need more women to be making decisions and to be in these discussions. That will help whatever we do externally and for our athletes. 

“So we’ve got three female leaders, at leadership level, which is really big in sailing. So that’s about a 41 percent increase in representation. 

“We have amazing females leading our content, our marketing, our comms, obviously sustainability, and we are driving business growth and we are challenging all the decisions that are being made, and trying to make them more empathetic, more conscious.

“We do want to have 50/50 in positions of responsibility as a business, but we’re getting there and we’ve made massive strides.”

On the water, Sail GP have launched a Women’s Pathway Program, which recruits and trains female athletes. 

“We want them to be ready and we want them to earn their place,” Morgan said. “We want this inclusive boat with the best athletes in the world, whoever they are.

“I would love an all-female boat, but they need to be the best of the best, and prove that, and obviously be competing against people who have more experience than them.”

This article was produced in partnership with The Game Changers podcast, which is supported by Sport England. You can listen to the full episode with Fiona Morgan here.

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