Unpacking the Climate Pledge at Seattle Kraken’s Climate Pledge Arena

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – SiliconANGLE.

Nearly every sports team plays in facilities carrying a corporate brand, such as Lumen Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks, or T-Mobile Park, the Mariners’ home field. Not the Seattle Kraken. The most recent team to be added to the National Hockey League plays in The Climate Pledge Arena.

It’s the only facility named after a cause. The other differentiator for the former Key Arena is that it’s the only carbon-neutral sports facility in the world.

To get a better understanding of the naming of the arena and how it achieved net-zero status, I recently took a trip to the Emerald City and met with Rob Johnson, senior vice president of sustainability for the Seattle Kraken, as well as Kaan Yalkin, partnerships and engagement lead for The Climate Pledge at Amazon.com Inc.

Yalkin told me that Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge in September 2019 and set aggressive goals. “We set out to be net zero by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “We decided we’d create a global community and a vision of other companies willing to take on that commitment with us.”

Amazon’s commitment soon translated into the naming of the home for the NHL expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, which started play in 2021. “Shortly after we co-founded the Climate Pledge, we announced that we’d purchased the naming rights to this building, and we would name it after the pledge to serve as a regular and long-lasting reminder of the urgency around the climate crisis,” he said.

Yalking added that the Climate Pledge has grown into a community of more than 450 companies committed to being net zero by 2040 across 55 countries and 35 industries.

The arena is already climate-neutral

As befits its name, The Climate Pledge Arena is ahead of the net zero schedule. It’s climate-neutral now. “It’s a phenomenal achievement,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of our ownership group for setting us on this course. Even in a city like Seattle, where sustainability is a key part of our values in the Pacific Northwest, you still need ownership who want to step up and take first-of-its-kind commitments in the sports and live entertainment space.”

Climate Pledge Arena is an all-electric facility that harvests rainwater from the roof in a 15,000-gallon cistern buried under the arena. The setup — the first “rain-to-ring Zamboni system” in the NHL — collects rain from a quarter of the arena’s roof, which it uses to resurface the ice for games and practices.

In addition, fans can get free public transit for every Climate Pledge Arena event, which makes getting there easier and also reduces the carbon footprint. “We’re a functionally zero-waste facility, which means that we’re diverting more than 90% of our waste away from landfills to recycling and composting,” he said. “There’s all kinds of really incredible activations that are happening here — from eliminating single-use plastics to sourcing our food from within 300 miles — that we’re proud of and think differentiates us from many other arenas in the world.”

Using tech to remove friction

In addition to the commitment to net zero waste, as you would expect from Amazon, the arena has some cutting-edge tech, including the “walkout technology” the company uses in its stores.

“This has removed much friction in the fan experience,” Yalkin said. “We all know how stressful it is to get something to eat or drink at a sporting event or a concert. Being able to use your palm or quickly insert your credit card to walk in and grab something and walk right out has completely changed the fan experience.”

Still more to do

Even after the initial success, they’re not resting on their laurels. Johnson told me that a couple of crucial elements are very important to the future of the arena.

“The first is implementing fully renewable resources to power the building,” he said. “Right now, we’re buying renewable energy credits to effectively net zero energy. But we’re working hard with our local utility, Seattle City Light, to stand up new solar panels on the eastern side of Washington, where it doesn’t rain much. Secondly, we still have a lot of work to do with our food and beverage partners to think about ways to be even more sustainable in the building. Right now, we’re sourcing 60% or more of our food ingredients from within 300 miles. While that’s a huge number, we’d love to get that number up to a gold standard in the industry of about 75%.”

Some final thoughts

I love hockey. It has always been a working-class sport where hard work was the only way to success. So the collaboration and hard work that led to a new hockey arena on the cutting edge of sustainability and technology has been great to witness.

Sports can play a role in popularizing sustainability and caring for our environment. I applaud the efforts of Amazon, the Kraken and the Climate Pledge Arena.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.