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Sustainable storytelling at Croke Park

Míde Ní Shúilleabháin – Facilities, Safety & Sustainability Officer at Croke Park – outlined the stadium’s sustainability initiatives and how they talk about sustainability towards their fans and the wider community.

Sustainability in the stadium industry

Míde highlighted the importance of sustainability and why it is important to create more awareness and act upon it within the stadium industry:

  • Weave sustainability into a stadium’s identity.
  • You cannot successfully put a sustainability policy into practice on your own; you need partners. Moreover, you encourage your current partners to step up their game.
  • To put some external pressure on yourself by talking about your accomplishments and ambitions regarding sustainability. 

Sustainability at Croke Park

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) – which has its headquarters at Croke Park – is a grassroots, largely volunteer-driven association. That entails both advantages as disadvantages. The financial responsibility to be profitable is different. The association reinvest a large proportion of their profit into the grassroots rather than flagship initiatives. However, being the stadium of a grassroots association has its benefits too. The stadium operates as a physical symbol of the association that projects GAA’s important values such as volunteerism, community and engagement. 

Sustainability makes financially sense, however, a considerable number of sustainability projects require a significant capital investment. As people are present-biased and want to see results fast rather than on the long-term. Therefore, it is essential to reconcile long-term economic forecasts and immediate rewards.

Storytelling by capturing the imagination

A lovely message can be linked to the zero waste landfill policy at Croke Park. Not everyone sincerely cares about throwing away their waste in the right bin. Nevertheless, a circular story where you engage people and where you can show them tangible results of the recycling process will increase the willingness of the staff to recycle their food waste correctly.

As Croke Park is located near Ireland’s coast line, neighbours encountered some problems with seagulls who drop leftovers into those local residents’ garden. They solved the issue by letting Harris’s hawks fly over the stadium. Another story including birds concerns the swift. This species doesn’t have places to nest anymore, so Croke Park installed breeding grounds into the brickwork of the handball centre. Those efforts won’t change the world, yet such striking messages can act as helpful instrument to raise awareness about sustainability. People simply like stories that capture the imagination, and Croke Park does it by acting differently. 


“Stadiums capture the imagination and that is why we all love them. Physically, they shape our landscapes and emotionally, they represent the home base of supporters. Connecting sustainability to your stadium’s identity will ensure that it becomes part of all departments.”

Mutual responsibility 

Even small interventions can make a difference. Croke Park now only offers coffee in compostable cups. In addition, Croke Park introduced the paperless meetings. In the beginning, the conference centre department took a wait-and-see approach. After receiving positive feedback of several technological partners, the conference centre even started to claim ownership. In that way, sustainability is no longer the responsibility of a single department, but everybody feels part of it. Talking about it, brings people closer together. Therefore it is important to mainstream sustainability messages.

 Main takeaways: 

  • Know why you want to be sustainable. What is your main motivation? Financial gains or a moral imperative?
  • Establish a central body like a sustainability team, but spread the message throughout the entire organisation
  • Set up a sustainability policy as a stadium and partners will come to you with ideas
  • Nothing is a waste of time. Some meetings with partners will look like a waste of time, but there are always lessons to be learnt
  • Connect sustainability to your stadium’s identity
  • Capture people’s imagination by doing things differently


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Access his presentation on the ESSMA Knowledge Platform



Posted on 25/03/2019 in: