NASCAR Green: Racing Towards Sustainability


One of my favorite companies that I believe does more good than they get credit for is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, popularly known as NASCAR. NASCAR is meaningful to me because it has strong ties to my family and my childhood. As a kid my dad used to work for the M&M Mars candy company who sponsored a car, and so I grew up watching the races every weekend with my family and trying to mimic them with my NASCAR toy car collection. I have been lucky enough to attend multiple NASCAR races in my life and love them to this day, to the extent that I think it should be an event that is on everyone’s bucket list. There is no live sports (yes, I call it a sport) event that is as different live as it is on TV. You can not appreciate just how fast they drive or how loud it is until you see it in person, which is part of what appeals to me. With all of this comes the great knock on NASCAR: that it is a waste of fossil fuels and a large source of pollution. While it is true that NASCAR does involve a mass consumption of gasoline, I think that the league as a company has does more good than they are given credit for as they transition into becoming more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

In 2008 NASCAR released the “NASCAR Green” initiative where NASCAR stated that they sought to “not only become a leader in green initiatives across all sports, but a leader within the business community.” With this initiative NASCAR has worked with their stakeholders to make many changes that reduce the environmental impact of the sport. These changes are not only ones made directly by the company, they also incorporate the fan base and encourage change at home. Main examples include a partnership with Coca-Cola that has created the largest recycling program in U.S. sports, a partnership with Sunoco and American Ethanol working towards a long-term biofuels program, and the NASCAR Green Clean Air Program which is the largest tree planting program in sports. Individual race tracks and racing teams have also joined in on the movement by creating LEED-certified facilities, incorporating solar panels that support local energy grids, and creating nature conservations on track property. The biggest move of all is that NASCAR is working towards switching to electric cars which could be implemented as soon as the 2016 season. Pace cars, which lead the 43 racers before the start of the race, have already been switched to electric cars to get better gas mileage due to climate change concerns. For all of the criticism that NASCAR gets for being bad for the environment, the company is working hard to reduce their environmental impact and is making strides towards fully-electric cars in accordance with their stakeholders’ desires for a cleaner and more environmentally-friendly sport.

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18 responses to “NASCAR Green: Racing Towards Sustainability

  1. I really liked your blog post and how close a tie you have to NASCAR. A lot of the information you shared was new news to me. I had no idea they were such a green company in a not-so-green industry. I found this very interesting and it helped me gain more respect for NASCAR. It forced me to wonder why they don’t advertise this more? Or, maybe they do and I just don’t notice?
    (also categorize your post so people will see it under the blog 4 category!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • In response to both your point and Dan’s about the lack of advertising for the Green initiative I think that it is because of NASCAR’s core fanbase. NASCAR fans are not ones that like change. They value tradition to the point that there was outrage when Toyota became the first non-American car sponsor. While an outsider may approve of NASCAR more if these sustainable changes were advertised, I think that the core fanbase would feel alienated as these green activities may be a little too “crunchy” for them. The biggest hot topic issue is the electric cars. Even if NASCAR is able to produce an electric car with the exact same capabilities as a current car, just knowing that it is an electric car is enough to turn off some change-fearing fans.

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      • That’s a very good point on not alienating their fan base. When I think of a stereotypical NASCAR fan I think of the kind of person who denies that climate change exists. That said, I commend NASCAR for its moves toward sustainability. They of course can’t stop using cars. However, by moving to electric cars and taking steps to offset the environmental impact; they’re certainly moving in the right direction.

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      • This is an interesting perspective into the marketing behind NASCAR. Before I met you I always thought of NASCAR fans in a somewhat stereotypical light. I think it’s cool the way NASCAR is not only thinking about it’s current customers base but also the impacts of the sports. NASCAR isn’t trying to convert haters into fans through advertising as much as it is trying to reverse the negative impacts on the environment.

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  2. I also really liked this post. I had no idea that NASCAR had any interest in reducing their environmental impact. Many people have a negative view of NASCAR for their waste of fossil fuels and their conversion to electric cars would change the game entirely. I agree with Julia, this should be an advertising frenzy for NASCAR because it will almost be a completely different sport. I am interested to see how this would effect the races in general, will the fan base change?

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  3. I think NASCAR will always be in a tricky position solely because of the nature of the foundation of their company. It expends substantial energy and resources and can’t even justify it by providing a tangible product or service other than a source of entertainment. To non-fans who don’t value it as a sport or a form of entertainment, it is literally just a waste of our resources and a hazard to our environment, and would probably derive value from having NASCAR eliminated altogether. However, the fans, or “customers,” as I think they can fairly be considered, value the roots and tradition of the sports, and derive value from keeping this past-time untainted by environmental concerns, as you mention in your comment. So in order to satisfy the interest of its customers (who are stakeholders), it’s an incredible challenge to introduce these environmental initiatives. And frankly, even if they do ultimately convert to electric cars, it will still be a drain on our resources because that energy has to be generated somehow, even if it substantially limits toxic emissions. I wonder if it’s even possible for NASCAR to follow a sustainable stakeholder business model. Do you think there is a way to create value for all?

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    • I really do not think that there is a way to create value for all in NASCAR as long as fossil fuels are being consumed, both directly (current state) and indirectly (using electric vehicles). No matter how much well they do in terms recycling and planting trees, and no matter how much value in terms of entertainment they produce, they still are hurting all stakeholders with the mass consumption of fossil fuels and pollution that is created. In addition, the stakeholders they are hurting are not just the fans or the drivers, the big problem is that everyone on Earth is a stakeholder in this scenario since they can be affected by the pollution and fuel consumption.

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      • I agree. I think it’s interesting how people who seemingly have and want nothing to do with NASCAR are still considered stakeholders in this situation because of the environmental impact and resource waste. I wonder what the future of NASCAR looks like, especially because the environmental movement is gaining incredible momentum at a very fast rate. In my Managing for Sustainability class, we learned that fossil fuels will only be usable (which means both physically present and economically worth the cost of extraction) for the another few decades. Additionally, in order to prevent our global climate from increasing above the 2-degree guardrail, we only have the carbon budget for another 16 years of “business as usual.” Clearly we have to make a dramatic change in the use of our resources, especially carbon, and it will be impossible for NASCAR to escape that change. I just wonder what that change will actually look like and how die-hard fans will respond and adjust.

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  4. I found this blog very interesting. Nascar is the last brand that I would have ever associated with sustainability efforts. I understand that they are beginning to address these rising concerns with the sport but I also think that this may be solely image focused rather than making an actual impact. The term “green-washing” comes to mind, but that does not mean that these image improvements are not still making some sort of difference. Also it is interested to consider who the stakeholders are that impact Nascar’s decisions.

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    • Your article: 135,000 gallons of fuel in a series over 36 months.

      According to the EIA (government stats): How much gasoline does the United States consume?

      In 2013, about 134.51 billion gallons1 (or 3.20 billion barrels) of gasoline were consumed2 in the United States, a daily average of about 368.51 million gallons

      That is about 0.0037% of daily usage. If NASCAR budges overall consumption down through increased use of electrics, it more than makes up for its own gas consumption on the wasteful albeit thrill-packed sport.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s really interesting when the scope comes into play. I think that the reason NASCAR is targeted specifically is because it is seen as a meaningless use of fossil fuels, although with commuting one could argue it is an ever bigger waste of fossil fuels when people are driving to work alone in a personal car compared to carpooling or using public transportation.

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  5. Pingback: Blog Council: Our Favorite Companies | Stakeholders:Uncensored·

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