British Equestrian releases vision for a sustainable future

As world leaders unite for COP28, the United Nation’s conference on climate change, British Equestrian has today released a summary of the research report on the impact of equestrianism on the environment and a vision for the future which outlines a commitment to action the opportunities outlined to create a more sustainable horse – human – planet partnership.

Working with leading sport and culture sustainability specialists White Griffin, the project, launched in January this year, has been carried out in tandem with Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) owing to the similarities in requirements for the two federations. In the UK, an extensive research phase involved interviews across multiple media channels with just over 100 individuals and organisations interviewed and some 800 taking part in an online questionnaire.

A comprehensive report was delivered by the team from White Griffin which outlines the impact of equestrianism on the environment, the risks, challenges and opportunities we face, a baseline for the equine industry and recommendations.  Key headlines from the questionnaire include:

  • 67% of those who took part stated environmental sustainability is very important to them.
  • The responses indicate the potential of developing the relationship between equestrianism and agriculture with 73% of landowners grazing livestock alongside horses.
  • 83% of respondents said waste was the most important topic to address with 80% of individuals citing removal of single use plastics as the second priority.
  • Most organisations said lack of money (41%) and time (26%) as their barriers to change.
  • Encouragingly, 94% of respondents requested training or access to information to help improve their environmental impact.

Ten overarching recommendations were made covering both organisations which they will continue to work on collaboratively. The BEF report then outlined a number of federation specific recommendations over three phases which shape a road map towards improved environmental practice as an organisation and to support our member bodies for reach across the sector. The summary of the report is available online.

An environmental working group was then established from member body representatives to work concurrently with the BEF Board on the summary document and, in consultation with White Griffin, shape the key points, aspirations and recommendations into a vision documentwhich makes six commitments to environment responsibility to take on the challenges and opportunities around creating a sustainable future.

Our environmental vision:

Our vision is to create a biodiverse future, where horses and humans thrive in a healthy ecosystem; where we only take what the earth can sustain, and through responsive stewardship of the land, we lead the way in benefiting the natural world.

The vision document outlines a collective agreement to:

Lead and inspire – continuous improvement in our operations to reduce emissions, use less resources and improve waste management.

Educate and inform – provide support to individuals and businesses so they understand the risks, challenges and opportunities of environmental sustainability through centralised resources.

Focus on the achievable – aim for small, manageable changes which collectively have a big impact.

Communicate regularly – highlight progress as well as raise awareness of legislation and risk to help prepare for change.

Create meaningful partnerships – work with organisations and businesses that share our vision and add value.

Influence and lobby – recognise those who are advocating responsible practices, ensure all equestrians are supported to take action to protect the natural world and collaborate with other sectors to drive improvements.

British Equestrian Chief Executive Jim Eyre said; “As part of our privileged relationship with horses, we must protect the natural environment that sustains them. The growing environmental crisis is having a direct impact on our world – changing climate, water availability and resource depletion all affect us now and the future is uncertain. This vital research has presented us with a huge opportunity to fulfill our responsibility to the countryside and nature. In partnership with our member bodies, we will work hard to minimize our negative environmental impact and actively promote a more sustainable planet for horses, and humans, to exist. This will not be a simple process, but it is one that we, as a federation, are wholeheartedly committed to.”

The next stage in the process is the development of an overarching strategy for the federation which covers the BEF as an operational organisation and a federation-wide blueprint to provide leadership and support to the member bodies and to complement their own environmental strategies. Work is underway and the documents will be available in the New Year with a corresponding awareness and education campaign to inspire and engage the industry.

Funding partners UK Sport and Sport England have prioritised environmental sustainability as a key area in their social impact campaign to harness the power of sport to drive positive change. UK Sport launched an ambitious strategy in March 2023, the Team of Tomorrow. As part of their actions, national governing bodies will be supported with their sustainability aspirations and the BEF has been selected as part of an innovation cluster accelerator programme alongside British Canoeing, the Royal Yachting Association, British Rowing and British Mountaineering Council. The programme will support the cluster towards producing a carbon footprint and action plan to lead the way for all funded sports to follow.

Director at White Griffin Ruth Dancer commented; “It has been a huge privilege for myself and the team at White Griffin to work with British Equestrian on this project in 2023. Taking a research project from inception all the way through to an industrywide consensus of activity, is an extraordinary feat, not least of all concerning a momentous topic like environmental sustainability. This has only been possible thanks to the collaborative and committed attitude of both the British Equestrian project team and the member bodies themselves, all of whom actively participated in this project throughout. We look forward to supporting equestrianism in the years ahead in driving truly inspiring and meaningful change for the natural world.”

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