Markerink in Sport & Strategie: sustainability and profitability are quite compatible

“We are not doing this for sentimental reasons. We are aiming for a healthy business model”

The Amsterdam ArenA wants to be the must sustainable stadium in the world. In fact, it is our conviction that sustainability and profitability are quite compatible. This is reflected in our motto: ‘Amsterdam ArenA. Naturally Sustainable.’ That is not some random statement: on balance, we want to be a climate-neutral stadium by 2015. We also wish to be a state-of-the-art stadium in the field of corporate social responsibility. Therefore, we are committed to becoming an icon of sustainability in the field of entertainment, sport and business.

We are not making this effort for sentimental reasons. We are aiming for a healthy business model. Thanks to the multifunctionality of the complex, where sports matches, events, concerts and conferences are organised, the ArenA is a profitable company. Thanks to our expertise, we are in demand internationally, among the organisers of major tournaments and events. These need to be organised in a socially responsibly way. In my opinion, sustainability is an inescapable, almost ethical principle in that regard. After all, you are not building for one-off use. No-one is waiting for white elephants, stadiums that are left empty after a tournament. That is the biggest waste imaginable.

Sustainability – in accordance to people, planet, profit principle - also plays a decisive role in being and remaining a state-of-the-art stadium. That translates into our ambition to have fully CO2-neutral power facilities by 2015. We are making the Amsterdam ArenA sustainable in close consultation with our stakeholders. These include the Founders (including companies such as Philips, KPN and ABN Amro), the local government and our Green Deal partners; in total, there are just under forty organisations helping the Amsterdam ArenA to reduce its CO2 emissions to zero by 2015.

District heating
In practice, this means that we only use sustainable energy sources. We no longer use fossil fuels, we don't burn gas or oil to create heat or cold. As part of the renovation two years ago, we removed the boilers from the building and connected directly to the district heating system. That is residual warmth, sourced from the power plant in Diemen. We are connected to it via heating pipes. The same applies to cooling. We no longer have any cooling generators on the premises. The cooling comes from Ouderkerkerplas, where the water is cooled at a great depth and then pumped around the area.

Amsterdam ArenA employs 60 people while some 120 people work in the Ajax office. Furthermore, there are catering staff which means that on a normal office day there are some 250 people walking around. And if the rooms are being used for a congress or similar event, then there could easily be 800 to 1,000 people inside. We can provide the power for those kinds of events ourselves. To that end, we installed 7,000 square metres of solar panel to the roof. However, at concerts or on match days, if the big lamps need to be turned on and a lot of power is required for all of the catering, then we will need extra power from the grid. We can generate 20 per cent of the total energy requirements for the ArenA, which includes power for events. We purchase the other 80 percent from Nuon in the form of wind power. While we would have preferred to install a windmill next to the ArenA, that isn't feasible from a practical point of view.

Energy guzzlers and mountains of waste
To make energy consumption even more sustainable, experiments are currently being carried out on new types of lighting. The discharge lamps that currently light the field are big power guzzlers. Technology is very close to an LED solution. To this end, we will be paying a visit to Chelsea, where we will soon be trying out a system. We also bought lamps from Philips to take along and test. I expect that we will be able to replace the large, traditional lamps with LED in the next year. That will reduce energy requirements by dozens of percents. Our next step is to also find an LED solution for the assimilation lighting, i.e. the grass lighting. That is not easy, as you are dealing with the spectrum of the light which needs special wavelengths to make the grass grow. That is still being examined in the laboratory.

And then there is still the enormous mountain of waste mainly produced during events. We analysed that mountain a number of years ago, to see what it contained. You are talking about organic waste, paper, plastic, construction waste, chemical waste, etc. There are three principles which apply to sustainable processing: re-use, reduce and recycle. Initially, we try to reduce the amount of waste. We try to recover some benefit from packaging materials in particular. We can try to reduce the amount of it or otherwise make sure it is recyclable. We are looking at that together with catering companies and parties such as Coca Cola. Biogas can be developed from organic waste. Ultimately, we want to end up in a scenario in which you get money for your waste because it may be a useful fuel for incinerators. Therefore, we wish to transform waste from a cost item to a revenue item.

Living organism
The 3 P's principle – People, Planet, Profit– all go hand in hand at our organisation. The stadium means that you play a role in society, create jobs and trying to do something to emancipate people. In addition, we are trying to save energy and earn some money back from the waste. Sustainability is often viewed as a cost item but if you can turn it into money, then it can result in considerable benefits for operations. That is why we are striving to be CO2-neutral, while using the most modern technologies to make it as efficient as possible. People, Planet, Profit also means that you need to save a little to stay alive as a stadium. Here at the ArenA our three P's are properly balanced. We are a profitable company. Thanks to our multifunctionality, due to the fact that things are always changing here. After all, a stadium is a living organism in which you need to keep investing in order to remain state of the art.

The Amsterdam ArenA Sustainability Report can be found at naturallysustainable.nl. This report provides an insight into Amsterdam ArenA's performance over the past reporting year and gives you a glimpse of the activities in 2013-2014.