Leadership Talks | Racing for a Sustainable Future. Lessons learnt from formula E with Julia Pallé, Iona Neilson and Cristiana Pace

22 April 2022

Federico Munari, Industry Leader for the Global MBA in Supercars, Superbikes and Motorsports, introduced a new meeting of the Leadership Talks. The protagonists of the meeting devoted to the participants of the Global MBA at Bologna Business School were Julia Pallé, Sustainability Director at Formula E and Iona Neilson, Senior Sustainability Manager at Formula E. The moderator was Cristiana Pace, founder of Enovation Consulting and member of the faculty of the Global MBA in Supercars, Superbikes and Motorsports at BBS. 

What are the challenges that the world of Motorsports is facing from the point of view of sustainability? They are many, urgent and increasingly complex challenges, and Formula E, which has been around for 8 years, can become a real model. Formula E is the only motorsport series to be net zero carbon certified since its inception and, as such, has had a substantial impact on sustainability in the industry. The Formula E championship has achieved recognition by effectively measuring its carbon output, offsetting its unavoidable emissions and investing in sustainable solutions to support the locations where the races take place. As Julia Pallé explained during the Talk, sustainability has always been at the heart of Formula E, so much so as to be part of the vision and statement of this institution, which is one of the first brands created with the explicit purpose of actively contributing to the sustainable transition by promoting electrification. The starting point was therefore the direct focus on environmental sustainability, and then to expand the scope of this commitment by integrating social inclusion to promote the economic well-being of the communities involved in the circuit.

 A corporate culture of sustainability that engages and encourages

A growing commitment, therefore, but one which, as Pallé and Neilson explained, is “a race without a finish line”. What counts most, in any case, is having succeeded in the organization of Formula E, both on the corporate level and in terms of sporting events, in creating an extremely evolved corporate culture, attentive to every area of sustainability in which everyone works every day to find new ideas and new solutions that can reduce the environmental impact. One such example is the plan for the gradual elimination of plastic during events, which was supported by one of the partners, Allianz. Hydration stations were introduced, and reusable and recyclable water bags were distributed in the designated Fan Zone – Allianz E-Village. In season five, the equivalent of over 200,000 single-use plastic bottles were saved. In high activity areas during Formula E events, it is also possible to meet “Recycling Rangers” who educate teams, staff and spectators on how to maximize recycling and minimize waste. The overall average recycling rate was 52 percent for Season 5 events.

Finding solutions, changing processes, staying credible, and measuring results: key aspects of a sustainable approach


Neilson and Pallé shared with participants the different facets of a commitment that does not stop with offsetting emissions, but one that involves every aspect of corporate life and every single person. From the collective effort to find new solutions to the need for accreditation and information, efforts must be made to remain a valid and authentic point of reference. For this reason, no aspect can be overlooked. In fact, Formula E not only implements initiatives to reduce the impact of the events, including focusing on logistics and transportation, two of the most impactful factors, but also invests in several global projects to offset its activities in all areas involved: from general production to lithium battery management. Speaking of certifications, in Europe, Formula E has obtained the “Guarantees of Origin” (GO) certification for renewables, while the collaboration with Quantis, a sustainability consultancy, allows for a very precise calculation of the Series’ carbon footprint as part of the life cycle assessment of the various events. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), in fact, allows a complete view of the production of the event, from start to finish, by performing an analysis of the impact of the entire life cycle of materials, including cases where they are recycled or reused.

Social sustainability and community engagement

Formula E has always had a “Glocal” approach. In addition to working with UNICEF to protect vulnerable children and youth and provide schools with sustainable energy solutions, it is committed to carrying out individual projects in the cities that host the races. There is also a program for local communities where at least 100 people from each location are brought to the event so they understand what the race is and what its impact is. Additionally, there is a project in China to help farmers in Hainan transition from fossil fuels to green energy. The Series is also committed to encouraging Diversity and Inclusion in the industry. One example is the FIA Girls On Track project, which aims to promote motorsports, one of the few sports where men and women can compete on an equal footing, among young women.

A future rich in challenges

The big challenge for the future still remains focused on the transport side. Besides the commitment to build a culture of electric and sustainable transport (no free parking is provided at the races in order to encourage the use of more sustainable means of transport by the public), there is the need to bring further optimization of transport, event after event. Thanks to a multi-model approach, work is being done on both the schedule of races and the fuels used by the vehicles chosen. Technology will also play its part: in the interest of inspiring others and promoting the shift to more sustainable forms of mobility, Formula E is accelerating its on-track efforts with the introduction of Gen3, a more powerful engine for a lighter, more efficient car and useful for improving fast-charging technology for street-legal electric vehicles.

Formula E’s sustainability strategy continues to evolve, grow and improve, but it’s also important to continue to inspire people toward living a more sustainable lifestyle, from every angle, in this and all entertainment-related industries. The goal is to demonstrate that living at “near zero” impact is possible and that it’s also cool, so as to convey a positive and winning perception of sustainability.


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