As the founder of Gymtopia, my goal was to establish a digital platform that promotes Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives within the global health and fitness industry. ESG refers to the three central pillars used to measure a company’s performance and practices with the aim of promoting sustainable and responsible business operations.
The Birth of Gymtopia
The idea for Gymtopia came to me during a conference talk I was giving in Sao Paulo, Brazil as part of my role at Oxygen Consulting. There I met Richard Bilton, President of Companhia Athletica, a successful Brazilian club chain. Richard shared their innovative shoe collection project, which asked members to donate old gym shoes upon upgrading. These shoes were cleaned, bagged, and donated to Symap, a Brazilian charity promoting sports among underprivileged children. Starting with 700 pairs, the project now collects around 4,000 pairs annually.
The Power of Clubs
Health and fitness clubs are influential communities with the potential to drive significant social impact. For example, Planet Fitness, a US-based budget gym operator, had over 17 million members by the end of 2022, equivalent to the Netherlands’ population. Engaging such communities in acts of giving or environmental pledges can lead to extraordinary results.
Gymtopia’s Industry Support
Inspired by Companhia Athletica’s project, I aimed to create a platform promoting similar Environmental, Social, and Governance initiatives. Gymtopia has since garnered support from five companies across four countries, including:
Companhia Athletica — Brazil
Fitronics / Retention Management — UK/ USA
Gantner — Austria
Les Mills — New Zealand
The Gym Group – UK
Aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Gymtopia now integrates the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its platform, mapping projects against these 17 goals to showcase the industry’s commitment to global development. The SDGs, launched in 2015, address pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges and serve as a call to action for businesses, governments, and individuals to create a better, more sustainable future by 2030. Aligning Gymtopia’s projects with the SDGs highlights the health and fitness industry’s potential to contribute to a more sustainable world.
Gymtopia Advocates for Nine Priority Goals
All 17 of the goals are both urgent and important, however, there are nine goals that the global health and fitness industry can materially influence. These are classified in the following image under what is known as the three pillars of sustainability or the ‘triple bottom line’ of people (social goals), profit (economic goals) and planet (environmental goals).
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being — The health and fitness industry is at the core of promoting well-being. By prioritising this goal, Gymtopia can create a direct and meaningful impact on individuals. and communities.
- SDG 5: Gender Equality — Ensuring equal access and opportunities within the health and fitness industry is crucial for fostering diversity and inclusion, making this goal a high priority.
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy — The health and fitness industry has a significant environmental footprint. Prioritising energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives can help reduce this impact on clubs and suppliers.
- SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth — Creating employment opportunities within the industry, offering fair wages and safe working conditions, and fostering sustainable economic growth by promoting healthy lifestyles.
- SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities — Ensuring health, fitness, and wellbeing services are accessible and inclusive for individuals of all income levels, ages, and abilities.
- SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities — Health and fitness clubs are essential parts of local communities. Prioritising this goal will enable Gymtopia to contribute to more sustainable and resilient communities while considering the role of suppliers in achieving this goal.
- SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production — Encouraging responsible consumption and production practices among health clubs, suppliers, investors, staff, members, and other stakeholders can help minimise their environmental impact and reduce waste.
- SDG 13: Climate Action – Prioritising climate action will enable Gymtopia to promote projects and best practices that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change, involving all stakeholders.
- SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals — Establishing partnerships is essential for achieving the SDGs. Prioritising this goal will enable Gymtopia to build networks and facilitate collaboration between various stakeholders.
The Global Health and Fitness Industry Driving Impact
The global health and fitness industry, with over 185 million members and at least 205,000 clubs (The IHRSA Global Report 2019), can make a significant social impact. By sharing inspiring stories on Gymtopia and mapping them against the UN SDGs, we hope to motivate clubs, suppliers, and individuals to initiate projects, support ongoing efforts, and make a lasting difference in their communities. More action is now urgently required because the Covid-19 pandemic has set back progress.
Time to Act
The Environmental, Social, and Governance agenda has gained momentum, becoming a crucial aspect of corporate strategy. It’s time to act. Let’s unite to transform the global health and fitness industry into a force for good. Support Gymtopia and be part of this movement to connect, engage, and empower communities in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Together, we can leave a lasting impact on the world.
Ways to Get Involved
- Use the self-publishing link to submit your organisation’s project. For a small fee, we can research, write and upload the entire project for you.
- Become a Gymtopia strategic partner to support the platform and drive further environmental and social change. Get in touch here.
- Mention Gymtopia to your community and stakeholders.