Texas Athletics should provide a public ESG report of current sponsors

Michael Lazenby, Columnist

Constant attention tends to be given to collegiate sports teams and their season performances. However, there is often little to no attention given to their sponsors.

Specifically, while Texas Athletics does display a list of its corporate sponsors, there is minimal information attached with respect to the companies themselves. What they do, how they make money and their environmental, social and governance considerations remain a mystery.

In order to increase transparency of the businesses behind Texas Athletics, the department should have a report publicly displayed on their website that analyzes their sponsors’ ESG rankings. 

At its core, ESG is a measure of how environmentally, socially, economically and ethically sound a company is. It is a metric that has become considerably more important in recent history, as many universities across the nation have begun offering ESG reports.

Dylan Kazanova, an officer for Students Fighting Climate Change, explained his thoughts on Texas Athletics creating a public ESG report of its corporate sponsors on its website.

“I think it’s great,” the sustainability studies junior said. “I think it’s really important for students to not only understand how their carbon imprint is created, but also what the carbon imprint of the school they go to is, and the businesses, of course, that the University is also affiliated with.”

While Texas Athletics has a list of its official corporate sponsors, the public deserves to know more about the department’s business partners. Simply listing a few brands that many are vaguely familiar with doesn’t shed any light on how environmentally and socially conscious their businesses or companies are. A formal report analyzing these factors would help evaluate Texas Athletics’ sponsors as well their own ethical standards.

Kazanova also expressed that creating an ESG report of the sponsors is crucial and likely feasible as well.

“Oh absolutely, it’s vital for transparency reasons — we do live in an age of information, where information needs to be available to people,” Kazanova said. “My question is: where is this money coming from and what is the impact of that money, because all money has an impact, especially on the earth.”

Currently, there isn’t much accountability when only a sponsor’s name, logo and link to its company website is displayed. However, Texas Athletics might become more conscious of the partnerships they pursue and maintain when information regarding all of their metrics, ESG included, are publicly displayed on their site. 

A company spokesperson from Learfield, Texas Athletics’ multimedia rightsholder, explained in an email that, “ESG scores are publicly available online by several sources like this for anyone who is interested in reviewing that information.”

After visiting the site and reviewing some of Texas Athletics’ sponsor’s ESG scores, it became clear that the department doesn’t appear to have much regard for the ethics of its sponsors. 

For example, most of their publiclytraded sponsors currently maintain scores considerably lower than the “industry best” in all three categories of environmental, social and governance and economic.

Specifically, one of the department’s major sponsors, Coca-Cola, although a household brand, currently scores well below “industry best.”  

While Texas Athletics can partner with whom they please regardless of what people think of their sponsorship companies, a necessary layer of transparency is provided when independent ESG reports are published directly on their website.

If these reports regarding the department’s sponsors were published on their website, students, parents and other members of the Longhorn community would be able to gain a better idea of the companies supporting their favorite sports teams. Additionally, Texas Athletics would be encouraged to hold itself accountable.

The University is home to institutions and certificates involving ESG. While UT has done an excellent job stressing the importance of ethical considerations in business by spearheading these important initiatives, the University should be sure to hold its own entities accountable as well. One way to ensure accountability is to publish ESG reports on Texas Athletics’ website.

Lazenby is an economics junior from Chicago, Illinois.