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Clippers announce a climate-centered partnership with Aspiration

This 23-year business deal pushes environmental values to the forefront for a community-oriented organization.

Courtesy of Intuit Dome

Recently, the Clippers held their groundbreaking ceremony for the Intuit Dome, which will be the home of the team starting in 2024. On top of that, the Clippers also entered a new partnership with Aspiration, a sustainability company that seeks to attach pro-environment measures to corporations and individuals. Although this business deal might not make as many waves as the inauguration of a new arena, Aspiration’s co-founder Joe Sanberg has high hopes for the potential of their partnership.

It should be known that Aspiration has a central mission of providing businesses and people tools to combat the climate crisis. These tools include investment and insurance procedures that drive funds away from climate change contributors, and towards eco-friendly companies. For this new partnership, however, Sanberg emphasized the impact it would have on reaching everyday individuals and how important it is: “Because if we want to engage people in sustainability, we have to meet them where they’re at, and we have to make it convenient and automated.”

In practice, Aspiration’s partnership will undertake “measurable and specific” actions to fight the climate crisis, from allowing fans to contribute to a “Planet Protection Fund” that would offset their carbon emissions to giving climate grants to the communities most damaged by environmental degradation, which oftentimes is concentrated among communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. One of these communities is Inglewood, in which the Inglewood Oil Field has remained and continuously operated since 1924.

Sanberg made sure to let everyone know that Aspiration’s partnership with the Clippers is more than a sustainability-focused business deal—it’s a partnership that will give back to the community and acknowledge other aspects of environmental injustices, including environmental racism. Sanberg was proud to characterize Aspiration as a company with a consistent set of values, stating that “the Clippers have a partner that has spoken and continues to speak truth to power.”

When looking for potential partners, the Clippers organization stood out because of their dedication to public service and giving back to the communities that serve them. Additionally, Steve Ballmer’s role in this focus on values shouldn’t be minimized, according to Sanberg. Although everyday people like us may not be able to see all of the contributions the Ballmer family gives to good causes, Sanberg noted their personal authenticity and genuine belief in environmental causes among philanthropic circles, saying that “Steve [Ballmer] is unheralded and under-recognized for the enormous amount of investing he’s done in social justice movements, and he does it so often without credit.”

Of course, a deal like this doesn’t come without its critics, from two distinct perspectives. One perspective holds a view that the Clippers are doing more harm than good for Inglewood and its residents, with the Aspiration partnership being just for show. Some others contend that this venture is too political, delving into a hot-button issue that sports teams shouldn’t consider.

For the former, Sanberg admitted that this partnership is not enough, stating that “we are not going to defeat the climate crisis unless we have big, bold governmental action.” That being said, the measures taken by the Clippers will make an impact that can’t be ignored. While he couldn’t reveal too much about future plans, he did promise upcoming announcements that will build off of the social aspects of this partnership.

For the latter, Sanberg asks them to embrace the reality that the players drive the NBA, as players increasingly use their platforms to speak on social issues. We saw that with last year’s racial reckoning in the bubble, to this year’s conversations related to COVID-19 vaccinations. It may not be so visible, but Sanberg noted that this is an issue of survival. “For the increasing number of people facing climate catastrophes on their doorsteps, this isn’t just something they read about in their favorite news outlet, it’s something that is affecting their everyday life.”

Aspiration’s partnership with the Clippers may shift the focus away from the sport of basketball and towards social responsibilities, but Sanberg contends that at its core, this is a basketball partnership. He envisions engaged fanbases competing with each other in terms of what they are doing to fight the climate crisis, with the Clippers being at the forefront for these expressions of values. While the economic measure of success could be easily quantified, Sanberg’s focus is on empowering individuals, stating that “the most significant measure of this partnership is to reach people who otherwise aren't thinking about the climate crisis and get them to think about it and take action.”

Ultimately, however, the goal of this partnership comes down to this:

“Players want to go to organizations that are championship caliber not just on the court, but off the court, and I believe the fact that the Clippers are a first adopter of this shows they are a championship organization off the court,” Sanberg stated, “and it’s just a matter of time before they're gonna be a championship organization on the court.”