Exclusive Interview: Sustainability & ESG Driving Formula E

Julia Pallé is Vice President of Sustainability at Formula E, the world’s most sustainable sporting competition - now celebrating 10 years at net zero

Formula E is not only the world’s first all-electric motor racing series, but has been certified net zero carbon since inception. Julia Pallé is Vice President of Sustainability and has led sustainability at the organisation since day one. 

She is a leading expert on sustainability in motorsport and the international elite sport industry. While developing and implementing the sustainability strategy at Formula E, which she has done since the creation of the competition, Julia has overseen a number of significant achievements that establish Formula E’s credentials as a leader of sustainability in elite sport. Julia is also Sustainability Advisor for Extreme E, the all-electric SUVs series, bringing electric racing to some of the most remote corners of the planet to highlight the climate change challenges faced by different ecosystems.

Formula E has recently released its Season 9 Sustainability Report, outlining achievements including 10 years net zero (which no other sport has achieved), collaborations and partnerships with organisations including UNEP, UNICEF, UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action and accreditations including FIA Three-Star Environmental Accreditation, ISO 20121, GSBS, MSI and SChI. 

Julia Pallé, Vice President of Sustainability at Formula E talking at EarthFest 2024

Julia sat down with Sustainability Magazine and EV Magazine to discuss the report, what the future holds for Formula E and how the organisation is continuing to push its achievements in ESG in logistics, technology and positive impact wherever it races.

What are your biggest achievements in environmental sustainability? 

We were the first sport in the world to achieve net zero carbon since inception and, as the rules and definitions evolve, we're really trying to stay ahead and remain in line with this commitment. 

Formula E was the first sport in the world to have emissions reduction targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative in 2021 and the first sport in the world to align on the international standard for carbon neutrality (PAS 2060) in 2023. 

It's important for us to remain really true to these achievements and to have the highest level of credibility and legitimacy when it comes to sustainability. So our approach is following the United Nations recommendation – we’ve been measuring since day zero. Thanks to our measurements and science-based targets, we are working to reduce our impact wherever possible and then whatever is unavoidable we offset with very, very stringent criteria. 

We call the environmental challenges Project X – our ongoing mission. You can see in the report that, compared to our season five (2019) baseline, we have reduced emissions by 41%.

While that is a great achievement, it's still part of the ongoing challenge because, as the fastest growing motor sport in the world, we’re continuously trying to do more – but more efficiently.

What are the biggest achievements outlined in the Season 9 Report?

On the environmental side, the fact that we are not pledging net zero – not only are we net zero already, but we have been since day zero and we are net zero in line with science-based targets, which means that the trajectory that the championship is taking is in line with what the world can sustain. 

We’re also working on lots of fantastic social projects. Season nine was the second year of our partnership with UNICEF, through which we positively impacted 2.5 million children. 

FIA Girls on Track is a grassroots project conceived to empower young girls, showcase career opportunities for young women in motorsport and promote gender equality. I’m so proud that the programme has increased by 140% in all the communities where we race, including through six physical events held during Season 9 that hosted 1,080 girls from around the world. 

Gender equality is a part of the ecosystem of Formula E – half of our leadership team are women and when you walk into the paddock you see female engineers, females in communications, females in marketing, females in leadership roles and so on. It’s very important for us to showcase to the girls that if they're interested, there's absolutely a way forward for them in motor sports and in Formula E in particular.

When we organise our races at the heart of cities, we recognise that we can create a positive impact, but also that we can create negative impact because we close the streets of people and so on, so we try to have a holistic approach to the people we work with. We need to continue to build those relationships and make the local people feel that they are part of the show.

Last week in Misano, Italy, we had a thousand young people on site with us and that was fantastic for the teams as well. We donated the Generation One car to a team of engineering and mechanical students who were incredibly excited about it and can now do whatever they want with it.

How do you make the events sustainable? 

We were the first motor sport in the world and still one of the few events that are certified against ISO 2021, the international standard for sustainability in events. Like in everything else, we continually audit and recertify and so on. Everything that we do in terms of the processes, sustainability is integrated, not considered, but embedded in everything that we do. 

The fans experience includes:

  • Taking public transport to races, as we don’t have parking available
  • Renewable energy everywhere
  • No plastic bottles – we offer free water fountains with reusable cups
  • Waste recycling – we do duty of care visits to make sure that we absolutely understand what the waste is ending up in its geographies 
  • Visible sustainability champions at events to educate the fans on sustainability and support them in being more sustainable at our events
  • 20-30% vegetarian options at races.

If we had this conversation in five, 10 years time, what do you think is the next exciting innovation at Formula E?

There are lots of things that we are working on as part of our commitment to continue becoming more sustainable. I'm sure that there's a lot of untapped innovations that we will have the opportunity to test and trial, especially in our local markets and geographies because we want to get closer to our local fans. We're also working on some new and exciting certifications that hopefully we'll hear more before the end of the season.

For now, we’re incredibly excited about the GEN3 Evo hitting the tracks next season.

Formula E’s new car – meet the GEN3 Evo


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