SPORT Timekeepers: Julia Pallé, Sustainability Director of Formula E

3 min

In conversation with the woman who’s on a mission to make motorsport better, cleaner and safer for our planet.

A true powerhouse in the world of Formula E, Julia Pallé is the Sustainability Director of the world’s first all-electric racing series. On the eve of the 2022 London E-Prix, Pallé talks to us about air quality, electric vehicle adoption, Formula E and its mission to help make racing better, safer and cleaner. Let’s jump into it.

Are you excited about this race weekend?

It’s so exciting to be back racing in London. Not only because this is our home race but also because we have an indoor-outdoor track that is truly unique—given the limited noise from our cars and zero tailpipe emissions. This weekend also represents an unrivaled combination of live sports, entertainment and community action. We’ll be involved with more things than at any other race this season. London and Formula E are fighting for the same thing – to improve air quality in the heart of our cities. And this is a major topic that both London and the Newham mayor have pushed forward. We are extremely grateful for their ongoing support with our E-Prix. And we hope that, through their own sustainability and decarbonization programs, we’re able to make London a cleaner and safer space.

How does organizing Formula E in big cities like London help with sustainability?

Over 90% of people in the world breathe air that doesn’t meet the quality level required by the World Health Organization, with the majority of them located in cities and urban areas. What’s more is that the vast majority of polluted air comes from cars and transport systems, so going electric not only has huge environmental and sustainability benefits, but it’s hugely positive to the local population’s health. 

Formula E races are a great way for cities to showcase their sustainability and mobility agendas. They also advertise to consumers just how far electric mobility has come in recent years. We can show how EVs can be just as high-performing, good-looking and practical as any of the other cars on the road, if not better.

How have the sustainability regulations influenced the sport?

We are the only motorsport series in the world to operate consistently for over 5 years in line with the International Standard for Sustainability in events, ISO 20121. And this is certified on a yearly basis by an external auditor from SGS, the global Swiss leader for certifications as well as being FIA 3 stars accredited since our very first season. This has led to a consistent approach regarding waste management and recycling at events, the use of renewable energy to power our cars and events, and even the community engagement programs we adapt for each race location.

Tell us about the leaps Formula E has made.

Formula E is showcasing that all solutions to combat climate change are available to us, but they just need implementing at scale. We always make sure we’re leading from the front. Whether that’s by trying and implementing new innovations or going further than other championships, we leave no stone unturned if we feel that we can be more sustainable. We are the only championship to be ISO 20121 certified. We were the first sport in the world to achieve Net Zero Carbon since inception in 2020, 10 years before the UN recommendations, and the first sport in the world to align with science-based targets in 2021. We are also the biggest global sports partner to UNICEF in terms of all their climate-related work. In the first year of our partnership, we positively impacted nearly 700,000 children. 

What is the biggest challenge Formula E faces?

Over 90% of our carbon footprint is related to travel or freight. But we also recognize that we need to be in global, iconic cities to spread our message and inspire others. We have a state-of-the-art, long-lasting sustainability freight roadmap to support us in continually decreasing our carbon footprint, while growing our sport internationally with the support of our logistics partner. We use a multi-modal approach in addition to biofuels and alternative modes of transport to just air freight, such as transport by sea or road where emissions are far less. So we’re innovating and trying everything possible to constantly reduce our impact on the environment. 

What do you think is Formula E’s greatest achievement till date?

Formula E has created an authentic culture for sustainability and showcased that sport can play a crucial role in fighting climate change globally. Not only has it created this initial platform, but through our race teams, engineers and other key staff, it continues to innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible. You can see it even now, through the launch of our Gen3 car, which will be a complete step change in the technology that is available to automakers developing their own range of EVs.

Are there any major changes you’re looking to implement next season?

Next season we’ll keep improving the measures we take to reduce our environmental impacts at events. We will also focus our efforts on the positive impact we’re generating across our local communities. Let’s take the FIA Girls on Track program as an example. It promotes STEM topics and motorsport careers for young girls who come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds within the local communities that host us.

What message does Formula E send to the sporting world?

Formula E was the first sport born with a purpose. To advance electrification on our streets initially which then broadened to advance sustainable human progress. We endeavor to lead by example in everything we do and put sustainability at the center. One of the best examples we have is Gen3, which is the pinnacle of technology, performance and sustainability. 

What does the future hold for the sport?

Sport has been chosen by the United Nations to advance sustainability across the world. This means that sustainability, through sport, must reach millions of fans and touch their minds, their hearts and their souls. We’re seeing a huge purpose-led movement in sports, with great expectations from Gen Z and also investors via ESG rankings. Sustainability is a must-have in sport nowadays!