By Gary Hartley

Last year I took a call from Aston Villa Football Club, who were wondering if the Energy Saving Trust might be interested in sponsoring their shirts for the 2011/12 season. No, really. The club rep informed me that they were looking to make a sustainable statement in their sponsor, following previous ethical shirt branding. In previous seasons the club had worked with Acorn Children’s Hospice.

As a massive football fan and overseer of several blog pieces on football’s green credentials, I got overly excited that a club of such stature had even bothered to call. Alas, our marketing budgets don’t stretch to Premier League exposure, to say the least, so I politely declined and suggested a few renewable energy companies that might be up for the gig.

Since then, it’s fair to say that other preoccupations have meant I didn’t give too much further thought to whether Villa are still walking the green walk or not. Until the other week, that is, when I happened upon the latest green goings-on at Villa Park.

Despite footballers oft showing a preference for gas-guzzling baby Bentleys, 4x4s and such – with a few exceptions like Chelsea’s Florent Malouda of course – they’re a small part of the overall staffing of a club, it’s no surprise that, like in any-other forward looking business, managing fleet costs and carbon emissions are a concern.

While I’m not sure Sunderland will follow up their first Nissan Leaf with an entire fleet of them, those sustainable supremoes at Villa are making headway – they’ve unveiled a local low carbon car rental firm as their official supplier to club and fans – with deals on offer to get the ball rolling apace.

Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner had this to say before climbing into a hybrid vehicle that didn’t have its engine idling:

“At Aston Villa we recognise that, as a large organisation, the club has a significant effect on the local environment and we are therefore committed to minimising our environmental impact…We have introduced a number of initiatives and alterations to improve the energy efficiency of the club and our association with Green Motion is in keeping with our ethos on these issues.”

Perhaps Villa had read our recent Plugged in Fleets report that we put together with The Climate Group and Cenex? The case is clearly laid out that for businesses of the footballing and non-footballing variety, sustainability is not just ‘doing the right thing’ – it can actually increase profits and reduce fuel consumption.

And if you’re reading this thinking “my football club/ business could do with some of that,” then you might be in luck. In partnership with EDF Energy, we’re offering free consultancy on electric vehicles for 20 companies. You can apply right here