As the founder of Gymtopia, my goal was to establish a digital platform that promotes Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives within the global health and fitness industry. ESG refers to the three central pillars used to measure a company’s performance and practices with the aim of promoting sustainable and responsible business operations.
The idea for Gymtopia came to me during a conference talk I was giving in Sao Paulo, Brazil as part of my role at Oxygen Consulting. There I met Richard Bilton, President of Companhia Athletica, a successful Brazilian club chain. Richard shared their innovative shoe collection project, which asked members to donate old gym shoes upon upgrading. These shoes were cleaned, bagged, and donated to Symap, a Brazilian charity promoting sports among underprivileged children. Starting with 700 pairs, the project now collects around 4,000 pairs annually.
Health and fitness clubs are influential communities with the potential to drive significant social impact. For example, Planet Fitness, a US-based budget gym operator, had over 17 million members by the end of 2022, equivalent to the Netherlands’ population. Engaging such communities in acts of giving or environmental pledges can lead to extraordinary results.
Inspired by Companhia Athletica’s project, I aimed to create a platform promoting similar Environmental, Social, and Governance initiatives. Gymtopia has since garnered support from five companies across four countries, including:
Companhia Athletica — Brazil
Fitronics / Retention Management — UK/ USA
Gantner — Austria
Les Mills — New Zealand
The Gym Group – UK
Gymtopia now integrates the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its platform, mapping projects against these 17 goals to showcase the industry’s commitment to global development. The SDGs, launched in 2015, address pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges and serve as a call to action for businesses, governments, and individuals to create a better, more sustainable future by 2030. Aligning Gymtopia’s projects with the SDGs highlights the health and fitness industry’s potential to contribute to a more sustainable world.
The global health and fitness industry, with over 185 million members and at least 205,000 clubs (The IHRSA Global Report 2019), can make a significant social impact. By sharing inspiring stories on Gymtopia and mapping them against the UN SDGs, we hope to motivate clubs, suppliers, and individuals to initiate projects, support ongoing efforts, and make a lasting difference in their communities. More action is now urgently required because the Covid-19 pandemic has set back progress.
The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda has gained momentum, becoming a crucial aspect of corporate strategy. It’s time to act. Let’s unite to transform the global health and fitness industry into a force for good. Support Gymtopia and be part of this movement to connect, engage, and empower communities in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Together, we can leave a lasting impact on the world.
Ray has provided meaningful and comprehenisve strategic advice on a number of projects in the fitness industry. He has a very detailed knowledge of the sector, carries out extensive research and recently gave a valuable presentation to the Leisure Property Forum, which was extremely well received.
Chris Gotla, Partner, Fitspace Health Clubs
Ray’s two presentations at the IHRSA Convention in the United States were well-received. His message was clear, topical and future-oriented.
Hans Muench, Director of Europe, IHRSA ( International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association), Germany