Common Goal: Sport and Sustainability Meet at the Euros

Simon Mainwaring / Values / 10 months ago

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While France’s Les Bleus didn’t get the European Championship win they were looking for in the final, the country can nonetheless be proud of hosting a safe and sustainably-minded tournament. Both France and the tournament’s governing body, UEFA, announced their socially-conscious intentions early with a “One Year To Go Report” that outlines concrete tactics for showing sport’s ability to not only bring diverse groups of people together around a common passion, but also its role in helping influence the future of sustainability. With an estimated 150 million fans from around the world having tuned in to watch each match (multiply that 150M by 49 matches to get an idea for global viewership) the Euros proved a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the best of sport and sustainability.

One reason for increased viewer numbers was that this year’s tournament was literally bigger than ever, with 24 teams having participated at the outset as opposed to previous editions’ traditional 16. And with an expected 2.5 million fans having visited from around the world, France undertook a massive effort to not only refurbish its existing stadiums, but also construct four new state-of-the-art facilities that employ some of the latest in sustainability.

The refurbished Stade Vélodrome in Marseille for instance, not only boasts micro urban wind turbines, but also a waste-water treatment plant heat recovery system. All ten host stadiums are accessible by public transit, equipped with solar panels and automated energy systems, with seven of the ten stadiums featuring rainwater collection which is used for both sanitation and to water the fields. France not only sought to host a great tournament this year, but to also lay a sustainable infrastructure, ensuring many more tournaments for future generations of football fans. Given that relatively few things in life have the ability to mobilize, inspire and unite people the way sport does, hopefully the sustainable examples set by the stadiums can be applied to upcoming commercial and residential building projects both in France, and beyond. All told, 1.7B Euros were invested in stadiums, with 20,000 jobs created, including 5,000 long-term positions.

In addition to the stadiums, dozens of other initiatives were undertaken, including construction of light rail to reach the facilities, along with improved pedestrian thoroughfares to encourage fans to walk between destinations. And given that transport emissions will represent up to 75% of the tournament’s environmental footprint, UEFA even created an “eco-calculator” app that allows fans to compare the environmental impact of various forms of travel to and from events.

These and other tactics were developed as part of the eight social, economic and environmental priorities for the tournament, which also include a 50% recycling rate and zero waste to landfill. To achieve these goals, UEFA implemented reusable cups, reduced packaging and reusable materials for things like signage and floor coverings, along with donating surpluses to NGOs. UEFA also established strict supplier guidelines to combat against items, such as signs and merchandise, being sourced or produced unethically. Given the range of stakeholders and partners involved with the tournament, this was an especially ambitious goal, but it speaks to France and UEFA’s comprehensive commitment to setting a positive example no matter what the context.

While we’ll have to wait until sometime in the fall to read UEFA’s final report on the 2016 Euros, the effort seems to have all been worth it (despite the disappointing result for the hosts), as initial research estimates that the tournament will bring in at least 1.3B Euros from incoming foreign fans alone, creating 26,000 full-time jobs over the course of a year while also employing 94,000 people in various capacities. Impressive numbers made even more impressive when there’s an infrastructure of sustainability supporting them. It’s an inspiring example of a more environmentally sound future created by stakeholders from different areas coming together around a common goal.

Image via Flickr courtesy of user I3o_ at https://flic.kr/p/HzDjRY

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