In the spotlight: UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy 2030

In the spotlight: UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy 2030
In December 2021, UEFA launched their Sustainability Strategy 2030 with the main goal to inspire, activate and accelerate collective action to respect human rights and the environment within the context of European Football. Eliott Castille, Innovation Specialist at UEFA, talked us through their renewed ambitions.

1. What is the background and purpose of the UEFA Sustainability Strategy?

The strategy is titled Strength Through Unity to signify that complex issues can only be addressed and solved if we work in close collaboration with all our football stakeholders, agree on a shared agenda, use a common language, and adopt a consistent approach.

The strategy is formulated around 11 policies, seven of them focused on human rights, and four on the environment – each supported by a 2030 ambition, targets and key performance indicators (KPIs), and will be implemented in five areas of action: UEFA internal organisation, UEFA events, UEFA member associations, the football ecosystem (clubs, leagues, players, referees, officials, coaches, volunteers), and partners and society (sponsors, fans, suppliers, media, local communities, governments and global institutions).

UEFA’s approach is likely to evolve through periodical reviews and assessments of progress across the interconnected policies. This may lead to consolidating some of the policies. A review of the strategy’s effectiveness and architecture is envisaged for 2025.

2. How did the Reimagine Football innovation programme match the UEFA Sustainability Strategy?

UEFA has been actively looking in impactful ways to engage all its stakeholders – from its member associations, leagues, and clubs to host cities and obviously the fans – in its journey laid out in the strategy. Two focus areas of the strategy revolve around climate action and event sustainability, with the ambition of reducing European football’s carbon footprint, being a credible reference partner for organisations working on climate protection, and setting a new benchmark for zero-impact sporting events.

Sourcing innovative solutions through the Reimagine Football initiative such as Social Brothers & Fynch Mobility enabling green mobility and Waste Transformers acting for more circular waste management, enables us to tap into expertise that we and our football stakeholders can benefit from in order to collaborate and invest in football's future sustainability.

3. What do you see as the biggest challenges in implementing the sustainability strategy?

Turning the strategy into concrete action requires a willingness to adapt from all parties involved. Difficult trade-offs might have to be discussed and made concerning short term versus long term, profit versus purpose, risks versus opportunities and priority setting.

UEFA will accelerate the process by implementing the following priority steps: rolling out football-related action plans for each policy; fostering a community of sustainability managers connected by a common process and common terminology; developing guidelines and support programmes for developing sustainability strategies at member associations and other football stakeholders; set up measurement and monitoring systems for (annual) reporting on actions and results; and engaging around ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria linking sustainability, operational and financing strategies.

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