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Football Innovation Forum: sustainability can’t wait.

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Our CEO Betta Maggio was invited to moderate a panel on sustainability, and had the opportunity of discussing with Michele Uva (UEFA Director, Football and Social Responsibility). Here are the main insights that we gathered.

Football has the power to inspire change.

UEFA has decided to take the field in the match for sustainability. Football is a real value in our society and UEFA firmly believes it has the power to drive changes when it comes to sustainability. Only standing as an example, UEFA can inspire others to do the same in a virtuous circle, to really change the future of our planet. Because, as we all know, there is no Planet B.

Ten years, many challenges: Football Sustainability Strategy 2030

The first step to face every challenge is always trying to understand.

That’s why, as Michele Uva told, in the beginning of this journey to sustainability, UEFA sat down and analised:

  • What sustainability really means;

  • How to link sustainability and football.

They soon understood that “football and sustainability are perfect together”, it was just about changing perspective.

Usually football reacts, so acts when something happens. In this case they realized the key was anticipating. Only with an anticipating mindset, they could create the perfect strategy.

They also recognized that sustainability must pass through two macro areas that will guide this long journey: the environment and human rights.

Every road may be divided into milestones: the 11 policies

With both these principles in mind, UEFA built a strategy around the following 11 policies:

  • Anti-racism

  • Equality & inclusion

  • Child & youth protection

  • Refugee support

  • Health & well-being

  • Football for all abilities

  • Circular economy

  • Climate & advocacy

  • Solidarity rights

  • Event sustainability

  • Infrastructure sustainability

UEFA built a precise and detailed plan, where each policy has a clear 2030 goal that is measured by targets and key performance indicators (KPIs).

The achievements covered by these policies are interconnected: therefore, one initiative may be instrumental to help reach the target of multiple policies.

An example of this is UEFA’s Sustainable Event Management System (SEMS).

You don’t become champion in one night: the first applications

Who better than UEFA knows that great results don’t come as an accident and that they require effort over time? That’s why they set 2030 as the goal, meaning that it’s a mid-to-long term commitment. Putting in the work is not enough - monitoring is the key to understanding if we are going in the right direction. Only monitoring milestones can assure that everything is moving in the right direction, according to the strategy.

The previously mentioned SEMS is clearly part of the Event Sustainability policy, but which better event to start piloting it, than the Women’s Euro 2022?

Implementing an important strategy such as SEMS in one of the most globally visible female athletic events, reflects UEFA’s commitment towards Equality and Inclusion both now and in the future.

Germany EURO 2024 will also be a key event as it will be the first event with the full implementation of this strategy.

And if everything works out in both events, UEFA can really set a new standard for leagues and clubs, and in the future also for cooperation with cities hosting events.

The key to drive change: building on passion and leading by example

Driving cultural changes is not easy, and it becomes even harder when you reflect on UEFA’s members in 55 nations, all different in size, background and approach.

How do you design a strategy fitting everyone in?

Once again, it comes back to the first step. Being an example and being the first to follow these rules is the key to generate what is called a “waterfall effect”: inspiring and motivating others to do the same.

Adapting to these new standards was a challenge even for UEFA. But they’re still developing internal knowledge, experience and most importantly passion.

As It takes passion and motivation for training, to become an athlete, it also takes passion to design, monitor and follow all these strategies, but it is something that we must all do..

Changing is difficult, not changing is fatal.

Two years ago, UEFA set the date for the Football Sustainability Strategy to 2030, knowing it would have taken time and energy to reach these goals.

Whenever you try to change, you expose yourself to several risks, but Michele Uva is sure that the biggest risk is a new concept of ROI: the Risk Of Inaction.

We cannot wait to act, we must all drive changes and do our part in the sustainability journey.

These are some key takeaways from the event.

  1. Sustainability is not a one-man-band play; it is a team work. We are really proud of UEFA’s commitment, leadership, and actions on sustainability. The choices that we make now will shape the planet that we will leave to future generations. Hopefully, UEFA’s extended efforts along with those from companies such as U-Earth, will contribute towards handing them a better one.

  2. Sustainability does not conflict with organizational goals. The society of the future will become that of responsible consumption. People will move from choosing products to choosing meaning: values, ideas, attitudes. That is why investing in sustainability now is a way to build better brands - the brands that people will choose- and a way to drive innovation and unlock new business models and customer experiences.


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