Sustainability in sport

07.08.2023 4 min read

With the Women’s world cup in full swing, the fans are not only celebrating the high calibre of football on show but also that sustainability is at the heart of this event. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Sustainability Report aims to minimise the negative impacts and maximise the long-term positive effects on society, the economy, and the environment. This type of report is not only becoming a fundamental part of hosting large-scale sporting events but sports clubs large and small are also putting sustainability at the heart of their decision process.

The need for change

For many years events were hosted with no consideration for the environment or the long-lasting impact of the event. Stadiums were built and abandoned with little to no consideration of the long-term environmental or social impact on the surrounding areas for future generations. Global audiences of sports are billions of people including in person and on TV/steamed/online viewing. With this type of global reach and influence it is vital that the environmental, social, and sustainable impacts of sport are considered, reported, and communicated.

Why are organisers putting sustainability at the core of sports events?

Sports events large and small predictably have an impact on the environment in several forms, from the construction of venues and the resources energy, and people required for this, to the effects of travel to the venues from the fans, media, and the teams themselves. The impacts that a sporting event has on the local communities and the wider environment, both negative and positive are now reported regularly by significant teams and events organisers, highlighting the need for this type of reporting. The mindset of fans has also changed over the years. The influence of social and mass media has meant that people are more aware of the impacts these events are having on the environment and the long-term social value impacts sport has on the local areas. The results of all of this mean that sustainably has become a fundamental part of the sport.

Why do sports events need to be more sustainable?

The demand for sporting events and sports teams to be more sustainable is for several reasons:

  • Environmental Impact –  Sports events generate substantial waste, consume vast amounts of energy and water, and often involve extensive travel for athletes, teams, and spectators. These activities can contribute to air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat destruction, leading to climate change and environmental degradation. Large sporting events can produce massive amounts of waste, including single-use plastics, food containers, and promotional materials. Much of this waste ends up in landfills or pollutes natural ecosystems, leading to ecological damage and harming wildlife.
  • Social Impact – Sports events can impact local communities through increased traffic congestion, noise pollution, and strain on public services like healthcare and law enforcement. Balancing these impacts with community needs is crucial for maintaining a positive relationship between sports events and the local population. Hosting sports events can strain local resources, such as water and energy supplies, especially in areas where these resources are already limited. Unsustainable consumption can deplete these resources and have long-term consequences for the host community.
  • Positive Role Modelling –  Sporting events attract global attention, making them an excellent platform to promote sustainability and influence a broader audience. By showcasing sustainable practices and encouraging participants and spectators to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviours, sports events can act as positive role models for society.
  • Long-term Viability – Ensuring the sustainability of sports events is crucial for their long-term viability. As environmental and social concerns continue to gain importance worldwide, events that fail to adapt may face public backlash, decreased attendance, and difficulties in securing sponsorships.

The outcome

Adopting sustainable practices is becoming an essential part of sports and event hosting. Sports events can minimise their ecological footprint, conserve resources, and contribute to a greener and more responsible future for both the sports industry and the communities they engage with. Sport connects global communities and has the opportunity to be an exemplar in sustainable practices and reporting to the rest of the world.

Key Contacts

Carla Stokes Marketing Director