Although a long-time standard-bearer in the world of football, Brazil, as hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, is now also leading by example in an area off the field of play. Thanks to innovative actions in the area of sustainability, the host nation is setting new standards for future FIFA World Cups. Moreover, with the eyes of the world on them, Brazil is finding a solution to the delicate task of aligning specific actions needed for 2014 with established national policies, while also ensuring a real legacy is left for the population afterwards.

During yesterday’s presentation of the sustainability strategy for Brazil 2014 at Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development), FIFA, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the Brazilian government discussed the impacts, both positive and negative, the event would have. The presentation also gave details of what is expected to be one of the organisers’ finest achievements: the event’s ‘green’ stadiums. The expectation is for every venue hosting games at Brazil 2014 to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification.

“This [certification] was not a FIFA demand, but rather a voluntary action which shows that all the host cities share the same environmental concerns,” said the executive secretary of Brazil’s Ministry of Sport, Luis Fernandes. “Our goal is to promote economic growth alongside environmental preservation while reducing inequality and poverty. Placing the 2014 World Cup in this context is fantastic, as it ties in with the endeavours Brazil has already been making. We want to show that development and sustainability can co-exist, and hosting the World Cup is a chance to have the eyes of the world on us.”

FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Federico Addiechi praised the Brazilian initiative of constructing sustainable stadiums, saying the example should be followed by Russia and Qatar, the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups respectively. “We’re going to reach billions of people around the world,” he said.

Our goal is to promote economic growth alongside environmental preservation while reducing inequality and poverty.

Brazil’s Ministry of Sport, Luis Fernandes

“So this is not just an opportunity to show that Brazil can organise the best World Cup of all time, it’s also the chance to show that the issue of sustainability applies to football, and that we’re assuming our responsibilities and want to do our part. The example of the [LEED] certification was a big step and one that has been embraced by next hosts of the tournament, who will go ahead with it. It’s a process that cannot be interrupted. Everyone has to do their part,” Addiechi added.

A FIFA World Cup winner in 1994 and current member of the LOC Management Board, Bebeto reminded attendees that, while football traditionally gives an opportunity to thousands of young Brazilians who dream of making it big overseas, the hosting of a World Cup on home soil will present new opportunities for the general population. “Sustainability is not just about the environment. The strategy involves getting homeless children off the streets, training young people and involving them in the process. Many people will be employed on account of the World Cup, and many lives will be changed by football, just as mine was," he said.

Footballing matters and loyalties also came up during the conference, with Addiechi saying: “As an Argentinian, it’s tricky for me to talk about who’s going to win the World Cup here, but it nevertheless a pleasure for me to be part of Brazil’s World Cup hosting, and I want to as much as I can to the country’s success.”

Fernandes, for his part, had no doubt about who the real winners will be, regardless of what happens on the pitch: “Brazil will emerge a better country than it is today. The FIFA World Cup has given us an opportunity to channel investment and take measures that would have taken decades to happen otherwise. Almost every sector of the Brazilian economy will benefit from the World Cup.”