Representatives of FIFA are travelling to Rio de Janeiro to take part in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (20-22 June), where world leaders, governments, private companies, NGOs and other groups will pool their expertise to find ways of reducing poverty, increasing social equity and protecting the environment.

With international sporting tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup™ leaving an indisputable impact on society and the environment, FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Federico Addiechi, gives us an insight into the sustainability strategy for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and explains how the strategy will guide FIFA’s efforts to stage a sustainable event and build a better future.

FIFA World: The term “sustainability” is used frequently nowadays in connection with international events such as the FIFA World Cup, Federico, but what exactly does it mean?
Federico Addiechi:
Broadly speaking, sustainability is about enabling this generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. For FIFA, that means using our resources wisely, in other words, striking a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

How do you decide which topics a FIFA World Cup sustainability strategy should focus on?
As you can imagine, because of its sheer size, the FIFA World Cup offers a unique global platform to raise awareness of many social and environmental concerns and the expectations of what FIFA can achieve are therefore very high, so we have to define a clear, ambitious but realistic focus. In consultation with the key stakeholders – the Local Organising Committee, the Brazilian government, the host cities, and FIFA’s partners and sponsors – we carry out what’s known as a “materiality analysis” to identify what issues are relevant for Brazil and for the World Cup. Importantly, we have to evaluate which issues it makes sense to focus on in terms of our degree of influence. We ask ourselves: is this an area that FIFA and the LOC can control or have a significant impact on? Is it a relevant topic that Brazilians want to see addressed? If the answer to those two questions is yes, then that becomes a material issue to be addressed in the strategy. We also consider the country’s own sustainability objectives. For example, the 13 directives that outline Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her government’s policy agenda have contributed to shaping our sustainability strategy.

Have you been able to transfer knowledge gained from previous FIFA World Cups into the 2014 strategy?
Definitely. We gained a lot of knowledge and experience from the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, and from last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and we’ve tried as much as possible to incorporate the best practices from those tournaments into the sustainability strategy for 2014. In particular, those events gave us the opportunity to set up a framework for sustainability. Within the area of environmental protection, for example, this framework contains six key areas: waste, water, energy, transportation, procurement and climate change, and we can adapt these according to the part of the world in which the World Cup is being staged. So while the framework remains the same, each tournament will incorporate sustainability in a different manner, taking into consideration the particularities of the host country and the region.

In terms of environmental sustainability, doesn’t an event like the FIFA World Cup cause damage by its very nature?
We acknowledge that the FIFA World Cup has a both a positive and a negative impact on society and on the environment. Acknowledging this reality is a first step towards changing and trying to address the related issues. Beyond that, we see it as our responsibility to take measures to maximise the positive and minimise the negative impact using the resources we have available and using the power of our organisation and of the event itself.

What exactly does that involve?
Well, first of all, an organisation like FIFA has to understand the extent of its environmental impact, including its carbon footprint. We’ve taken steps to evaluate what emissions are caused by our activities in the lead-up to recent FIFA World Cups, and we recognised that a large part of our emissions comes from international flights. Therefore, on 1 January 2012, we launched a programme to offset   
all of our carbon emissions resulting from international air travel. The programme is certified to the Gold Standard, the premium standard for voluntary carbon reduction projects, and ensures that every time a FIFA representative travels, the emissions are 100% compensated through carbon reduction projects in various parts of the world. Another of our programmes will see us hold a certified training course on environmental matters for all stadium managers. At last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, this resulted in over 50 individual measures being carried out to improve the environmental performance of the stadiums.

Of course, sustainability is not just about the environment. What can you tell us about the strategy’s social dimension?
Clearly, topics such as social inclusion, non-discrimination and respect for human rights and the rule of law are present in every area of our work and they will continue to underpin our strategy in the years ahead. As for specific measures, we’ve gained a lot of experience of working with disadvantaged communities in recent years through the worldwide Football for Hope programme, and we’ll be looking to push ahead strongly with the programme in Brazil. With this in mind, we’re launching a study to identify programmes in the 12 host cities that are using football to promote social inclusion and social development, which we will then support in 2014 and beyond. Another area we’re focusing on is increasing the skills and employability of the local population. We’ll be working with around 18,000 FIFA World Cup volunteers, and rather than simply training them for their specific tasks, we’ll offer them other ways to build their skills in order to increase their chances of getting a first or second job when the World Cup is over.

The exclusion of informal traders from certain zones around the cities and stadiums attracted criticism during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa…
Yes, we’ve evaluated the best practices and not-so-good practices from South Africa and incorporated these lessons into the current strategy. Informal traders remain a responsibility of the host cities, and we’ll be supporting and encouraging these cities to actively engage with informal traders to find solutions and alternatives for those negatively affected by the event. In some cases, we’ll even be giving informal traders the opportunity to be part of our official FIFA World Cup operations, again with a view to building their skills for the time after the event.

So it’s also about encouraging others to incorporate sustainability into their operating practices?
Absolutely. In addition to our own concrete initiatives, one of the principles of our strategy is to reach out to others within our sphere of influence by encouraging them to further integrate sustainability into their activities. We work with our partners and sponsors to make sure that their FIFA World Cup operations are as sustainable as possible, sharing best practices and also giving them opportunities to interact with us on sustainability-related matters. For example, we’ll be working with Sony on a skill-building programme to provide equipment and media training to young people in Brazil, a programme which we will then embed into long-term community projects through our Football for Hope network. We’ll also be working with Yingli Solar to install a large solar energy system that will provide Brazilian communities with renewable energy long after the World Cup has ended. On top of that, we’re exchanging knowledge and information with the Brazilian government on an ongoing basis, because, although we know that they have their own expertise and objectives, just as we do, sometimes overlapping areas arise out of those discussions where one plus one is more than two.

You’ve been at FIFA for almost a decade now. How has FIFA’s sustainability strategy evolved during that time?
In previous FIFA World Cups, we’ve had social responsibility and environmental “satellites”, that is, individual events, initiatives and programmes that were linked to the tournaments. This time round, however, we realised that if we wanted to have a major impact, we had to look at our internal operations. We had to talk about how the tournament is organised, and we had to consider the impact on society and the environment in everything that we do. We want to make sure that sustainability is not solely the task of the Corporate Social Responsibility team but is embraced by the whole organisation and the Local Organising Committee. For example, we’ve integrated sustainability into our tender and procurement processes to ensure that all the products or services FIFA purchases are produced in compliance with international norms and decent work conditions, and we look to purchase products whose manufacturers have considered how they’ll be reused or recycled at the end of their life cycle – not just at the end of the World Cup.

What evidence of sustainability will fans be able to see at the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Our sustainability activities will be visible to fans in a number of areas. We‘ll be putting a system of waste management in place, for instance, that takes into account environmental protection, while the World Cup in Brazil will also be a great opportunity to raise awareness of climate change. Inside the stadium, fans will see evidence of our measures to improve the experience of young fans through the child protection areas we’re setting up there. However, many activities will not be as visible to the fans because sustainability is often more about how we do things and the many measures we’re carrying out behind the scenes, for example to ensure that the ticketing system takes into account high-level consumer issues such as data protection and the rights of fans attending the event.

And looking beyond 2014?
As soon as the FIFA World Cup in Brazil has finished, we’ll put together a first comprehensive sustainability report evaluating the outcome of our activities surrounding the tournament, which will then form the basis for future events. The report will be based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a sustainability framework used by most of the largest companies around the world. We’ll also continue our work with the Local Organising Committees in Russia and Qatar ahead of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. For the first time, the bidding process for these tournaments took in social and environmental considerations, so the host countries have already indicated their focus topics and we’ve been able to make early inroads into developing appropriate sustainability measures, including the stipulation that FIFA World Cup stadiums will have to obtain green building certification in future to ensure their energy and environmental credentials. So, as for Brazil 2014, we hope that through the combined efforts of FIFA, the Local Organising Committee, our partners and sponsors and the host nation’s government, we can ensure that sustainability becomes an integral part of the FIFA World Cup and a benchmark for future sporting events.