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South Africa CUP: FIFA and sustainable development

Last summer, football fans could enjoy the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I believe this was a unique show for all audiences, who followed the fantastic game of Latin American Teams and unexpected failure of champions and triumph of octopus PaulJ. However, for CSR professionals, the main topic was whether South Africa would be able to ensure a high level of sustainable development projects and their future development? Basically, selection of the African continent as a platform for the FIFA Championship was based on the principle of sustainable development and debunking of stereotypes related to the African continent. It was believed that the Championship would offer opportunities of economic growth and social mobility to the African continent.

Despite this benevolent objective, there were some problems in developing and implementing sustainable development strategies in South Africa. We had difficulty in finding out who was responsible for what; despite a large number of initiatives, they seemed disparate. To be compared: during the Vancouver Olympics, there was a clear objective, tasks, and results of the sustainable development program. The FIFA’s Green Goal program and the Greening 2010 website in fact outlined some initiatives, but they concerned mostly stadium construction and implementation of programs such as storm water collection.

In terms of sustainability, we believe that the FIFA failed to pay enough attention to the World Cup in South Africa. This can be substantiated by the carbon trace, which was 9 times (!) higher than during the previous World Cup held in Germany and twice as higher (!) than during the Olympics in Beijing: 2.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, including 1.9 million tons of carbon dioxide generated by trips of viewers to South Africa, 900 thousand tons of carbon dioxide produced by local vehicles, stadium construction, and electricity used for matches and accommodation.

The level of emissions inside the country was quite high as coal is used as a major source of electricity in South Africa; lack of transport vehicles inside the country had an impact as well: fans had to fly from one city to another or travel by car. During the previous championship in Germany, railways were used as the most comfortable way of traveling.

In the cities hosting the championship, a number of statutes were signed so that environmental, social, and economic aspects could be taken into account when building stadiums. A guide on assessment of sustainable construction of stadiums was used just like during the previous championship in Germany. In early stages of assessing stadium construction using the guide, experts concluded that no necessary consultation and training were held in the beginning, no enough local materials were used or local workers were employed. As a result, the said cities had to plant trees in order to reduce the environmental trace.

Ironically, but the UN Environmental Program declared that the 2010 World Cup was a championship with a neutral carbon emission level which needs more compensation today. Greenpeace believes the government submitted requests for carbon dioxide emission compensation too late; it is assumed that the UNEP will spend from USD 13 million to USD 24 million (depending on financing of various donors which have not been confirmed yet) to compensate for emissions.

One of the most important social issues is the extent to which the event is accessible for local people. Unfortunately, ticket prices were far from local realities; for the first time in the championship’s history, the hosting nation was not a leader in the list of fans during matches. The cheapest ticket cost USD 75, and this was for seats behind the gate. Fans from around the globe must have remembered empty rows during key matches.

At the same time, the FIFA’s sponsorship policy prohibited small and medium-sized businesses to receive revenues from the championship as the FIFA has its own sponsors. Despite the fact that the FIFA’s sponsors made a lot of useful things for Africa (Coca Cola supplied safe potable water for South African schools, Nike sponsored several teams at the World Cup whose T-shirts were made from recycled plastic bottles, Puma built its supply network through small sustainable suppliers), the economic and social effect from supporting SMB might have been mush higher.

There may be only one conclusion: the fact that a World Cup is held in a developing country does not mean yet a positive sustainable development; the latter requires concrete actions.

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