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  • Writer's pictureEllie Meredith

Footballers in the Business of Doing Good by the Planet

Football is the most followed social phenomenon globally with over 3.5 billion football fans. Climate change is the biggest threat facing our generation, and the future of football is going to be affected too. So, before it's too late, we need to cultivate a more sustainable culture in the beautiful game.

Footballers are already blazing a trail on and off the pitch and leading by example.

Photo Credit: Dan Asaki

Chris Smalling, a former Manchester United player, is one of the founding members of VC consultancy ForGood. He has joined forces with Rebecca Wheeler and Sebastiano Cossia Catiglioni to invest in start-ups in the sustainability space, and they offer expertise in marketing and consultancy to creatives.

Their purpose-driven fund is aiming to invest between £50,000 and 1 million pounds in start-ups that are planet friendly.

On their books are the likes of:

  • Heura - a plant-based meat substitute

  • plantbased - planet-based meals subscription service

  • THIS - plant-based food

  • Pinatex - textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibre, and B Corp.

  • Dirty Labs - non-toxic, readily biodegradable, free of known pollutants, and packaged in recyclable aluminium bottle laundry detergents

“I want to look back on my life as someone who achieved lots on the pitch, but also someone who made a difference on a much greater scale”

“Investing in a more sustainable future shouldn't have any barriers and at ForGood we believe that connecting people with a common cause has the power to bring change on a global scale. We want to play a key role in accelerating an ecosystem that actively invests and champions the next generation of responsible business with the ambition to drive a movement of doing things 'ForGood’”

Chris Smalling in action for Italian side A.S. Roma

We Play Green was created by Morten Thorsby, a player at Union Berlin who plays for the Norwegian national team. It is a "Norwegian non-profit organisation committed to creating a green chain reaction of sustainable attitudes and actions within the global football family. He is passionate about motivating football fans around the world to take action in partnership with clubs and players.

Morten was overpowered by climate anxiety, and it almost led to him quitting. Morten opens up about the climate anxiety that almost made him quit playing football so that he could commit himself to saving the planet. He has said previously that "the Paris Agreement aroused really strong feelings in me. I was restless and had climate anxiety." He released that the better he got at football the more his platform would grow, and so he could open up conversations about climate change and reach a wider audience.

Thorsby even changed from kit number 18 to 2 to represent the 2°C global warming target set in the Paris Agreement.

Another footballer who is utilising their platform to spread awareness of climate change is Georgie Kelly who plays for Rotherham United. He has a master's degree in Renewal Energy and Environmental Science and is committed to raising the profile of climate change on the government agenda.

Photo Credit: Rotheram United

Additionally, Pledgeball is an organisation that provides a climate crisis toolkit for fans, organisations and clubs. Kate Cross the founder of Pledgeball said that "it's about shifting that relationship that people have with climate change - moving away from the sense of paralysis because you feel as if you have no control, to realising that you do - and you are part of a collective taking action and your individual actions feed into systemic change."

Pledgeball encourages fans to commit themselves to low-carbon lifestyle pledges - which not only is good for the planet but also is good for their club as their club moves up the league of commitment table. Fans can record the changes they are making in their lives such as using public transport to get to a match rather than driving or eating less meat. This creates a competition where the team that has pledged the most and wins, moves their team up the league of commitments. It's a great idea as it demonstrates to fans that collective action mobilises change.

Photo Credit: Pledgeball

Action at club level is happening too, Tottenham Hotspur is dedicated to minimising the environmental impacts of its activities across all Club operations. They are offsetting their carbon footprint by biodiversifing their Training Center by establishing an ecological habitat. The club founded the 10:10 initiative which encourages people, companies, and organisations to cut their emissions by 10%

“The Club’s core policies are:

  • Recycle any waste products generated across the Club where possible and increase waste diversion away from landfill

  • Reduce our single-use plastic footprint with the aim of eliminating its use across Club operations, seeking to source more environmentally sustainable materials where possible

  • Educate and inspire young people in our communities through the work of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation

  • Promote alternative forms of transport for fans and staff to and from the stadium and Training Centre that have a reduced impact on the environment

  • Identify locally and sustainably sourced food options to cater for various dietary requirements, including plant-based food options, at our stadium”

Tottenham Hotspur has also committed to halving its carbon emissions by 2030 and becoming net-zero by 2040 by joining the UN Race to Zero. Race to Zero was launched at COP26 and aims to bring non-state actors to take action to achieve net-zero in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Photo Credit: Populous

It is time for us all to act and the work that is already being done by footballers offers hope and shows what is possible beyond the beautiful game.

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