UEFA has unveiled its Circular Economy Guidelines in conjunction with Zero Waste Week and the launch of the UEFA Football Sustainability Strategy 2030 – titled ‘Strength Through Unity’ – earlier this year.
The overarching strategy contains 11 policies, one of which focuses on circular economy, and the launch of the guidelines on that topic featured panel discussions between experts in the field from across the European football, political and corporate spectrum.
In the UEFA context, circular economy refers to the optimisation of the consumption and life cycle of products, most notably food, packaging and branded items throughout UEFA operations and events.
The organisation’s 2030 ambition is to embed the so-called ‘4R approach’ – built around reducing, reusing, recycling, and recovering – in all operations to minimise the impact of football on the environment and drive resource efficiency and cost savings.
I look forward to seeing these guidelines translated into tangible actions within UEFA, across UEFA events and collaboratively across European football to help us achieve our aspirational targets around zero plastic waste and food waste
The guidelines include three sections: an introduction to the circular economy concept and the 4R framework; best practice and factsheets in the food and beverage domain by various football stakeholders (created with the support of UEFA’s commercial partner PepsiCo); and an outlook into forthcoming circular economy focus areas – energy and water, apparel and football equipment, and event materials (signage, brand production and furniture, and IT equipment).
Michele Uva, UEFA football & social responsibility director, said: “The circular economy is an important pillar of UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy 2030. Collaborating with PepsiCo and several European clubs to assess aspects of circularity in food and beverage was instrumental in the development of the UEFA guidelines.
“I look forward to seeing these guidelines translated into tangible actions within UEFA, across UEFA events and collaboratively across European football to help us achieve our aspirational targets around zero plastic waste and food waste.”
The guidelines aim to help national associations, leagues, clubs, sponsors, event organisers and other football stakeholders start the journey towards hitting those targets by 2030.
A collaborative approach
Circular economy practices were tested last season with several clubs that participated in the UEFA Champions League, which led to the creation of a database of best practices and the formation of a consultation group among clubs to share knowledge and discuss common challenges, and a feasibility analysis.
Additionally, UEFA collaborated with PepsiCo, a partner of UEFA since 2015 across various men’s and women’s football competitions, to implement circular economy practices at the 2022 UEFA Champions League final. These new guidelines were supported by PepsiCo, as well as the European Club Association (ECA).
Katharina Stenholm, PepsiCo Europe senior vice-president & chief sustainability officer, said: “We are proud of the partnership and work PepsiCo and UEFA have been able to accomplish to ensure that European football is more sustainable.
“At the core of our partnership is the desire to support the transition to circular economy food and beverage practices with the aim of producing the first zero waste to landfill UEFA final by 2024.
Reshaping the circular economy in ways that minimises waste and promotes sustainable solutions for our environment will take courage, vision and the collective efforts of the truly dedicated: that includes fans, athletes, clubs and corporations
“Reshaping the circular economy in ways that minimises waste and promotes sustainable solutions for our environment will take courage, vision and the collective efforts of the truly dedicated: that includes fans, athletes, clubs and corporations. In partnership with UEFA, I am confident that we can bring together our collective strengths to transform systems and create new opportunities that create a more sustainable future for footballers and fans across the globe.”
Charlie Marshall, the CEO of European Club Association, said: “ECA’s member clubs, as key stakeholders at the heart the football industry, are poised to play a crucial role in promoting the sustainability of the entire football ecosystem, including the circular economy. Hundreds of clubs across Europe are willing and able to become ‘sustainability champions’ so that club football can act as a role model for the entire football ecosystem, including fans and society at large.
“ECA is supporting our clubs and key partners such as UEFA in implementing more sustainable solutions to improve the social and environmental impact of football, and it is with this goal in mind that we have set up a new ECA sustainability working group, composed of clubs from across all of Europe, to oversee and lead ECA’s sustainability strategy.”
The panel discussions focused on circular economy from a strategic angle, highlighting the opportunities for collaborative solutions in the European football landscape as well as the challenges and opportunities around implementing the guidelines across football stakeholders.