Sport means passion and participation.
Sport brings people together, touching the lives of millions of people and bringing innumerable benefits: from physical health to personal growth, from respect for others to community development. It has its dark side too.
Despite this easy “fit” with sustainability and social responsibility, sport has mostly been approached as a way to gain visibility for philanthropic and charity initiatives. It is the focus of many, varied initiatives and brings a feel-good factor that is highly attractive. Important as these initiatives are, there is an opportunity to take a more structured and methodical approach to sustainability in sport with a view to not only amplify the social impact of projects but also make sporting organisations more resilient.
There are many practices sport can adopt from corporate experience, starting with the importance of structured stakeholder engagement processes, management and measurement practices and the need to take a “systemic” view of how social and environmental issues interconnect and relate to issues of economic viability, ethics, transparency and good governance. We mustn’t be afraid to tackle sport’s less noble side and tackle ingrained problems (as our involvement with the ENABLE project has illustrated). It has a role to play, for sure, in meeting global goals for 2030.
Given our experience in this area, we were thrilled to organise the first session to be held on sport and sustainability at the Salone della CSR e dell’Innovazione Sociale, Italy’s premier event on CSR and sustainability that brought together 5,500 people in Milan last week. Hosted by Joakim Lundquist and James Osborne the session provided seven different perspectives on the topic, bringing together sporting institutions, football clubs and leagues, a corporate foundation and a very personal experience in tackling disability through sport.
- Teresa Zompetti, head of strategy and social responsibility at Italy’s National Olympic Committee (CONI), provided an insightful overview of the Italian sporting context showing the vast array of people and organisations involved and how this context can be understood in terms of three major clusters of social responsibility topics: sport, heath and community; sport, youth and school; sport and social development.
- Federico Smanio, head of digital and fan relations at Lega Serie B, explained the importance of investing in local communities for Lega B and its clubs because Italian supporters tend to be more faithful to second-tier teams that are local to their area and feature a higher proportion of Italian players
- Annalisa Novembre, Project Manager & Communication at Inter Campus (FC Internazionale Milano), explained how the 21-year-old project is a key contributor to the club’s reputation internationally, despite being started for philanthropic motives; investing in social initiatives through football not only benefits the Inter brand but also shows how sport can be used as an education tool, contributing to the development of local communities and social integration
- Paolo Cominetti, sustainability, engagement and reporting expert at Lundquist, introduced the work of one of our clients, Stockholm-based club Djurgården IF, as a case of sustainability in sport; thanks to strong internal commitment and a close ties to the local community, the club is developing innovative initiatives that bring concrete benefits for the club itself while enhancing relations with supporters, sponsors and local schools
- Maria Cristina Ferradini, Managing Director of Fondazione Vodafone, talked of the foundation’s online community and funding programme Ogni Sport Oltre (Oso), which supports the integration of people with disabilities through sport, making sport inclusive and a medium for cultural change
- Gianluca Nicoletti, writer and radio broadcaster, added a personal perspective (link in Italian) about his efforts to raise awareness for years about the neurodevelopmental disorder that has afflicts his son Tommy; his latest project Cervelli Ribelli won funding from Fondazione Vodafone’s Ogni Sport Oltre to help people with autism take part in 10 different sports
- Patrick Gasser, Head of Football and Social Responsibility Executive Office at UEFA, closed the discussion by explaining how the organisation representing European football incorporates sustainability and social responsibility into the core of its activities; he outlined initiatives ranging from the inclusion of human rights criteria in the bidding for hosting the 2024 Euro championships to ensuring access to all in stadiums.
Our thanks to all the speakers and the organisers of the Salone della CSR e dell’Innovazione Sociale for hosting this discussion.