Two years ago, myclimate surveyed the Bundesliga clubs on various sustainability topics and compiled the results of the numerous responses received in a table. 16 out of 18 Bundesliga clubs for the 2019/2020 season took part. In the meantime, the Covid pandemic has shaken things up: priorities have been shifted, restrictions have been imposed and changes in plans have become unavoidable. The Bundesliga clubs were no different. Nevertheless, the globally important issue of climate protection has not been lost – and that is a good thing. «This time, myclimate did not focus on individual sustainability measures, but rather on the overarching climate neutrality goal of the Bundesliga clubs for the 2021/2022 season», explains Stefan Baumeister, Managing Director of myclimate Germany, and adds: «We wanted to know by when they want to achieve the goal of greenhouse gas neutrality – 2030? 2040? 2050?»
The result of the survey in detail
The myclimate survey showed that more than 60 percent of the clubs from the 2021/2022 Bundesliga season have not yet set a climate neutrality target with a concrete annual reference. In contrast, the respective cities of the clubs based there show that this can also be done differently. Almost all of them have already set the year and marked corresponding interim targets on the way there.
Specifically, 1. FSV Mainz 05, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, VFL Wolfsburg and 1. FC Köln have already achieved climate neutrality status, according to their own statements. «Even though each of the three clubs has its own challenges to overcome in this context, it shows that it is already possible at this point in time - even for Bundesliga clubs», Baumeister encourages. But you can't lean back because of that. In the future, it will be important for them to continue working on reducing the proportion of CO2 emissions that are still compensated for today through an individual mix of measures, he emphasises. Arminia Bielefeld has also stated that it wants to become greenhouse gas neutral this year. In addition, only Hertha BSC has so far set a climate neutrality target for 2050.
The remaining twelve of the 18 clubs are still keeping everything open in this respect, i.e. they have not yet committed themselves to a specific year. They explain why this is so in very different ways. FC Augsburg, for example, recently presented its sustainability strategy and confirmed its intention to make its own operations even more sustainable. The calculation of a CO2 footprint as well as a concrete target formulation regarding climate neutrality is currently in the works. Union Berlin explains that the club's statutory purpose is to promote football. They want to do this in the most sustainable and resource-saving way possible, but have not set a «singular climate protection goal». In Bochum, the VFL has currently started an eco-balancing project with the local university. On the basis of the resulting information, the decision-makers plan to gradually sharpen the way forward. They want to analyse the extent to which a concrete goal of climate neutrality can make sense with regard to the holistic consideration of Scope 1 to 3. According to Borussia Dortmund, it is also not yet possible to formulate a climate neutrality target at this time. However, they are currently working on an energy modernisation concept that will be supported by various measures and milestones and is intended to pave the way to climate neutrality. Eintracht Frankfurt intends to achieve climate neutrality «as soon as possible» and expects to beat the German government's climate target (2045).
SC Freiburg moved into its new venue in October 2021 and is «on track in terms of infrastructural climate neutrality». For example, the installation of the photovoltaic system on the roof of the new stadium will begin in the summer. In addition, there are other sustainability projects currently in the works, such as the supply of district heating. At the moment, however, there are no valid data for the formulation of a concrete climate neutrality target. Fürth is «absolutely aware of its social responsibility». The local football club has also not yet set a target year, but declares that it will improve its own ecological footprint with great commitment and step by step. It underlines this exemplarily with the already long-standing use of green electricity and a currently intensified orientation towards e-mobility. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, according to its own information, is concerned with the issue of CO2 neutrality, but leaves the question of a concrete climate neutrality target unanswered and informs: They are pursuing «a whole range of ecological measures and projects such as the installation and use of photovoltaic systems, aerators, wells for water reduction or 100 % green electricity in the stadium.»
RB Leipzig published its sustainability strategy a few weeks ago. In it, the football club from Saxony explains that it is currently in the process of determining its own carbon footprint. This is to be followed by a step-by-step reduction in emissions. It is not yet clear how ambitious the reduction path will be and by which year net zero emissions are to be achieved. Borussia Mönchengladbach holds out the prospect that the club's climate neutrality target «will be significantly more ambitious than that of the German government (2045).» However, a fixed date for calculated greenhouse gas neutrality has not yet been set. The club is currently working on systematically recording its emissions and identifying reduction potential. On this basis, among others, those responsible then want to outline a time frame for achieving the goal. FC Bayern München is pursuing the vision of a climate-neutral Allianz Arena – by 2030. However, it is still unclear by when the entire club wants to achieve this goal. In autumn 2019, the club's board of directors declared environmental sustainability to be a key corporate goal. The club VfB Stuttgart, also based in the south of Germany, is «currently in the process of calculating its first corporate carbon footprint as part of its holistic sustainability commitment». Based on these results, among others, further climate and environmental protection targets will be set and corresponding measures will be taken.
Sustainability becomes a licensing criterion for the Bundesliga
«The majority of the clubs are already taking concrete steps to be able to implement the topic of climate neutrality strategically and according to plan in the future», Baumeister concludes from the responses of the clubs. However, the majority of the clubs still have to work out and present the concrete roadmap and the target of climate neutrality in the near future. In this context, a CO2 balance sheet is the basis for setting goals and all related emission reduction measures. It shows how much energy, resources and more are consumed in which areas of the club and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. The result serves as a basic data set for a climate protection strategy and the formulation of concrete climate protection goals. In addition, the balance sheet can be used as a benchmark for future analyses to check and document the progress of measures. «Currently, the Bundesliga clubs are not yet obliged to carry out such a CO2 balance. But it is conceivable that this could change very soon, Baumeister suspects. Only a few months ago, the German Football League Association, or DFL for short, decided that sustainability would become a licensing criterion for the Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga from the 2023/2024 season. However, it has not yet been decided which criteria the clubs will have to fulfil in detail and whether a CO2 balance and a concrete climate neutrality target will be included. What is certain, however, is that every club must be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest in order to achieve the global climate target.
Bundesliga clubs can set an example with ambitious climate targets
The international community has set itself the goal of limiting global warming compared to pre-industrial times and achieving greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050. To put it more precisely, the global mean temperature of the earth is to be limited to an increase of 1.5 °C in order to achieve a stabilisa-tion of the climate and to keep climate impacts at a manageable level. It is clear that this requires not only the individual states, countries and municipalities, but also the private sector, i.e. all companies including the Bundesliga clubs. So the question is not whether a climate neutrality target is necessary and sensible. The question is whether the Bundesliga clubs are exploiting their potential to achieve this goal well before the latest possible date of 2050. «With an ambitious climate target, the Bundesliga clubs would take on a model role and be able to use their charisma to motivate other clubs and companies to achieve the goal of climate neutrality as early as possible», Baumeister sums up.
How can a football club, association or company become climate neutral?
Bundesliga clubs or companies can achieve the status of «climate neutral» by reducing and offsetting all relevant greenhouse gas emissions they cause using the principle of «avoid - reduce - compensate». The first step towards climate neutrality is therefore the recording and calculation of all climate-relevant consumption data of a club with the help of a CO2 balance, also called corporate carbon footprint. This is the starting point and guide for all subsequent avoidance and reduction measures. In parallel, unavoidable residual emissions can be offset by purchasing emission reduction credits, so-called certificates. These are generated through certified projects that primarily implement climate protection measures in developing and newly industrialising countries and thus measurably reduce emissions. There, for example, fossil energy sources are replaced by renewable energies or energy efficiency measures are implemented. «In contrast to air pollution, it is fundamentally irrelevant for the climate in which part of the world greenhouse gas emissions enter the atmosphere and where they are reduced. Therefore, the compensation approach is also possible and makes sense», Baumeister explains. Compensation measures are valuable bridging measures that have an immediate effect and ideally flank a long-term reduction strategy. «The most important thing, however, is that global green-house gas emissions decrease in total in order to achieve the global climate goal. And we can only do that together, he emphasises in conclusion.»