Candriam names top European football clubs in ESG space

Football leagues’ seasons have already started in most countries. But football looks beyond seasons and like any industry it seeks sustainability. In a comment released end of July, Belgian asset manager Candriam looked at which European football clubs were the most focused and advanced regarding environmental, social, governance policies.

Candriam said Barcelona’s stadium Camp Nou will be “among the most sustainable structures in world football when it is completed in 2023.”

“Rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and the use of LED low power lighting, will combine with shading structures to reduce the need for air conditioning within its precincts,” the firm said.

Wolfsburg, which plays in German first league Bundesliga, is also quoted as an example.  “Its electricity comes from green sources, it uses recycled paper, lighting controlled by motion sensors and the local canal is used to water its training ground,” explained Candriam.

“Lighting presents a major cost – and environmental impact – particularly for clubs in northern Europe due to the long nights. Many have moved to energy saving technology. Meanwhile, Ajax is implementing an alternative emergency power supply at its Amsterdam Arena by creating storage unit using almost 300 recycled power cells from Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicles. Linking these units creates considerable energy reserves, while making use of obsolete ‘green technology’,” it added.

Another ESG model squad remains Italy’s Juventus Turin which relies on an extensive sustainability policy.

“The club is looking to not only reduce waste, but also encourage fans to use available recycling stations and discourage them from bringing any non-recyclable waste to the grounds… perhaps a step towards hoping that they behave like the Japanese supporters who cleaned-up the stands at the end of their team’s matches at the recent World Cup,” Candriam said.

Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United sit as well among clubs that are the most advanced in ESG according to Candriam. The former will ban all single-use plastics from the opening of its new stadium, expected by year-end. The latter uses rainwater for irrigation and has reed beds at its Carrington training centre.

Spain’s Real Madrid makes it into the list as “it has converted all 11 of its training pitches to a new generation artificial turf that requires no maintenance – and therefore no water or chemicals – and donated its turf to schools and community groups.”

The S of ESG is well represented in clubs such as Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain but also Juventus and Manchester United focusing much on social inclusion.

“All clubs have local community outreach projects to encourage the playing of sport and healthier lifestyles. Some have established social foundations to further this work, often referred to in the business world as corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“Bayern Munich, Bundesliga champions for 14 of the last 20 seasons, simply refer to this as “responsibility”, while Paris St Germain’s foundation articulates three guiding principles: to help young people find their place in society and the world of work; to reach out to children in underprivileged neighbourhoods (major suppliers of latent fledgling talent) and bring comfort to sick children.”

Candriam noted that there is no correlation between the size of a club and its commitment to ESG, quoting Forest Green Rovers of League 2 of the English Football League whose FIFA dubbed “the greenest football club in the world”.

“It already uses green electricity and has banned both pesticides and meat pies as part of its policies and plans a new stadium that will be made entirely of wood.

“Football clubs and multinational companies are fighting the same combat. The fact that the minor-league Forest Green Rovers club has succeeded in developing such an advanced sustainable policy is proof that all clubs can do so. Today, the same applies to a portfolio manager analysing a stock to invest in. Extra-financial indicators are becoming increasingly more important within investment decisions. It is a safe bet to assume that this trend will accelerate over coming years,” Candriam commented.

Adrien Paredes-Vanheule
Adrien Paredes-Vanheule is deputy editor and French-Speaking Europe Correspondent for InvestmentEurope, covering France, Belgium, Geneva and Monaco. Prior to joining InvestmentEurope, he spent almost five years writing for various publications in Monaco, primarily as a criminal and financial court reporter. Before that, he worked for newspapers and radio stations in France, in particular in Lyon.

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