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Our Insights 12 Jun 2014

World Cup 2.0: When Football Meets Footprint

By James Wicker

Image © Juan Tan Kwon via Flickr

World Cup season is upon us! The global event that football fans around the world have all been awaiting has started. All eyes are on the 32 national teams that will be competing in Brazil for the next five weeks.

I was 11 years old when my country, France, hosted and won the World Cup in 1998. The national pride when Les Bleus lifted the trophy before the eyes of millions of people around the world was overwhelming. Surely any event driving this much passion globally should never be called into question? But my grown-up self now wonders if all this enthusiasm could be used to drive much needed positive environmental change?

The rules of football mean that teams are judged on the goals that they score. But wouldn’t it be interesting if a country’s environmental footprint and sustainability efforts were also accounted for?

Imagine if countries were awarded extra points or a few goals head start for more competitive national footprint and sustainability efforts? In a SustainAbility-organised World Cup, countries would also compete on their ‘externalities’ like their water footprint or clean energy track record. I have a feeling the outcomes of each game would look dramatically different from say, Goldman Sachs’ predictions or Stephen Hawking’s formula.

Over the next few weeks we shall show you our picture of the World Cup by presenting the SustainAbility scores of some games. To do so, we shall expand the focus beyond pitch prowess to sustainability performance. We’ll rate them on their goals but give them a head start if they are already ahead of the opposing team on key indices. These include water footprint, energy sustainability, ecological footprint and rankings on the human sustainable development index and social progress index. The winning side in each area in each game will be awarded one goal head start against the opposing team for each area. Whilst this is an admittedly overly simplified way of assessing sustainability performance, we hope that it stimulates some supporter soul-searching or at least bar room banter—not just on the final scores, but also on the broader impacts of these countries on the global scale.

Which countries will benefit from this new scoring system? And which countries will it handicap? Will the big names of football still lift the trophy or will we see a new order emerge?

Stay tuned to follow our view on the true scores of the World Cup by following @SustAbility on Twitter or by using the hashtag #TrueScore. Let the games begin and may the best team win!



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