How sustainable is the FIFA 2018 World Cup?

Photo by  Robert Katzki  on  Unsplash

Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash

The first weeks of the FIFA 2018 World Cup have had their share of unanticipated results and blunders with more twists and turns expected for the weeks to come. When watching a game and cheering for one of the two teams, not many fans would ponder over the environmental footprint of such a large event. However, the environmental impact of the FIFA 2018 World Cup is bound to be significant and we decided to look into it.

Some figures:

  • 12 stadiums with more than 550,000 total seating capacity
  • 3,000,000 spectators that will attend the 2018 World Cup
  • @1,000,000 international guests are expected to visit Russia due to the World Cup
  • >100,000 jobs created and supported by the FIFA 2018 World Cup

The FIFA website lists a number of positive sustainability indicators such as an improvement in all host cities' Sustainable City Index and the green building certification BREEAM for all stadiums. Nevertheless, critics think that the 2018 FIFA World Cup represents a missed opportunity to rise to the occasion and make the event a global platform to champion sustainability. An example quoted in support of this vision is the approach that FIFA is taking on carbon emission. The FIFA 2018 World Cup too, like any other major sporting event, will have a vast carbon footprint (1). FIFA estimates that, considering the preparations for the tournament and its duration, 2.17m tonnes of greenhouse gases (2) will be emitted – down from 2.72m tonnes recorded in Brazil. For the first time, FIFA is offering free carbon offsets to ticket holders giving those who sign up a chance to win tickets to the final, but by having capped the scheme to only 34,500 fans, FIFA has only committed to offset up to a mere 16% of the event’s total predicted emissions. Criticism has also mounted as FIFA has signed sponsorship deals with companies in the carbon-intensive transport and mobility sectors, with the official partner of the 2018 World Cup being the indigenous oil and gas giant Gazprom – part-owned by the Russian Government –  which is the first company to have pumped oil from the Arctic shelf.

Searching for more positive news, we looked at the apparel brands that will dress up the national football teams. In the apparel sector sustainability is getting traction and great innovation is taking place. Each one of Nike’s federation kits, for example, is made from at least 12 recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are shredded into flakes, turned into pellets and then melted and extruded into a high-quality yarn used to create the kits, delivering top performance with a lower impact on the environment. Since 2012 Nike has diverted nearly 5 billion plastic bottles from landfills and 75 percent of all Nike shoes and apparel now contain some recycled material. Nike’s bold statement that “There is no innovation without sustainability” is coming to life thanks to breakthrough technologies and innovative processes such as the Nike Air manufacturing system, the Flyknit technology and the last innovation launched Flyleather.


(1) Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere that is produced directly or indirectly by human activities. The standard unit of measurement for carbon footprints is carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

(2) Greenhouse gases: Greenhouse gases (GHGs) refer to the compounds in the atmosphere that are capable of absorbing and trapping heat. Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for around three quarters of these gases present in the atmosphere. GHGs are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which has led to the acceleration of global warming and climate change. As more GHGs enter the atmosphere, the impacts of global warming are accelerated. 

(3) Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq): is a measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential.

If you want to read more about the FIFA World Cup sustainability profile:; and

To read about Nike football kits:


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