FIFA’s Greenwashing Red Carded

    Share post:

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Laundromat’s greenwashing detector started flashing wildly back in November 2022 in the run up to the Qatar football World Cup.  Bold claims of carbon neutrality were being made by the organisers, despite obvious flaws not only in the carbon accounting but also evident in the climate impact inherent in the idea of holding a World Cup in a country that had almost no existing football infrastructure.  Much as FIFA would have been shaking in their football boots in face of the Laundromat’s harsh scrutiny, the sport’s governing body now finds itself in proper trouble with Swiss regulators.

    FIFA is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, and the Swiss Commission for Fairness (SLK) had been examining complaints submitted against FIFA by local organisations as well as complainants from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  The SLK is a self-regulatory advertising and communications industry body, and as such issues only recommendations rather than state-sanctioned penalties.  Yellow cards rather than red, if you like.  Nevertheless, this only adds to the pressure on FIFA, which already has serious reputational issues emanating from multiples incidences of high-level corruption in recent years.

    - Partner Message -

    The outcome of the SLK’s investigation is that FIFA made false and misleading statements regarding the carbon neutrality and overall environmental impact of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  The Commission had asked FIFA to substantiate the various headline claims that had featured very prominently in its marketing of the event.  Despite FIFA having the opportunity to present a detailed breakdown of its climate impact calculations, none were forthcoming and the SLK’s conclusion was that the organisation had misled consumers, sponsors and other stakeholders.

    The SLK found little substance to FIFA’s methodology for calculating the carbon footprint and intensity of the event, including the construction phase as well as the extensive emissions generated while the World Cup was ongoing.  There was also little evidence of the validity of the large quantity of carbon offsets being used to reach the claimed neutrality target.  For instance, renewable energy projects that had already been financed were included among the offsets despite the total lack of additionality. 

    Clearly, if a large corporation were found to have boosted its share price and market standing by making public statements based on fraudulent “creative” financial accounting, its executives would risk prosecution and potential imprisonment.  Is it time for creative carbon accounting to be taken just as seriously?  Frank Huisingh, founder of Fossil Free Football – one of the complainants in the SLK case – thinks so: “This is a very important decision.  FIFA can no longer mislead the world that its World Cup in Qatar was carbon neutral.  Serious climate action by FIFA is long overdue, hopefully this decision pushes them to do better.  This must start with breaking ties with big polluters, such as their sponsors QatarEnergy and Qatar Airways.”

    FIFA has signalled its intention to appeal the SLK’s ruling.  However, given the overwhelming evidence presented by credible climate experts exposing the gaping holes in its climate neutrality claims, FIFA would perhaps be better advised to spend the time re-examining its obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework.

    Image courtesy of Валентин Симеонов from Pixabay
    - Partner Message -

    Nordsip Insights

    From the Author

    Related articles