DFL Sustainability Forum – more than 200 guests at the inaugural event in Berlin

The DFL Sustainability Forum took place at the Futurium (House of the Future) in Berlin.
All Photos: DFL/Getty Images/Reinaldo Coddou H.

28 July 2022 – ‘Shaping the future’ was the slogan of the DFL Sustainability Forum (“DFL Nachhaltigkeitsforum”), which took place for the first time today. By hosting the event annually, the DFL aims to create a new platform for the clubs of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, as well as participants from various fields such as politics, business, society, science and the media to exchange ideas on the topic of sustainability. More than 200 guests gathered at the Futurium in Berlin for the inaugural event to discuss ideas on a wide range of sustainability topics.

The opening of the event and welcome address by DFL CEO Donata Hopfen was followed by virtual greetings from Svenja Schulze (German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development) and Cem Özdemir (German Minister of Food and Agriculture). Various experts then took to the podium, providing valuable impetus for the audience with keynotes, interviews and discussion rounds.

These included keynotes by Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu (United Nation Climate Change, Lead Sports for Climate Action – topic: ‘Sports4Change’) and Dr Stefan Brandt (Director of Futurium – topic: ‘How do we want to live?’).

An explanation of the engagement of the DFL in the field of sustainability, which has been increased especially since the previous year, was given by Dr. Marc Lenz (Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and International Affairs at the DFL) and Marika Bernhard (DFL Lead for Sustainability). After that, sustainability in professional football was the topic of a #BundesligaWIRKT panel with Carsten Cramer (Managing Director of Borussia Dortmund), Evelyn Holderbach (Director of Sustainability & International Development at RB Leipzig), Ilja Kaenzig (Spokesman of the Management Board of VfL Bochum 1848), Nicole Kumpis (President of Eintracht Braunschweig) and Esin Rager (Vice President of FC St. Pauli).

Another panel dealt with the demands and initiatives from partners and the business community. Jana Bernhard (Managing Director of S20 – The Sponsors’ Voice e.V.), Charly Classen (Executive Vice President of Sports Sky Deutschland), Tanja Ferkau (CEO of IMPCT and external member of the DFL Sustainability Working Group), Marcus Sagitz (Head of Marketing PreZero) and Dr Steffen Merkel (Member of the DFL Management Board, Director of Audiovisual Rights) took part in the discussion. Classen and Merkel also spoke about the announcement that the media production of all Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 matches will be climate-neutral in the future in close cooperation from DFL and Sky.

Impressions of the DFL Sustainability Forum, Part I:

Prof. Stefan Schaltegger (Head of the Centre for Sustainability Management at Leuphana University) addressed the topic of ‘Changing the narrative: sustainable corporate management’. Leuphana University and SPONSORs are jointly implementing the new ‘Sustainability in Sports Organisations’ further education programme, which provides academic support for employees of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs to build on their sustainability expertise. The DFL is a partner and co-initiator of the program. Together with Henrik Horndahl (Editorial Director of SPONSORs), Prof. Stefan Schaltegger talked about this further education programme.

Afterwards, the panel discussion on ‘Sports4Change’ with Marius Dietrich (German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), Franziska Fey (CEO of the DFL Foundation), Barbara Lutz (Founder and Managing Director of Women Career Index) and Lena Schrum (Founder and Co-Managing Director of aware) focused on how sport can promote sustainable development.

Impressions of the DFL Sustainability Forum, Part II:

The DFL Sustainability Forum concluded with a briefing from a media perspective by Oliver Fritsch (Sports Editor, ZEIT ONLINE), before Dr Marc Lenz and Marika Bernhard concluded the event with a look ahead to the next steps for sustainability in German professional football.

Sustainability criteria in the licensing regulations

Hosting the DFL Sustainability Forum is another significant step taken by the DFL relating to the issue of sustainability. In December 2021, the 36 professional clubs of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 included a clear commitment to all aspects of sustainability (ecological, economic and social) in the preamble to the statutes of DFL e.V. and also resolved that sustainability criteria were to become part of the licensing process. This was anchored in May 2022 by a corresponding decision of the DFL Members Assembly.

A multistage implementation model is now envisaged. To this end, the minimum criteria were approved at the Members Assembly, applying to three areas: ‘club management and organisation’, ‘environment and resources’ and ‘stakeholder groups’. The clubs are accordingly obliged to provide evidence of a sustainability strategy and an environmental strategy, for instance. Other obligations include annual measurements of water consumption, wastewater production and energy consumption, as well as a mobility and traffic analysis. In addition, all clubs must prove that they have a code of conduct for all employees, clearly distance themselves from all kinds of discrimination, and commit to equality, diversity and inclusion.

The aim of the guideline is to implement sustainability with all its aspects. Constant and gradual enhancement of the guidelines is envisaged so that all clubs have the opportunity to keep on developing and expanding their structures in this field. The DFL will continue to work closely with the clubs to keep on expanding the overall framework while also ensuring feasibility for clubs. Parts of the minimum criteria will be further developed and specified in 2023 after the first survey. At the same time, expanded criteria – with financial and non-financial incentives possibly being set to encourage compliance – are to be finalized with the involvement of the clubs and included in the guidelines.

During the development of the guidelines, it has been and will be ensured that clubs that are already carrying out extensive activities individually can continue to act with a focus on their respective strategic priorities. The existing commitment of the clubs, particularly on an individual level, will therefore have a uniform framework for guidance and action. Measures that have a huge influence on structural, HR and financial planning will still have to be feasible for all clubs in both leagues. Consequently, the economic and structural variety within the DFL – from the UEFA Champions League participants to clubs coming up from 3. Liga – must be taken into account.

Support services for clubs

Furthermore, the DFL is working with external experts to devise additional support services for clubs. For example, an implementation guide is planned. The aim is also to establish a network of external partners in various areas of sustainability to provide central support for the clubs.

Further education programme with SPONSORs and Leuphana University

Along with enhancing the guidelines, the DFL is already working on various core topics in the field of sustainability – for example, through the co-initiation of the ‘Sustainability in Sports Organisations’ further education programme mentioned in the context of the Sustainability Forum, which is being implemented by Leuphana University of Lüneburg and SPONSORs. Leuphana University has many years of experience in the field of sustainability management, while SPONSORs already provides various educational opportunities in sport, including with its SPOAC Academy.

Alongside their work, participants in the new further education programme will be taught a wide range of content in three modules, each comprising three days in the classroom at the Leuphana campus in Lüneburg (supplemented by e-learning). Classes include an introduction to the topic, sustainability and environmental strategies, and helpful implementation methods – always with a tangible connection to sport organisations. Further information is available at nachhaltigkeit-im-sport.de.

Climate-neutral media production of all matches

It was also announced at the DFL Sustainability Forum that the media production of all 612 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 matches, as well as relegation play-off and Supercup matches, will be implemented in a climate-neutral manner with immediate effect. Working closely with media partner Sky, the DFL will initially offset the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the course of media broadcasts of the matches and will also work intensively on measures to systematically reduce emissions.