19 May, 2023
While we must still wait ten days (at the time of writing) to see how this season’s Premier League pans out, which club(s) tops the 2022 sustainability rankings has already been decided. And for once, it’s not Man City (although the club is only one point off the top spot)!
For the fourth season, the United Nations-backed Sport Positive has ranked all 20 Premier League clubs based on their environmental efforts across 12 categories, including sustainable transport, single use plastic, and biodiversity. Clubs that are working strategically across all sites and operations and are engaging fans, employees and players are awarded more points.
For the second year running, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have topped the ranking, with Man City a close third. But encouragingly this year has seen “one of the biggest leaps in progress from clubs across the board” – seven clubs now have net zero targets and four are publicly reporting all emissions. Spurs has even delivered educational sessions on environmental sustainability to its first team squads.
However, every club had points docked this year for taking domestic flights, and while there are good pockets of activity from individual clubs, there is still no overarching strategy from the Premier League, despite setting its net zero target 18 months ago. Compared to other sectors, football is still behind the curve when it comes to sustainability. But the unique position football clubs hold in people’s minds make them such a powerful tool for change. After all, the relationship they have with their fans is one that other brands can only dream of.
It’s time for football clubs to recognise the power they hold and to showcase to other businesses what’s possible, on the environment and beyond. This is not totally new ground, through its No Room For Racism campaign the Premier League and its clubs have been promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across all areas of football since 2019. But it’s time to broaden the scope and hold football clubs to account on progress in all areas, from carbon to DE&I to supplier management. Football is a beautiful game but it’s also big business, so it must be held to the same standards.
By Lydia Thorold