Four teams, four matches one sustainability message

Four teams, four matches one sustainability message

Rafael Muela Pastor, general manager of the Real Betis Balompié Foundation, reflects on the team’s upcoming ‘Forever Green’ matches that highlight the organisation’s approach to sustainability

For just over two years, Real Betis Balompié’s ‘Forever Green’ initiative has ‘used the power of the most popular sport on the planet to help save it’, making the La Liga outfit the most sustainable football club in Spain (according to research by Holaluz) and one of the most environmentally committed sports teams in the world. The club has undertaken 88 actions, ranging from supplying electric scooters for club employees to public transport vouchers for fans. 

“I think we now have a programme that is more mature,” says general manager of the Real Betis Balompié Foundation, Rafael Muela Pastor. “Internally, we assume more and more each day that we need to be coherent with the work we are doing through Forever Green. 

“For example, those who have more of a marketing view are considering the real impact of what we are doing. We have so many requests to show what we are doing, but we need to try our best to avoid any feeling of greenwashing if we want to be a real reference. We are taking into account environmental considerations in every measure that we take and every purchase that we do. so I think the Forever Green culture is growing around us and inside us.”

Last season, the club held a ‘Forever Green match’ against Athletic Club, where the associated actions and public transport campaign saved 911 tCO2e compared to a regular match, equating to the annual energy usage of 70 homes.

This season’s Forever Green match will be played in April against RCD Espanyol, where Betis will aim to increase environmental awareness through several actions on match day. 

“Still, the more we do and the more we know, the more we realise that we have to do something else,” Muela Pastor adds. “I think we’re the right path at the moment, but we’re still very ambitious.”

For the first time, different sports that are part of the Betis institution – basketball, futsal and women’s football – will also have a Forever Green match in the coming weeks. As a multi-sports club, Betis are in a unique position to transfer sustainability measures and learnings between sports, a simple example being goal nets and basket nets being made from fishing nets retrieved from the sea.

Reflecting on Betis’ position to transfer learnings between sports, Muela Pastor comments that every time he receives an invitation to take part in a sports conference he has a responsibility, because of the popularity of football, to make everyone aware of their impact on the environment and potential to mobilise all sports fans around the world. 

“I am always preaching to every partner that we have because it’s a common challenge and we have a very special tool to do our best against climate change,” he says.

The four match Forever Green intiative was launched by Real Betis CEO, Ramón Alarcón, and a player from each of the four sports, at Seville Aquarium to reflect the focus on preserving nature and protecting biodiversity. 

“We have certain ambassadors inside the first team,” Muela Pastor explains. “Fortunately, some of them are really aware of what is happening and the emergency we are facing. For example, Borja Iglesias, who, since yesterday, is part of the Spanish national team. He’s a great supporter of what we are doing. This is why he requested us to have recycling bins in the dressing room and he’s always the one being part of our campaigns. 

“And when he has an interview, he’s saying, ‘this is why I love this team because they have this commitment.’ So I think more and more each day, we are going to have more conscious players in every sport. It’s going to be good for their personal brand because the next generations are going to be more attracted to those who are more committed with the fight against climate change.”

The football team will play against RCD Espanyol with a special kit manufactured by Hummel out of 100% recycled polyester. The kit is available in the club’s official stores, but what needs to happen for kits manufactured from recycled materials to become common practice and not only used for special occasions? 

“I really feel like regulation will make everyone take into consideration circular economy,” Muela Pastor says. “It’s going to happen very soon from my point of view – who knows in three, four years.”

Betis have considered circular economy principles for their new training facilities being built in the south of Seville, as well as redeveloping the oldest part of the Estadio Benito Villamarín. Here, advice on how fans can live a more sustainable lifestyle will be displayed against Espanyol.

Looking back on last year’s Forever Green match, Muela Pastor says that one of the lessons learned with communication is that, if the club wants to involve the fans it needs to be “very pedagogical”, and only send a select number of simple, visual messages with specific actions.

Like last year, Betis will promote sustainable transport to the stadium on match day. When asked how Betis will measure the long-term impact of their initiatives, such as fan persistence in using sustainable transport, Muela Pastor remarks that there are two sources; the first one is partners in promotions, such as those facilitating electric scooters, with information related to the path they need to take to the stadium. 

Besides that, the club will launch an incentivised survey for fans to help measure its carbon footprint for another year. Betis will measure the carbon footprint of all four Forever Green matches, but Muela Pastor explains that net zero is not the end goal of Betis’ sustainability initiatives, but just another step on the journey.

“Being net zero marks a path that we can go through, but this is a permanent process. It’s little by little trying things; some of them work, some don’t. Each measure we take, what we are doing is testing the best way to do it. If you go plogging, besides the fact that you are taking trash from nature, you are thinking about the impact of human beings in nature, so I think this is a similar process – learning by doing. 

“With our commitment to be net zero, we don’t really know how we are going to do it. It’s a long-term commitment. KPI’s will be based on our carbon footprint, but we will be open minded to do our best in any other commitments besides that. There are other impacts that we have and other measures that we can do related with mobilising society that we need to take into account.”

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