RB Leipzig take stock of their sustainability efforts in the club's first ever sustainability report, which falls under the 'PLAY. CARE. SHARE' sustainability strategy. Evelyn Holderbach, Director Sustainability & International Development, spoke in an interview about the topic of sustainability in professional sports, how far along the club are in this area, what they hope to achieve still and how this topic affects the RBL fans.
RBL Sustainability Report
Why has RB Leipzig produced a sustainability report and what does it contain?
The aim of the sustainability report is to show the progress that we have made since the creation of this area of responsibility and the adoption of our sustainability strategy at the beginning of 2022. It is important for us to get all our employees, fans and partners on board with us.
This is the first such report that should show where we are as a club and where we still want to get to. At the same time, by producing our sustainability report we have fulfilled a DFL licence criterium for the upcoming season. We still have a lot we want to achieve, want to keep learning and obviously improve as we continue on this path.
What role does sustainability play at RB Leipzig?
Sustainability plays not only a central role in society, but also in all areas at RB Leipzig. As a result, we made the conscious decision to add this important topic to our internal priorities in 2022. We also actively involve our employees in our commitment to sustainability.
In 2022, for example, we developed a digital information format called ‘Crunch time Sustainability’ and an ambassador programme, two formats designed to inform and sensitise our teams to sustainability as well as sustainable behaviour, while also raising awareness to actively prompt a change in thinking.
We also keep our employees informed via our town hall meetings and up-to-date internal communications and collect regular and proactive feedback. For example, we are currently conducting surveys around the themes of mobility and compliance.
Where is the club in terms of sustainability and where does it want to get to?
Speaking honestly, we are still at the beginning of our journey, however we are proud of our initial successes. With our sustainability strategy and our road map, we have a clear plan for the future. This will be streamlined even further still in 2023.
We still want to do a lot more, especially in the area of ecology. We have already identified our biggest consumers of energy and know exactly where we have to start.
One of our long-term goals is to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible by 2040. We will define our target and create steps on how we want to achieve this goal in 2023. There is currently a lot of criticism being levelled at offsetting or compensating for carbon emissions – rightfully so, which is why we do not see this as being the right path to go down.
We were able to make a start on reducing our output in July 2022, with the Red Bull Arena running on 100% green energy since then. Additionally, we have fully switched to an LED-only lighting system. Since December 2022, games at our stadium have taken place on an energy- and CO2-efficient hybrid pitch. With the help of an energy task force, we were also able to reduce our electricity usage by around 20% by the end of the year.
In doing so, we discovered that taking a closer look at business processes and operations can help to identify new efficiencies. We want to take a similar approach to our water usage. We have set ourselves the goal of handling this precious resource even more carefully, by increasing our usage of rain and service water.
One excellent project that has already been successfully implemented and finalised in 2022, was replacing all the fold-down stadium seats under the slogan of “SEATainability”. We wanted to ensure that we were replacing the seats in a sustainable manner and went about it in our own way.
The old seats were either repurposed or recycled, while the steel frames were kept in place. The new seats in our club colours are made of 90% recycled plastic, and were made possible with the help of a cooperative project. To our knowledge, this is currently the highest percentage possible and unique in Europe.
It is obvious that we have a lot of work ahead of us still. As we do on the pitch, we also have big ambitions in terms of sustainability and want to play in the ‘Champions League’ on a long-term basis. In terms of our first ‘title’ in sustainability, we have the aim of turning the Red Bell Arena into a zero waste stadium ahead of the 2024 European Championships. The important things here are avoiding waste as best as possible and noticeably increasing our recycling efforts.
Which projects have been planned for the future?
Zero waste is a good key word here, because part of the actions to be taken relate to changing the waste management system at the Red Bull Arena. We made a lot of changes ‘behind the scenes’ in 2022, and will now be launching a new waste separation system in the public areas of the stadium during the game against Augsburg on Saturday.
Our new office building will also begin to take shape until its expected completion in 2025. The highlight of the design is the modular wood construction, for which around 2500 m³ of Central European spruce wood will be used. Additionally, it will be built using recycled concrete and flooring. The design also includes plans for a solar power system with nearly 600 panels, as well as a system to store and reuse rain and service water.
Another area we are looking at is travel to and from the stadium, because this makes up a large portion of our carbon footprint – nearly 50%. We have been able to offer our fans some alternative options already, such as free public transport use on matchdays, our bicycle parking garage and park & ride spots. However, we are aware that we need to continue to make changes in this area and are engaged in discussions about this topic with our partners and the city of Leipzig.
Which aspects of sustainability directly affect the fans?
Most prominently, this includes everything involving the Red Bull Arena and our home games. In addition to the waste separation system mentioned previously and eco-friendly travel options, we also offer our fans digital-only tickets on their smartphones, thereby saving resources by eliminating the use of paper.
We offer a variety of vegan options at the kiosks inside the stadium – likely more than any other club in the Bundesliga – and have implemented several new reusable options at our food and drink stands in the last months.
Additionally, we look to avoid unnecessary packaging where possible and continue to optimise the materials used by our catering department. Waterless urinals have also been installed in the washroom facilities in the entire stadium. Together with our new stadium seats, this ensures that sustainable elements have been implemented in various areas all around the Red Bull Arena.
In additional to the environmental aspect, we also have various social sustainability projects on the go. This ranges from the various campaigns that fall under the “Unser Ball ist bunt” inititative, in which we make clear which values RB Leipzig stands for, to fan participation, as well as educational and footballing opportunities for children and young people. For example, this includes the ‘Lernort Stadion’ format, our Fußball-AG programme for primary schools or the Leipziger Viertelfinale tournament, which we are constantly looking to add to and improve.
Our goal is to get all our employees, partners and fans on board, as this is the biggest key in being able to make as much of a difference as possible together. This also falls under our guiding principle of PLAY. CARE. SHARE.