I’m in Berlin this week for a climate conference with former US Vice President-turned-activist Al Gore’s non-profit group, The Climate Reality Project. Besides daydreaming about what could have been had Gore become president, I’ve thought quite a bit about the Liverpool sustainability initiative, “Reds Going Green.”
Since I started writing for TLO, one of my quixotic quests has been to learn more about the club’s half-hearted attempt to be, or at least appear, more environmentally friendly. I’ve even
harassed written the club multiple times to find out more, only to be told to kindly fuck off.
I tried the “I’m media” angle. I tried the “I’m an environmental law student” angle. I tried the “I’m an environmental law student doing his thesis on corporate social responsibility” angle. The answer was always the same. Kindly fuck off, Zach.
Anyway, unbeknownst to me, or apparently anyone else, the “Reds Going Green” initiative was suspended a couple of years ago. And unbeknownst to me, or apparently anyone else, it was relaunched last year. And it only became knownst to me once I searched for info for this post. I figure as someone who keeps up with most important Liverpool Football Club news AND someone with a keen interest in environmental issues, if this story went unnoticed by me, it probably went unnoticed by most other Reds (and Greens).
Since relaunching, the club pinpointed five objectives: 1) reduce annual energy by 10 percent, 2) reduce annual carbon emissions by 10 percent, 3) reduce waste by 15 percent, 4) increase recycling by 20 percent, and 5) steal underwear.
Wait. No. That’s not right. The fifth one has to be here somewhere in this two-month-old press release that even I, Mr. Environmental Laywer guy, missed. Oh, here are some goals that may or may not be included in the Top 5 objectives (it’s really not clear):
“The club will also aim to develop wider transport and sustainability programmes, develop an energy management system for all sites and has set a three-year target to ensure its electricity usage is brought below the CRC threshold.”
On actual, tangible results, the club makes the following claims:
“Reds Going Green has achieved a carbon reduction of 782 tonnes per year (equivalent to the energy produced by 156 homes), has significantly reduced the use of plastic in its hospitality areas by over 99 per cent, and has implemented a 98 per cent landfill-free waste programme.”
Without having any real idea about Liverpool’s total carbon footprint (which I’m sure is significant), it’s difficult to understand how big of a reduction 782 tonnes is, on a practical level. Is it a 1% reduction? 10%? Equivalent to 1 match day? 10? It’s difficult to know without a hint to the larger context. Many large corporations put out a corporate social responsibility report, either integrated with their financial report, or separately. If Liverpool FC have a publicly available corporate social responsibility report, I’ve not been able to find it.
As someone who studied this sort of stuff, I have questions. In no particular order: when are you counting these various reductions from? When do you plan on reaching said targets? What are you doing or planning in order to hit your targets? Have environmental concerns been considered when planning for the Main Stand expansion, and future Anfield renovations? Do you have plans for increasing efforts if you hit your goals early? Can Anfield be powered by singing “Allez Allez Allez?” If this is a PR move, shouldn’t you actually, you know, let people know? And if this is out of the goodness of your hearts, shouldn’t you be even more keen to let people know?
Even without the environmental aspect, releasing a corporate social responsibility report for a company the size of Liverpool seems like a no-brainer. For instance, companies adhering to the UN Global Compact (one of the most common reporting frameworks) are obligated to report on 10 Principles within 4 key areas: Human Rights, Labor (including diversity), Environment, and Anti-corruption. The annual report, of course, is nothing more than words, but there is a benefit from having someone at large companies thinking about these issues, and how to improve them.
Moreover, it’s not as though the club does not do good things for the local community and various charities through the Liverpool Foundation. Communicating said good things is not only more transparent, but a good bit of PR. And for the amount of press and media coverage that the club gets whenever so much as a brick is replaced outside of Melwood, it seems like a little more effort in getting the good news out would go a long way, and hopefully help fan engagement on this particular issue.
Cynics, often rightly, will point out that companies will often issue press releases and reports in an effort to “greenwash” their record. However, just because there is a reputational or even a financial benefit from promoting these kinds of acts, does not mean that these kinds of acts are not also beneficial to the larger community or society. Moreover, as a club, Liverpool are in a unique position to spread an environmentally friendly message, and show real-world and local solutions to a global problem that often feels both intangible and intractable.
And if Liverpool need help putting together a corporate social responsibility plan and the corresponding reports, well, I know a guy.