Climate change already impacting the game at all levels but collective action will enable rugby to play its part of a global effort.
- Scientific evidence shows time for action is now
- Increasing stakeholder awareness, expectation and responsibility
- Sport recognised as an enabler of positive change
- Momentum building across rugby family to adopt sustainable practices
Today marks World Environment Day, a day observed by the United Nations annually on 5 June which provides a global focal point for governments and wider society to raise awareness on the urgent need to take positive action for the preservation and enhancement of our shared environment.
As the devastating impacts of climate change are increasingly experienced – including extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms, floods, drought and wildfires – rugby is not immune to these very real challenges.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of rugby, born out of disruption and innovation, much has been accomplished across rugby clubs and communities the world over to ensure the success and sustainability of our sport to this point in time.
“Yet amidst the very real and present challenges posed by climate change and biodiversity loss, we have arrived at a critical juncture and must now learn from our past, address our present, and safeguard not just the future of our sport, but of our planet.”
Following on from the launch of the World Rugby Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) 2030 at the start of last year, World Rugby has been implementing a range of actions around the three priority themes identified following stakeholder consultation:
- Climate action – as a UN Sport for Climate Action Framework signatory, by measuring and identifying ways to reduce the carbon footprint of our activities, estimated to be on average one million tones of carbon annually (including fan travel)
- Circular economy – undertaking staff and stakeholder engagement to rethink product life cycles, reusing or refusing items wherever possible to reduce waste and avoidable consumption
- Protecting the natural environment – through the development of sustainable sourcing policies and processes that protect and promote biodiversity as an IUCN Sport for Nature Framework signatory
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin added: “Channelling rugby’s core values of passion, solidarity and respect, we can and must all play our part in a global team effort to tackle the environmental challenges impacting us all.
“The earlier these and other sustainability objectives can be achieved, the better for our sport, society and the planet.”
To help accomplish this, World Rugby’s ESP 2030 includes several ambitious yet achievable targets to ensure a “whole of rugby” approach, including:
- All affiliated World Rugby unions and regions to have signed up to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework by 2025 and be actively implementing the framework’s principles by 2030
- All affiliated World Rugby unions and regions to have developed their own sustainability plans and be monitoring and reporting on progress by 2030 (by 2025 for high-performance rugby unions)
Work is underway to develop rugby-specific resources to support World Rugby stakeholders, wherever they are on their own sustainability journey, while there are a range of existing resources freely available to assist including:
- www.world.rugby/environment – World Rugby’s ESP 2030 roadmap and statement of intent
- www.olympics.com/ioc/sustainability/essentials – resources covering carbon reporting, plastic reduction, sustainable sourcing etc.
- www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/EARTH-DAY-MENU-Businesses.pdf – Earth Day “Menu” of simple sustainable actions to help organisations get things moving
- www.sustainabilitytoolbox.com – complimentary guides, templates and tools to support sport organisations
- www.councilforresponsiblesport.org/rescore – Rescore app for planning/delivering sustainable events
“For many, especially those members of the World Rugby family coming from Pacific island nations where rising sea levels are already threatening their very existence, the clock is fast approaching the red,” Beaumont added.
“If we work together, as a team, then there is still time to limit the very worst effects and slow down global warming as we endeavour to adapt and mitigate for the challenges we and our planet are facing.
“But we must act now – collectively, with passion and with purpose.”