The yearly rugby Six Nations tournament that brings the world’s best teams together started on Saturday (6 February) and appears to be a good opportunity to remind people of rugby’s and other sports’ impact on the environment. It is also a good time to showcase the initiatives to preserve it, taken by an increasing number of sports personalities, including in rugby.

This is what former rugby player and entrepreneur Julien Pierre is attempting to do with the Fair Play For Planet label, which he created at the end of 2020. His idea is to support sports clubs – both professional and amateur – in improving their “eco-performance” and to recognise sports players who demonstrate a “real environmental commitment”, as stated on the website.

As the first green label for sports clubs and events, Fair Play For Planet hopes to “become the reference in the fight against climate change through sport”.

“I have been concerned about the environment for a long time,” Pierre told EURACTIV. “And as a top sportsman, I have seen the impact of sports on the environment – empty stadiums covered with cups, for example. But I have also seen the influence that sport, and sportsmen and women can have on society,” the former rugby player added.

“Top athletes, in particular, who are ‘used to talking about societal issue’, should be committed to the environment, said Julien Pierre, adding that “it’s important to promote important causes.”

After his career in sport and studies in management, Pierre is setting the example by embarking on “the rather crazy challenge of wanting to green sport through a label”.

In cooperation with the French environment and energy management agency (ADEME), the Fair Play For Planet team has thus created a reference system to evaluate the green performance of clubs and sporting events.

A ‘label that encourages’

Those wishing to obtain the label will be audited to assess the eco-responsible actions they have already undertaken and identify areas for improvement.

Clubs will then be awarded the Fair Play For Planet label, at the “player”, “engaged” or “confirmed” level, depending on the rating obtained during the audit. In order to keep the label in the long term, a progress audit is planned every two years to take stock of the club’s achievements and allow it to progress towards a higher level of recognition, if appropriate.

“The idea is to have a label that encourages” and helps players “who do not necessarily have the time to delve into the subject,” explained Pierre.

The Fair Play For Planet approach must support those who “need technical support and advice to improve their environmental impact”, according to the label’s website. The team also offers coaching formulas around different “eco-performance” themes – such as circular economy, waste management, and changing habits and influences.

“I haven’t invented anything new,” said Pierre. The aim of his label is simply to “put good practice everywhere”. According to the site, Fair Play For Planet “aims to implement activities encouraging eco-responsible behaviour by individuals and companies”.

For example, by “encouraging clubs to work with local producers to eliminate processed products”, the label’s founder explained. Other examples include working more closely with local authorities to find transport solutions or setting up car-pooling schemes for fans.

Several sports clubs have already embarked on the labelling process, led by Section Paloise, a rugby club in Pau. At the end of January, the first professional football club – Olympique Lyonnais – also announced its participation in the initiative.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]