As befits a major national association of immense experience – and nurturing a widespread vision that goes beyond football and seeks to make its contribution to society as a whole – the German Football Association (DFB)'s social responsibility work serves as a fine example of how a national football association can build up this area of activity.
The DFB was one of the associations invited by UEFA to present its activities at the European governing body's recent inaugural corporate social responsibility (CSR) workshop in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
DFB football development director Willi Hink gave a fascinating insight into the DFB's social commitment, the visions for the way ahead and targets to be achieved in this area. He highlighted the example of the association's environmental and climate protection activities as a key element of the DFB's social responsibility portfolio.
Hink explained that social responsibility in football means the following to the DFB – using the potential of football responsibly in striving for a fair, equitable, and peaceful society, and for a healthy environment. "With this we secure football's singular status from the grassroots to the top, contributing to the preservation and strengthening of the social, cultural, and ecological foundations of a free society," he told the audience. "The strategy is to create win-win opportunities both for football and society."
Following a three-year development process, the DFB's social responsibility concept was implemented in 2010 and anchored in the association statutes. The mission, Hink explained, is not only to organise top-level and grassroots football competitions and promote talented players, but also to use football to put across key values such as Respect, and to be active and use football's massive appeal to support social issues and processes.
The DFB statutes stipulate support for protection of the environment and the association gives its backing to charitable and humanitarian projects. Three foundations – a cultural foundation and two named in honour of former West Germany coach Sepp Herberger and former DFB president Egidius Braun – are cornerstones of the work. The foundations' work is financed by charity games featuring the men's senior national team played every other year.
The values conveyed as part of the DFB's social responsibility work include fair play, tolerance, respect, integration, anti-racism, preventing violence, and fighting match-fixing and anti-doping. There is support for social issues through football includes schools football development, football for the disabled, health through football, gender equality, social reintegration of people who have been in prison, development aid and environmental protection.
From a CSR point of view, the core business of any football association – namely, organising football competitions and promoting talent development – is already a contribution to society in its own right. So why commit to any CSR programme additionally? The win-win strategy explained above means all of the activities described are, at the same time, helpful for society and football development: All of the DFB's CSR activities "pay" into the core business.
The DFB has a number of objectives for its programme. These include securing support from the football community, developing efficient organisational structures and co-operating with professional football. The association's vision sees the social responsibility activities undertaken by the DFB and its foundations understood and accepted by stakeholders, and the DFB successfully living up to its social responsibility role in all spheres of activity.
Indeed, using the potential of football to protect the climate and environment is one social responsibility area where the DFB has been extremely active over a number of years. Germany, as hosts, was the setting for the "Green Goal" climate and environment protection project at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
The DFB is striving not only to share know-how in this area, but is also encouraging clubs, footballers and communities of the many advantages of pursuing such projects. For example, the economical use of water, waste reduction, increases in energy efficiency and sustainable transport can lead to costs savings – and a positive public image.
The 2012 DFB-UmweltCup (German FA Environment Cup) is motivating clubs at all levels to promote measures and ideas in tune with environment and climate protection – such as the installation of a rainwater reservoir to clean football boots. Clubs that are particularly proactive put themselves in the running for awards at the end of the year.
A concerted communication campaign, including a spot featuring the German national team – shown to millions on TV before their matches – is under way to promote measures and ideas in tune with environment and climate protection.
"We think social responsibility is a must," Hink told the audience. "It is an opportunity for football and society." The DFB is undertaking pioneering work which shows just how an association can develop a strong and influential social commitment – and use football's massive and enduring appeal to make a telling social impact.
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