With Environmental Education out of the Climate Crisis

My name is Max Beer, and I have written my master's thesis on the ecological sustainability in the Bundesliga. In the context of blog posts, I would like to present key findings of this work. While the investigation and results primarily focus on professional football clubs, they can also be applied to a large extent to professional sports clubs.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of education and trust in science. This realization can also be applied to the climate crisis, as scientists have long warned about the current climate conditions. We are in the greatest crisis humanity has faced because political leaders have ignored the warning signs of science for too long. The reasons for this can only be speculated upon, but I believe it has happened more out of self-interest and ignorance than due to a lack of academic degrees. Nonetheless, it was interesting for me to examine how the educational background of football fans influences their perception of environmentally sustainable activities. Such a study is relevant to understand how football clubs must consider this aspect in communicating climate protection activities to effectively and efficiently reach their target audience.

Scientifically, it has already been proven that individuals with higher qualifications, especially those with tertiary education degrees, develop a greater awareness of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities [1]. In general research, individuals have been categorized as more socially responsible when associated with a higher level of education [2] (Roberts, 1996, p. 80). Therefore, it is crucial for the analysis to examine differences in the perception of environmental activities between low and high educational levels. In an online survey regarding the environmental activities of Bundesliga clubs, in which 414 people* participated, the educational background was also surveyed, allowing for a comparison and differentiation of results between low and high educational levels.

A low educational level in the analysis is determined by the lowest educational attainment of the surveyed individuals. 32 people indicated having a secondary school diploma as their highest educational attainment. The high educational level is equivalent to the highest educational qualification reported in the survey, which was a (tertiary) higher education degree reported by 112 people, including Bachelor's, Master's, Magister, Diploma, State Examination, and Doctorate degrees. The statistical analysis shows significant differences in the perception of the environmental activities of the clubs. Therefore, the hypothesis that the educational background influences the perception of environmental activities of football clubs can be confirmed.

On a scale of 1 to 5, fans in the online survey could answer several questions about the environmentally sustainable engagement of their favorite club. Individuals with a low educational level consider the environmental engagement of their favorite club less meaningful, with an average score of 3.34, compared to individuals with a high educational level (4.23). A similar distance between the two means is observed in assessing the environmental awareness of individuals. Thus, individuals with a low educational level rate themselves as having less environmental awareness (2.34) than individuals with a high educational level (3.21). Interestingly, individuals with a low educational level, however, give higher ecology scores** to their favorite clubs. This score is also derived from the online survey by combining several questions about a club's environmental engagement, resulting in an average score. With an average ecology score of 3.54, fans with a high educational level rate the ecological sustainability of their clubs significantly lower than fans with a low educational level (4.04).

In summary, it is evident that individuals with a low educational level consider environmental measures of their favorite clubs less meaningful and perceive themselves as less environmentally conscious. It can be assumed that this leads to a less critical attitude towards environmental measures, reflected in the significantly higher ecology score of the sample group. For clubs, addressing this difference in perception can be a challenge since it is difficult to distinguish educational levels through online and offline channels. Nevertheless, there are some approaches for tailoring communication to a lower educational level. Measures can be differentiated based on the environmental education of lower educational strata and meeting the expectations of higher educational strata.

One step could be to add the "easy language" function to the annual sustainability report, making the seemingly complex content available in simple and understandable language. Furthermore, the club can ensure that projects in structurally weaker regions contribute to raising awareness regarding the relevance and function of environmentally sustainable activities. Out-of-home advertising materials can be specifically targeted at these regions, providing informative content. In addition, advertising materials and cooperative marketing can be used in discount stores and public transportation to positively increase the perception of individuals with lower educational levels. It is presumed that individuals with lower educational levels are more reachable at these touchpoints. The club can also create training positions in the sustainability sector, providing valuable educational work while simultaneously training qualified staff for climate protection and binding them to the club.

*Due to the research design of the master's thesis, fans of six clubs—Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke 04, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and Mainz 05—were surveyed from December 10, 2020, to February 28, 2021.

** Ecology Score [3] | (1 completely disagree – 5 completely agree)

1. I believe this club pays particular attention to environmentally sustainable partnerships and collaborations.

2. I believe this club is internally professionally equipped with an environmental team.

3. I believe this club handles the resource of energy particularly responsibly.

4. I believe this club handles the resource of water particularly responsibly.

5. I believe this club actively promotes recycling and waste reduction compared to other Bundesliga clubs.

6. I believe this club is strongly committed to the topic of biodiversity compared to other clubs in the Bundesliga.

7. I believe this club constantly reduces its carbon footprint through active measures.

8. I believe this club supports me in using climate-friendly mobility solutions for travel.

[1] Quazi, A. M. (2003). Identifying the determinants of corporate managers’ perceived social obligations. Management Decision, 41(9), 822–831. p. 828

[2] Roberts, J. A. (1996). Will the real socially responsible consumer please step forward? Business Horizons, 39(1), 79–83. p. 80

[3] Adapted from Martínez and Rodríguez del Bosque, 2014, p. 253. Sustainability Dimensions: A Source to Enhance Corporate Reputation. Corporate Reputation Review, 17(4).