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How the 2023 Rugby World Cup is Setting a Standard for Sustainability and Inclusion

While the 2023 Rugby World Cup may be the 10th iteration of this global tournament, the latest renewal in France has always promised to be one of the best and most unique yet.

At the heart of this is the shared ambition of France 2023 and World Rugby, to raise existing standards for international sporting events and show leadership in areas such as sustainability, inclusion and wider social responsibility.

Of course, World Rugby already has blazed a trail for sporting bodies to follow, with the formation of its Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030. The RWC in France is central to this, primarily as it represents an opportunity to execute specific plans and bring theories kicking and screaming into reality.

So, as the participating teams continue to compete in warm-up games and tournaments, I’m going to look at how the RWC23 in France will continue set new standards in sustainability and inclusion while asking what lessons can be learned from this?

France 23 and its Four Commitments

At the heart of the RWC23 organisation is four key principles, which underpin a further eight challenges and 15 distinct projects. These four commitments include:

· To Reduce the Impact of the Tournament on the Environment

· Act for a Sustainable and Circular Economy

· Commit to Education, Training and Employment

· Support Inclusion and Accessibility for all

Unsurprisingly, it’s the first and last principles that are most dominant in the organiser’s approach, with sustainable cities like Bordeaux and Marseille already committed to reducing the environmental impact of hosting matches and making these as accessible as possible.

But how are these goals being achieved? Well, the organiser’s 15 projects (some of which have yet to be unveiled or launched) will all contribute strategically in some small way, with one example being the collaboration between France 2023, the Orange Group and the Monnaie de Paris.

This collective project has driven the collection and recycling of discarded mobile phone components, which have either been donated to recovered from landfill. These have subsequently been repurposed to create gold, silver and bronze medals for the tournament’s best three side, with one given to each squad member and coach.

There are also participation medals, of course, and this innovative use of recycling to create materials can serve as inspiration to other sporting events and even businesses across the globe.

In Marseille and other hosting cities, there’s also a concerted effort to stop spectators driving to games. To help facilitate this, they’ve made bicycles and electric scooters available throughout the Cité Phocéenne, to ensure that there are enough vehicles to meet demand.

Such cities have also invested significant amounts in infrastructure and public transport. In Marseille, for example, the authorities have investment in the development of Line 2 of the metro, which creates a direct link between the city centre and the stadium’s dedicated stop (Sainte-Marguerite Dromel).

The Last Word

As we can see, concepts such as sustainability and inclusion are central to the organisation of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the investment required to achieve strategic objectives set to be offset by the fact that RWC hosting can generate up to £2.9 billion in total economic impact.

Direct investor expenditure into the economy can also reach £1.1 billion during tournaments of this type, and this has enabled tournament organisers to push a progressive agenda and strive to create change that can transcend the sport.

This type of vision and leadership is key in the fight to drive inclusion and combat climate change, and there’s no doubt that large scale events can play a key role in creating social and economic change. It will at least set new standards in event hosting, and see future tournaments adopt a similar attitude to inclusion and sustainability.


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