Paris, June 7, 2023 – Red card for FIFA. Notre Affaire A Tous and 5 other European organizations have just had FIFA’s greenwashing recognized by the Commission suisse pour la loyauté, the body responsible for controlling advertising in Switzerland. This decision follows several complaints filed simultaneously in November 2022 with certain European advertising regulatory authorities (Switzerland, France, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands), targeting the carbon neutrality claims surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

By November 2022, complaints against FIFA for unfair competition had been lodged by Notre Affaire A Tous (France), Alliance Climatique Suisse, Carbon Market Watch (Belgium), the New Weather Institute (UK) and Fossil Free Football and Reclame Fossietvrij (Netherlands) with the advertising regulators in each country. The plaintiff associations were astonished that FIFA could promote « a carbon-neutral World Cup ». The six associations relied in particular on a report by the NGO Carbon Market Watch (also a plaintiff), according to which the carbon neutrality claims made by the tournament organizers were grossly underestimated.

In particular, the associations claimed that in calculating its CO2 emissions, FIFA had failed to take into account the impact of shuttle flights, the hundreds of daily flights enabling fans to connect their hotels in Dubai, Riyadh and Kuwait with Qatar, where the stadiums were located. FIFA had also only accounted for a minority of the CO2 emissions generated by the construction of the seven stadiums built for the event.  

In a decision notified to the parties on June 6, 2023[1], the advertising regulator dismissed FIFA’s objections, stating bluntly that « FIFA sometimes worked with messages formulated in absolute terms and thus created the erroneous and misleading impression that the Football World Cup 2022 in Qatar had already achieved climate neutrality or carbon neutrality before and during the tournament. »

The authority found that FIFA had not provided « credible evidence of how all CO2 emissions generated by the tournament could be offset in accordance with Swiss standards ».

FIFA was therefore asked to « refrain in future from the contested allegations, in particular that the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar would be climate and C02 neutral ».

In pointing out the misleading nature of the advertising produced by FIFA, the Swiss Fair Trading Commission considered that the latter was in breach of the Federal Law on Unfair Competition, which could constitute a criminal offense. The decision may still be appealed by FIFA on grounds of arbitrariness. The associations are also considering what further action might be taken in other jurisdictions.

For Jérémie Suissa, General Delegate of Notre Affaire A Tous, « this sends a very strong signal to the organizers of major international competitions: it is no longer possible to design absurdly climatic events while claiming to be carbon neutral. It is imperative that future competitions be designed to seriously integrate climate issues. »

« This is an incredible decision! It sends out a strong message to all companies that would like to engage in Greenwashing, » enthuses Quentin Cuendet, a member of Avocats.e.s pour le Climat, the association that drew up the Swiss complaint. « This first victory is just the beginning, » adds Me Arnaud Nussbaumer, President of the association. « There are many climate-related battles to be fought, and we have considerable resources and support at our disposal to tackle them.

 [1] including non-Swiss plaintiffs, as all complaints were handled by the Swiss authority via the European coordination mechanism.

Press contacts

Notre Affaire à Tous

  • Jérémie Suissa (Paris, direction@notreaffaireatous.orgl) 

Avocat-e-s pour le Climat