Johan Cruijff ArenA ecosystem exercise


Sander van Stiphout at Coliseum Europe 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Sander van Stiphout has deep knowledge on the topic of sustainability. Sustainability is a hot button topic today as extreme weather conditions is threatening countries and businesses more than ever before.

van Stiphout who plays a pivotal role at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam, Netherlands, shares details on how the stadium authorities are putting their best foot forward to build a more sustainable future. He is a connoisseur on matters pertaining to venues and has worked on stadium projects worldwide and has also been associated with Qatar 2022.

Sander van Stiphout, Director, Innovation and Advisory, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands, talks about the sustainability journey of the Johan Cruijff ArenA in an interaction with ‘Coliseum’ and how they plan to make the ArenA Net Positive by 2030. He also points out that a lot of industries need to adopt ‘Green’ measures to create less impact on the climate and use all the opportunities possible to create a positive impact on the society.

Sander van Stiphout, Director, Innovation and Advisory, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

Johan Cruijff ArenA

The 55,885-capacity Johan Cruijff ArenA is the main stadium of the Dutch capital City of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and the home stadium of the football club AFC Ajax since its opening. Built from 1993 to 1996 at a cost equivalent to €140 million, it is the largest stadium in the country.

AFC Ajax

Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax, also known as AFC Ajax, Ajax Amsterdam, or simply Ajax, is a Dutch professional football club based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that plays in the Eredivisie, the top tier of Dutch football.

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) requires companies to report on the impact of corporate activities on the environment and the society, and requires the audit (assurance) of reported information.

Talking from a venue perspective, Sander van Stiphout shot off, “The Corporate Social Responsibility Directive from the European Union is setting a standard for Reporting. It gives venues direction in Reporting and that has become mandatory.”

He heaped praises on the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) – the organization that controls European football (soccer) – for taking sustainability so seriously and publishing their own set of sustainability guidelines and their follow-up actions on the same. He also hoped that FIFA would also take pages out of the UEFA sustainability book.

Journey to a Sustainable Future

Informed van Stiphout, “We wanted to be at the forefront of the sustainability journey so that we could challenge our stakeholders as well. This is why we have set the target of being Net Positive by 2030 and to reach the ‘Climate Neutral’ milestone in 2025.”

Net Positive

Net Positive is a new way of doing business which puts back more into society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out.

‘Green’ Matters

Cataclysmic weather, sadly, has become a norm in today’s world. van Stiphout tried to drive home the point that venues will have to take up the sustainability issue seriously to be able to enjoy a chock-a-block event calendar – “We involve all our stakeholders, be it Ajax or UEFA, or whoever organizes a match or a concert and we also involve all our suppliers. In the near future, we will talk tough and would make it clear that we will do business with only those entities that adopt sustainability strategies and implements the same in toto. This entire exercise is, of course, fraught with challenges.”

‘Green’ Energy

The Johan Cruijff ArenA is trying to live up to its image of a ‘Green’ venue in the real sense of the term. The stadium “buys” ‘Green’ energy and “almost 10 percent of the electricity that we use is generated by the solar panels on the roof.”



Energy Storage

The ArenA boasts an Energy Storage device of 3 MWs and “we are mulling to double the capacity so that we can run an entire event on the Energy Storage power. And the Energy Storage device is replenished by our own solar panels.”

Vehicle to Grid

Moving forward on its sustainability journey, the Johan Cruijff ArenA also boasts one Vehicle to Grid pole in its parking location – “The technology is now in place and we plan to persuade more and more guests coming to the venue to actually give energy to us during an event as a backup power to run the event and it will be a new business model.”

CO2 Impact

He added that traveling to-and-fro to the venues during events/games is the biggest CO2 impact of events and the Johan Cruijff ArenA operators are trying to figure out a solution in this regard with all its stakeholders involved – Ajax, the Railway authorities and the bus companies – to persuade people to use more sustainable mobility options. It is again extremely challenging and a very difficult exercise.”

Bin It!

Observed van Stiphout, “Once an event is over, people leave a mess behind in the venues in the form of waste. We are trying to persuade people to actually pick up the garbage, take it out to the concourses and put it in the bin and preferably the right bin. This is indeed behavioral change and we hope to succeed on that which is again a big challenge – reduce and recycle waste, reduce waste which we litter.”

Bio Digester


Waste to Value

Continued van Stiphout, “We selected a company ‘The Waste Transformers’ (waste management service in Amsterdam) who is helping us to set up a Bio Digester next to the stadium so that our food waste will go to this Bio Digester and also the food waste from companies surrounding the stadium and that will, in turn, generate energy, and will also generate fertilizer potentially for the pitch.”

Shape a Sustainable Future

The top-notch official asserted that in order to shape a sustainable future, the Johan Cruijff ArenA authorities “will need to translate specific challenges into targets. We are trying to build on that Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive fundament taking into account the requirements of the industry as well and building the right key performance indicator (KPI) structure. Then we have to connect and activate our ecosystem and all our partners will have to be on the same page. It is indeed a big data and digitalization exercise. We are now trying to look at every single project through the sustainability prism and are learning valuable lessons in this entire exercise.”

Co-Create the Future

He further averred that to shape a sustainable future one cannot go it alone – “This is an ecosystem exercise so we involve big partners, small partners, partners from partners, the football industry, the event industry, and the Government is involved as well.

Sustainability Frontrunner

Sander van Stiphout summed up by stating, “More than a stadium we are trying to be a frontrunner in sustainability and we do that in connection with our stakeholders, business partners and also our industry partners. After all, to shape our tomorrow, today we have to give import on sustainability because I believe that stadiums are like the living rooms of the society and create value to the society.”

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