· by World Football Summit

World Football Summit talks exclusively with Betta Maggio, CEO & founder of U-Earth, an innovative company dedicated to enhancing health by creating a world free from air pollution through innovative biotechnologies. U-Earth’s goal is to advance talks on air quality around the world and improve the workplace for all.

“The “While others panic, I act” mentality is what the world needs right now.”

Betta participated at Football Innovation Forum 22, in May in a panel alongside UEFA’s Michele Uva, and covered the importance of sustainability and the role football can have when it comes to raising awareness in the world’s fight against climate change.


World Football Summit (WFS): What is U-Earth and how does it work with sports properties?

Betta Maggio: U-Earth is a biotech company with the mission of capturing and destroying toxic air pollutants for humans and the planet. After 12 years of validation, in 2019 we launched Pure Air Zones to create safe public spaces, where the air is depolluted and monitored 24/7 through cutting-edge IoT equipment connected to the cloud and visualised on a dashboard in real time.

The aim is to create and constantly measure clean air environments around athletes and all the sports stakeholders. With the reopening of sports venues, we are now scaling to large sports facilities to safely navigate into the “new normal”.

WFS: How and when did you come to the realization that the world needed U-Earth?

Maggio: The technology at the core of U-Earth comes from 30 years of research. We have been prototyping, validating, and fine-tuning our core biological de-pollution technology since 2008, which was initially developed for extreme events such as environmental disasters of chemical and biological weapons.

Unfortunately, the world became a toxic environment, so we pivoted and developed a miniaturised plug-and-play version of the technology for every kind of business environment (an office, conference, summits, etc.).

Our core belief is that clean air, just like drinkable tap water, should be considered a human right, and should be available to everyone.


WFS: As a member of the New Champions Community of the World Economic Forum you attended an internal meeting with other CEOs to get briefed on the current situation. What does the future look like?

Maggio: Most of the attention is focused on reducing inequality and addressing climate change and sustainability policies. Today, ESG and related reporting frameworks demand more measurable metrics, but they are still very fragmented and difficult to approach, understand and comply with.

The WEF is creating a private-sector coalition to get ahead on regulations, and specific metrics while also bringing new technology to the table as fast as possible and to simplify sustainability plans and give pursuable options to make an impact now. All these efforts will help the public and private sectors find common ground for reporting standards going forward.

WFS: What is a fundamental skill that you believe the leaders of the football industry need today in the realm of sustainability?

Maggio: Leaders need to be prepared to live in an era of continuous disruption.

Technological advancements are happening faster than ever to face a changing world that will not fix itself on its own. Each domain will be disrupted by tech, whether it’s Quantum Computing, Synthetic Biology, or shifting to new energy sources such as Hydrogen and fusion.

Like any other industry, the football world needs to keep pace, embrace innovation, and deliver unique experiences, not only master the core of the business.

WFS: What are the core pillars of a sustainable strategy?

Maggio: Our focus is on 3 pillars: Awareness, engagement, and action.

The biggest challenge is how to make sustainability easy to understand and something that individuals can adapt to their day-to-day life. In my opinion, football can be a huge driver for building awareness among fans and a way to encourage them to become part of the change the world needs.

The real challenge is making it easy and enjoyable, just like watching a game. We are all on “team planet” together and we should all cheer for it.


WFS: What needs to change from a cultural standpoint so that people and businesses embrace sustainability?

Maggio: Embracing sustainability should be a habit, not a goal. And it must be easy to adopt and highly rewarding for all the parties involved.

WFS: What are the major challenges for that to happen? The 2030 agenda, the word “urgency”, institutional pressure, etc. With so much “out there”, how can a business leader avoid becoming overwhelmed with so much “to do” in the realm of sustainability?

Maggio: On one hand, we need tools that make it easy for fans and business leaders to monitor their sustainability efforts to engage their audiences and to deliver experiences that drive a cultural change towards sustainability.

On the other, sustainability reports are currently written for rating agencies and the investors of large corporations and institutions, but they are very hard for small businesses and individuals to understand and incorporate into their everyday practice.

“Courage is a choice, and we spotted a few heroic leaders and game-changers out there willing to act for real.”

WFS: Meeting the 2030 agenda is a huge goal, so, is meeting the ESG objectives only for big corporations? 

Maggio: It shouldn’t be. Climate change affects everyone, so meeting ESG objectives should be on everyone’s agenda. Here is where disruption and innovation are critical.

At U-Earth, this was the challenge we set out to solve: how could we easily explain and demonstrate that biotech can play a major role in depolluting planet earth?

The plan has been to measure and report the depollution progress with transparency so that becoming a Pure Air Zone can be an easy win for any company/institution.

This was the reason behind developing the ESGverse®, a metaverse-like 3D world to visit and discover that a bright future is possible, where all companies can showcase their efforts to make the world a better place.

Referring to the pillars mentioned earlier:

  1. Awareness: We have already built this virtual world featuring building representations of the pioneering corporations, sports clubs, schools, and gyms and it will be launched in a matter of months.
    Imagine entering the ESGverse® and visiting the stadium of the future where all the sustainability achievements, goals, and campaigns of your football property are displayed in a way that the fan can easily understand.
  2. Engagement: Aside from the ESGverse®, we have assumed the creation of a space where fans can earn points by learning and reporting on their personal daily exposure to air pollution in their city. It’s called the U-App – a community mobile app where organisations can easily become more sustainable by fighting air pollution and individuals can ‘vote’ for a world with pure air. The possibilities are endless, and they can be adapted to each sport property’s strategy.
  3. Act: Sports brands will be able to cover topics shared with their fan community via the U-App and reward the most active members by gifting them with exclusive experiences and products (meet the athlete, come to the finals, win a signed t-shirt…). In essence, this relates to the concept of “utility” and brings clubs closer to their fans while showing real, measurable commitment to a better world.

Moreover, even events and conferences like WFS could be hosted in the ESGverse®!

WFS: What are the traits of a sustainable leader to make this happen?

Maggio: True leaders want to bring change to their world. They want to leave a “dent in the universe”, a legacy so that 10-20 years from now they are remembered as a visionary that triggered a change in society.

The “while others panic, I act” mentality is what the world needs right now.

WFS: During the Football Innovation Forum you spoke about how businesses are looking at the sustainability challenge at the ROI level, but they forget to factor in the cost of not acting? This seems the classic battle between what is urgent vs what is important or the balance between the short & the long term. Could you speak more about this and how business leaders should approach it?

Maggio: The Risk of Inaction is under everybody’s roof; everybody agrees that we are entering a new era where if we don’t collectively take care of the matter there are not going to be any people left to play for.

At U-Earth we are (bio)tech geeks and just like other emerging disruptive tech, we can only provide tools. The real heroes are the leaders who use them to make the world a better place. Courage is a choice, and we spotted a few heroic leaders and game-changers out there willing to act for real.


WFS: Are you optimistic about football’s role in influencing positive change in society? Why or why not?

Maggio: We are excited about football’s role in building awareness around the possibility of creating a better world. Sustainability and sports make for a magical combination; as Michele Uva mentioned in our conversation during FIF, sustainability, innovation, and football are linked.

Football is something people hold close to their hearts, perhaps more than any other sport. It also has the largest audience in the world, and it can surely unite all fans for combined action against climate change.

We experienced the power of sport first-hand after becoming ESG partners of F1, MotoGP, SailGP, Basket Clubs, and many other sports, helping them during the pandemic with our U-Masks and Pure Air Zones.


WFS: What is the value that World Football Summit brings to the table?

Maggio: Since we are entering an era of continuous disruption, WFS will act as a magnifying lens on innovative breakthroughs, successful case studies and cutting-edge tech to anticipate a brighter future for the whole industry on the foundation of strong sustainability principles.

A very exciting role indeed.

This interview features in the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practices from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.