The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced the winners of the inaugural Climate Action Awards, recognising the athletes, International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) who are taking tangible steps to tackle the climate crisis.
Athletes Ben Blankenship (athletics, USA), Marcus Mepstead (fencing, Great Britain) and Paloma Schmidt (sailing, Peru) have all been honoured, alongside World Rugby, World Sailing, the Colombian Olympic Committee and the Spanish Olympic Committee. They were chosen from among more than 70 applications received from across the Olympic Movement for three award categories: sustainable travel, innovation, and athlete advocacy.
The awards, which are supported by Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Partners Airbnb, Deloitte and P&G, aim to recognise effective efforts from across the Olympic Movement to reduce sport’s impact on climate, while inspiring others to follow suit.
“We celebrate the remarkable efforts of these athletes, NOCs and IFs through the IOC Climate Action Awards, recognising the action they are taking to address the climate crisis,” said IOC Director for Sustainability, Marie Sallois. “Through their powerful projects and inspiring advocacy, they are proving that sport has the power to drive positive change and contribute to a more sustainable future.”
The Climate Action x Sustainable Travel Award, supported by Airbnb, was awarded to British fencer Marcus Mepstead in the athlete category, World Sailing in the IF category, and the Spanish Olympic Committee in the NOC category. The award recognises effective action and advocacy to travel more sustainably within the sports calendar.
Mepstead was recognised for implementing a yearly travel plan that minimises emissions, while World Sailing was recognised for prioritising reducing organisational travel and new policies for promoting the use of public transport by staff, in an effort to reduce emissions associated with travel and transport.
The Spanish Olympic Committee, meanwhile, has been acknowledged for prioritising sustainable mobility within its strategy, using electric and hybrid vehicles from Worldwide Olympic Partner Toyota, as well as public transport for domestic travel.
“We’re excited to recognise the efforts of Marcus, World Sailing and the Spanish Olympic Committee through the Climate Action x Sustainable Travel Award,” said Ameet Konkar, Airbnb Head of Sustainability. “At Airbnb, we strongly believe in making travel more sustainable. This award showcases the commitment the Olympic community is making to reduce its impact and promote more conscious travel practices.”
The Climate Action x Innovation Award, supported by Deloitte, was awarded to Peruvian sailor Paloma Schmidt in the athlete category, World Rugby in the IF category, and the Colombian Olympic Committee in the NOC category. The award recognises the creative and innovative solutions demonstrated by athletes, IFs and NOCs to help drive climate action.
Schmidt received the award following her efforts as part of the organising committee of the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) European Championships in Andora, Italy, which saw her introduce a range of measures to reduce waste at the event.
World Rugby, meanwhile, has been honoured for implementing “The Bag that Builds”. Launched in partnership with the South African Rugby Union and the Centre for Regenerative Design & Collaboration (CRDC), this innovative initiative involved collecting waste generated by fans, athletes and operations staff during the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 for conversion into an eco-aggregate used for the construction of social housing in the event’s host nation, South Africa.
The Colombian Olympic Committee was recognised for launching a pilot initiative to manage, reduce and advocate on carbon emissions at the National Sea and Beach Games held in Tolú (Coveñas) in 2021, which is now being rolled out at other sporting events in the country.
“Innovation helps to drive climate action,” said Jennifer Steinmann, Deloitte Global Sustainability and Climate practice leader. “We understand what we need to do to help avoid the most serious consequences of the climate crisis, and these initiatives help society implement long-term behaviour change at scale. Through the Climate Action x Innovation Award, Deloitte is proud to recognise and support Paloma Schmidt, World Rugby and the Colombian Olympic Committee’s efforts within the Olympic Movement that help to reduce emissions and implement circular economy principles – paving the way for more sustainable sport.”
The Climate Action x Athlete Advocacy Award, supported by P&G, aims to reward the efforts of athletes who actively engage people and communities in the fight against climate change. It was awarded to US middle-distance athlete Ben Blankenship for his work promoting sustainability through the Endless Mileage Project, which plants trees for every American miler who breaks 4 minutes (men) and 4:30 min (women) in the event and redistributes used sports clothing and equipment to local schools.
“As a long-standing partner of the Olympic Games, we have seen the power athletes have to inspire others to take action. We are thrilled to support Ben Blankenship as he uses his platform to foster a culture of sustainability by recognising him with the Climate Action x Athlete Advocacy Award,” said P&G’s Chief Sustainability Officer Virginie Helias.
Launched in November 2022, the IOC Climate Action Awards aim to highlight how sport can play an important role in tackling the climate crisis.
The IOC continues to advance its own commitment to help address climate change by reducing its direct and indirect emissions by 30 per cent by 2024 and 50 per cent by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement. In addition, the IOC is creating the Olympic Forest, which is part of the Great Green Wall initiative to restore degraded landscapes across Africa’s Sahel region.
The IOC has also increased its requirements for the Olympic Games to help address climate change. From 2030 onwards, Games organisers will be obliged to minimise direct and indirect Games-related carbon emissions while striving to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than what the Games project emits, and using their influence to encourage stakeholders to take climate action.