A new guide by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will help make sports organisations and their events more sustainable, addressing issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, economic inequality and social injustice.
The guidelines – called “Sustainability Management in Sports” – will help National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) integrate sustainability into their operations and events. Part of the IOC’s “Sustainability Essentials” series, the guidelines respond to the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020 – the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement – which pledges to develop common methodologies and tools to help embed sustainability across all Olympic Movement operations.
“The global sports community has both a responsibility and opportunity to leave the world in better shape for future generations,” says IOC Director for Corporate and Sustainable Development, Marie Sallois. “We hope this guide will help sports organisations around the world take united and decisive action on sustainability.”
The guide builds on the work done to date by the Olympic Movement stakeholders across the social, economic and environmental spheres, and advocates for a shift from managing issues on an ad hoc basis to the adoption of a more “systematic” approach.
Integrating sustainability into an organisation’s core strategy should, according to the guide, have a positive impact on the balance sheet too. The guide notes that sustainable sports organisations tend to attract more sponsorship revenue, enjoy more supporter trust and have more motivated staff.
The guide sets a logical pathway to enhanced sustainability within organisations, focusing on governance, engagement and transparency, while retaining flexibility for local circumstances such as culture, geography, and legal or economic contexts.
It begins by setting out the fundamentals of a sustainability process, including securing the support and buy-in of top management, taking into account the specific contextual environment, and understanding how sustainability can support an organisation’s core business.
The guide then outlines a four-step process for setting priorities, delivering sustainability, and reviewing and reporting progress. Seeking senior leadership buy-in, inviting high-profile speakers, forging partnerships with civil society and engaging with critics are all actions recommended by the guide.
“A genuine approach to sustainability goes beyond ad hoc projects and support for good causes,” says Sallois. “Sustainability needs to become “business as usual” for any sports organisation, confirmed by solid commitment from leadership at the highest level. This means leaders need to go beyond simply delegating roles and responsibilities – they need to lead by example. “
The publication comes at a time when most countries are still coming to grips with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of its response to the crisis, the IOC has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability, and to using the power of sport to help address some of today’s most pressing social, environmental and economic challenges.