Sustainability in IOC events
The Olympism in Action Forum, which took place in October 2018 in Buenos Aires, was the first IOC event organised with a consistent, systematic approach to sustainability.
As people from around the world gathered in Buenos Aires for the two-day Olympism In Action (OIA) Forum that preceded the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, sport was not the only topic up for debate. A panel featuring Olympic weightlifter David Katoatau, Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Alex Diebold, professional snowboarder and 2014 Olympic bronze medallist in snowboard cross, and Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Global Technology & Sustainability Director for the Olympic & Sports Solutions of The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), discussed how sport can be best leveraged to increase the visibility of environmental issues, build collaborations for broader impact and lasting outcomes and provide low-carbon solutions, in a discussion entitled “Sustainability Through Sport”.
Meanwhile, amid the 1,700-strong audience exploring the Conference Centre floors in Buenos Aires, a similar attitude was in play as the OIA Forum walked the talk by taking concrete measures to minimise the environmental footprint of the event. Among them the reduction of waste, emphasis on materials, equipment and food with a low environmental footprint, reduction in the environmental impact of local transport and awareness-raising in sustainability issues among the participants.
Top of the agenda during the weekend’s activities was the matter of waste avoidance. All technical equipment and 80% of construction materials were rented from local suppliers, while 90% of the purchased materials were donated or sent to a local recycling cooperative following the event.
Within the building, no single-use tableware was available and single-use plastic was avoided as much as possible. All Forum-related information was distributed via a downloadable smartphone app in order to avoid unnecessary paper use, and all edible food leftovers (over 300 kg of food) were donated to the local charity, Caritas, which helps to combat the effects of poverty in the city’s communities.
During the buffet lunches and breakout sessions - where delegates were able to exchange ideas, network and consolidate plans - the IOC’s sustainability focus remained fixed on local produce, which significantly reduced the environmental costs of importing goods. Of the food on offer during the Forum, 80% was sourced in Argentina, while 50% of fruits and vegetables came from local ecological farming. Meanwhile, no endangered species were placed on the menu, and a variety of vegetarian options were offered. A majority of the materials used for the construction and decoration were renewable, and the 1,000 m2 of stages were built with FSC certified wood sourced from sustainably managed forests.
One of the biggest environmental factors to consider when organising an event as well-attended as the OIA Forum is the carbon footprint invariably left in its wake. Of the key contributing factors to that footprint, 94% could be attributed to air travel, with a further 3% caused by hotel stays, energy use at the Convention Centre used to host the OIA Forum (1%), food and beverages (0.8%) and local transport to and from the delegates’ hotel accommodation (0.2%). Thanks to the carbon reduction and compensation measures in place and thanks to IOC Carbon Partner Dow’s support, the IOC was able to ensure the Forum was a carbon-neutral event. The fact that the Forum was held at the same time as the Youth Olympic Games and IOC Session meant that only one third of the attendees had to fly to Buenos Aires specifically to participate in the event.
Although much less significant in terms of carbon emissions, local transport of participants was optimised in order to reduce its negative environmental impact, with nine shuttle lines put in place to ferry visitors to and from the venue. The carbon footprint of the event (approximately 4,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent) was compensated by an equivalent amount of carbon savings generated by the Dow-IOC carbon mitigation programme.
Following on from the OIA Forum, the IOC is committed to continuing the good work: the sustainability achievements and lessons learnt during the Forum will help the IOC roll out a similar approach in other institutional events going forward.
Dow’s support to the IOC Sustainability Strategy
As a Worldwide Olympic Partner and the Official Carbon Partner of the International Olympic Committee, Dow is delivering an innovative global carbon mitigation programme to balance carbon emissions from the IOC's daily operations, as well as other projects within the Olympic Movement.