Sport can be the ‘leading industry in sustainability’, says IOC sustainability chief, Michelle Lemaitre
A series of guides intended to educate National Olympic Committees and Federations on sustainability essentials is being published by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Talking at the Sustainable Innovation in Sport conference in Amsterdam, the IOC’s director of corporate development, brand and sustainability, Michelle Lemaitre, said the first guide had been published, and the series was designed to “hold the hand” and encourage organisations to implement sustainability initiatives into their operations.
‘The leading industry in sustainability’
The IOC published its wide-ranging sustainability strategy in 2016, but instead of using her keynote address to report on its initial results, Lemaitre called on delegates from the sport sector to make sport “the leading industry in sustainability”.
But, with that “wish” she posed two questions: (1) How can the sector move from ad-hoc initiatives and projects done in isolation to integrated sustainability?, and (2) How can events like Sustainable Innovation in Sport “turn into more engagement and action”.
Lemaitre said sport was in a unique position to make a difference on sustainability, with its “power and visibility” and “the amount of people it touches”.
From architects and construction companies, to equipment manufacturers and broadcasters, and even the athletes themselves, everyone should play their part, she added.
“This can be utopic, but we have to have a vision to get things moving,” said Lemaitre.
IOC strategy an ‘uphill battle’
However, Lemaitre admitted that completing the IOC’s sustainability strategy was “an uphill battle” because of the number of issues it had to take into consideration, such as the operation of venues, waste, biodiversity, and ways to reduce sports carbon footprint.
She praised Thomas Bach, the IOC president, for putting sustainability at the heart of Agenda 2020, the IOC’s highly-publicised and overarching strategy.
“Sometimes it only takes one person to push it over the line,” she said. “Once he said sustainability, we could move forward.”