The IOC Climate Action Awards address the need to go beyond recognising actions promoting environmental sustainability
Good intentions often aren’t enough to motivate human behaviour, particularly over the long-term. We all like to be rewarded every now and again, especially when we’ve made extra effort.
That’s why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has established the Climate Action Awards, recognising Olympians, Paralympians, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) in their endeavours to address climate issues.
“At a time of an ever-accelerating climate crisis, every industry has the responsibility to take concrete actions to address it,” said Marie Sallois, IOC director for sustainability. “Sports organisations and athletes are increasingly aware of the urgency to limit their own impact while using their visibility to inspire a sustainable change.”
The awards have evolved from the IOC’s Carbon Action Awards that earlier this year recognised 20 organisations on Earth Day for their efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In recent years, there have been a growing number of awards to recognise sustainability in sport, leveraging this visibility Sallois refers to, but the IOC Climate Action Awards are different. Providing compensation to winning athletes, organisations or a charity of their choice, depending on the award, there’s an extra layer of motivation behind sustainable behaviour.
Supported by three Olympic Partners Programme (TOP) Partners, the awards focus on three categories of actions. The partners, categories and associated rewards are:
– Climate Action x Sustainable Travel, supported by Airbnb: recognising innovative action and advocacy to travel more sustainably within the framework of the sports calendar.
– Reward: USD $7,500 in Airbnb Travel Credits to fund accommodations expenses.
– Climate Action x Athlete Advocacy, supported by P&G: celebrating commitment to citizenship with a specific focus on climate advocacy aimed at getting people and communities to take action as part of P&G’s Athletes for Good programme.
– Reward: A P&G ambassadorship and a USD $24,000 grant to give to a chosen charity.
– Climate Action x Innovation, supported by Deloitte: recognising innovation and education efforts focused on reducing emissions to create a more sustainable future
– Reward: Tuition of up to USD $5,000 to enrol on an academic course in sustainability and leadership.
The rewards aren’t so big that they’ll be the sole motivation behind sustainable behaviour, but not too small that they don’t provide an incentive either.
Notably, Airbnb, P&G and Deloitte are all measuring and taking steps to reduce Scope 3 emissions, something the sport industry continues to contend with.
As a result of improved cost management and an increase in remote work, Airbnb’s Scope 3 emissions have declined by 34.3% from 2019-2021. P&G updates its key categories of Scope 3 emissions on an annual basis, predominantly relying on estimates from LCA data to align with guidance in the WRI/WBCSD GHG Accounting protocol. And by 2030, Deloitte aims to reduce its Scope 3 emissions from business travel per full-time equivalent (FTE) by 50% from 2019 levels.
In addition to Scope 3, contending with unsustainable travel is another commonality between the IOC’s TOP partners and sport. Deloitte US is collaborating with organisations across the value chain to catalyse production of sustainable aviation fuel. As part of P&G’s ‘Climate Transition Action Plan’, business travel is being tracked as a category of their Scope 3 emissions.
As travel via flying for top-level athletes remains largely unavoidable, Airbnb’s efforts to promote sustainable travel could help the IOC and sport follow the same path. Over 80% of US consumers believe Airbnb helps people travel in a more environmentally sustainable way. Offering sustainability guides for both hosts and guests, Airbnb has committed to operating as a net zero company by 2030 via ‘rapid decarbonisation, measurement and transparency and reinvestment in nature’.
“It’s encouraging to see an aggressive and science-based climate goal that aims for net zero in less than 10 years from an influential and global brand like Airbnb,” said Elizabeth Sturcken, managing director of the net zero program at the Environmental Defense Fund, who is advising Airbnb on sustainability targets and strategy. “Although much hard work remains, the company’s size and scale offer transformational potential for reducing emissions at the speed and scale that the science demands.”
In sport, large organisations can often view their size as a hindrance to environmental sustainability, but as Sturcken points to, they need to recognise the transformational potential they can only achieve because of it – and at speed in the innovative sector that the sport industry provides. Their partnerships shouldn’t just be utilised to recognise green actions, but enable them in the first place.
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