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  • Alexandra Aguilard

Ocean, Sport & Sustainability - Shifting from awareness to delivery



Ocean, Sport & Sustainability


This title captures three things that are loved by millions around the world. The good news is that the combination of these three concepts results in an effective strategy to help achieve the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Sport, with its power to engage people, is one of the human activities that can effectively contribute to improving positive behaviors around the world.


Conscious of this enormous influence, in 2015 the United Nations (UN) stated in the Political Declaration for the new 2030 Agenda, that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development. UN has also declared that the global reach and appeal of sport is an extraordinary tool at our disposal for promoting a global outlook on sport at the service of advancing the achievement of the SDGs.


It is beyond dispute the critical role that sport plays in our culture. For many of us, sport is just a hobby or a fitness plan, for others is a passion or even a career, what is true is that sport is one of the biggest influences in our society with millions of followers around the world, and a lucrative industry that generates billions of dollars in revenue waiting for strategies and opportunities to grow even more, and why not in a more sustainable way.

With this in mind, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has identified five priority areas on which they focus medium-term and long-term sustainability objectives: Infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce, and climate.


Another important precedent is the UN Sports for Climate Action framework, and initiative co-created for the IOC and the UN Climate Change, launched in 2018. Eighty sports organizations around the world have joined this initiative so far, and we expect to see the first results in Tokyo 2020.


What about the Oceans?


Like all human activities related to the ocean - transportation, fishing, tourism, energy and communications, to mention only a few - sport also has a significant impact on the marine environment.


There are many reasons why the protection of our ocean resources should be a priority for sport, we need a clean and healthy environment for enjoying and competing, but also, include sustainability policies in sport is a source of trust and reputation for International federations, national authorities, athletes, sponsors and sporting communities involved. It also represents a source of innovation and development of new technologies that can generate real opportunities and economic, social and environmental benefits.


Currently, five Olympic disciplines take place in natural waters: canoe, marathon swimming, rowing, sailing, triathlon. Surfing, another sport really implicated with sustainability, will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020. All of them have adopted the holistic concept of sustainability, working hard and developing strategies that deserve to be mentioned, supported and promoted.


One of these initiatives is the World Sailing's Sustainability Agenda 2030. The international governing body for the sport of sailing issued its main and ambitious sustainability strategy in 2018. The mission of the World sailing itself is a declaration of “Use our reach and influence to create a sustainable future for our sport and the waters of the world”. Its mission is closely aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially with clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), and life below water (Goal 14).


There are six operational areas trough World Sailing will deliver sustainability results: Technical standards, events, training, venues and facilities members and participation. All these areas have 56 different targets, among which, the following stand out:


  • Work with key industries to promote new products used in sailing with a lower environmental impact and work to make these available to sailors across the world by 2024. (Technical standard)

  • Require any new class bids for the 2028 Olympics (and subsequent Olympics) to provide a lifecycle assessment that demonstrates that 90% of the boat (by weight) is recyclable. (Technical standard)

  • Achieve the World Sailing water quality standards at all venues hosting World Sailing events by 2020. (Events)

  • Encourage the abolishment of single use plastics at national sailing events by 2030. (Events)

  • Develop a reuse program for used equipment benefiting emerging nations and support similar national schemes by 2020. (Training)

  • Review and identify certification and best practice standards internationally and support their adoption by 2020. (Venues and facilities)

  • Encourage and assist where appropriate to allow all Member National Associations to have their own sustainability strategy that supports World Sailing Sustainability Agenda 2030 by 2024. (Members)

  • Create a sustainability tool for MNA’S and Class Associations to measure and report on their environmental performance by 2020. (Members)

  • Support the World Sailing trust to raise funds for woman’s participation programs with grants being awarded by 2019. (Participation)


Green Nautical Miles reached out to Dan Reading, Head of Sustainability at World Sailing, to better understand what they have achieved so far.   


(GNM) What do you think has been the World Sailing most important achievement in Sustainability?


(DR) I think rather than a specific target, the greatest achievement is actually getting unanimous support from all our membership when the Sustainability Agenda 2030 was adopted in May 2018. This was a watershed moment as essentially the organisation had agreed to all the targets over a 12 year period, this for me was the greatest achievement. One of the foundations of delivery of our sustainability agenda is our certification to ISO 20121 – a sustainable event management system. Even though this system is designed for events we use this as a management system to deliver our sustainability targets and we have this certified by a third party.


(GNM) What would be the impact of the UN Sports for Climate Action framework in the next Olympic Games (for Sailing)?


(DR) It will have very little impact on Tokyo 2020 however I think it will have a big impact on Paris 2024. We have already been working with the organisers on a couple of key carbon reduction projects. One project I am very excited about is called ‘Challenge 2024’ which relates to support boats, we are going to act as a catalyst for low carbon support boats which would have a potentially large carbon reduction effect when available to the wider recreational marine market. We also will have worked with some equipment manufactures applying life cycle analysis which will also be a great way of measuring our impact and progress.


(GNM) What is the role of the Members National Authorities in order to achieve the objectives of this agenda?


(DR) The Member National Authorities are crucial in delivery, they act as our conduit to participants at all levels. Many targets start with getting our own house in order such as applying sustainability measures to our own events but in time this will need to filter down on a national level. Many Member National Authorities also provide sail training and it is widely acknowledged that it is important to educate the next generation on all the issues. In order to positively influence behaviour this is best done when they are first learning about the sport.

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