Just a few months before the start of the Olympics, we have increasingly more information about the Sustainability Management Plan that the team led by Tania Braga (Head of Sustainability) has launched for Rio 2016.
The three pillars on which this plan is founded, and priority points are:
• People – “Games for all”: Involvement and awareness, universal access, diversity and inclusion.
• Planet – “Reduced Environmental Footprint”: transport and logistics, environmental conservation/clean up, sustainable design and construction and waste management.
• Prosperity – “Responsible and transparent Management”: responsible and transparent management, sustainable supply chain, management and reporting.
These 3 “P” (People, Planet and Prosperity) represent the three dimensions of sustainability: Society, Environment and Economy. Concerning the economy, the organizing committee has a budget of 7,4 billion reais (about 1,8 billion euros) but the total budget for the Olympics, including infrastructure investments, amounted to 37,7 billion reais (about 10 billion euros). By comparison, the World Cup in Brazil 2014 cost about 13,3 billion euros. In any case, we have to wait to know the final figures, because an interesting study from the University of Oxford which was published in 2012 (“Cost and Cost Overrun at the Olympics 1960-2012”), shows that on average, Olympics end up costing 179% more than budgeted when nominate.
*Cover from one of the documents about sustainability in Rio 2016
Sustainable Supply Chain
Organizing an Olympic Games is primarily a logistical challenge. By its own estimates, the organization needs to buy and rent some 30 million items, and during the Games will be served 14 million meals, which will mean some 6,000 tons of food. If when buying these foods or objects, we take into account environmental and social aspects, in addition to the economic cost, we can get an idea of the difficulty of the task. For this, the sustainability team has published a detailed guide: “Sustainable-Supply-Chain–Guide”, which establishes sustainability criteria that are taken into account, both for purchase and for the “sponsoring”.
• Wood and Paper: Brazil is a country of “florestas” (forest), so all timber products and derivatives are to be produced from raw materials 100% recycled, or they must be certified (for example, by the FSC). The needs are also huge: only to cover the entire surface of the track of the Olympic velodrome, are 92 m³ wood required.
• Packing: “whenever possible”, the material used for packaging products must be recycled and recyclable. This statement, which sounds vague, is accompanied by the requirement that suppliers comply with the guidelines of the Brazilian National Waste Management Agency: avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, etc. They have also published a detailed guide on the subject: Guide-for-Packaging.
• Food: providers must adhere to the commitment “Zero Deforestation” trying to prevent, for example, that meat comes from animal farms where have destroyed the Amazon rainforest. An partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture (ASC), “so that suppliers may obtain sustainable certification for fish and seafood” is also established.This is also not very concrete, since the organization is not committed to buy only seafood certified by the MSC, but have signed an agreement to support more sellers certify their products. A curiosity: food will generate 80% of all waste to be produced during the games.
• Working conditions: Suppliers and sub-companies must ensure that the working conditions of its workers meet the minimum standards from the “Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). A cooperation with Sedex Global is also established, a nonprofit organization specializing in the development of global supply chains that respect the rights of workers. They have a online platform that allows buyers and suppliers to learn about social standards from possible suppliers.
*Total projected emissions: 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 e
According to the calculation made by the organization, about 3.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent¹(e) is the total emissions attributable to the whole process of organizing the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is equivalent to the emissions generated for 32 million mobile phones during a year. The city of Rio generates annually 25 and a European city like Berlin 20.7 million tons of CO2e. The travel of spectators to attend the event will be the cause of most of these emissions. The reason: it is estimated that 15 per cent will be international visitors, who mostly travel by plane, but also because due to the large size of Brazil, many of the visitors to the country itself will also use this mode of transport. London 2012 spectators’ travels did not generate as much emissions as expected in Rio 2016, mainly due to its central European location. However, in the British capital it was necessary to build more sports facilities than in Rio, and this was the most important factor of emissions production.
*Trips spectators will generate most emissions
The strategy designed by the organizers to control the CO2e emissions level is based on the following principles:
• Avoid and reduce emissions through careful and early planning. Use of materials and products with a low carbon footprint.
• Replace fossil fuels for renewable and alternative fuels, such as ethanol, or whenever possible to use electricity.
• Compensate unavoidable emissions by investing in projects for climate protection. To this objetive a cooperation with the DOW Chemical company is established.
In Brazil, 45.3% of the total energy and 85% of electricity comes from renewable sources, mainly thanks to hydropower. This influences in a very positive way in reducing the carbon footprint. By comparison, in Spain (2014) 14.5% of primary energy and 39.5% of electricity comes from renewables.
More information: Carbon Footprint Management Report Rio 2016
• Guanabara Bay: here are scheduled different Olympic events, including sailing and open water swimming. Unfortunately, the bay has become famous for the major water pollution. It seems unlikely that in the short time remaining the water quality can meet the desired standards.
• Golf course: has been built in a protected area. The organization has tried to justify this decision, arguing that the place was very run down and partially covered by non-native invasive species. They have published an explanatory *chart:
• Where is the legacy of the World Cup 2014? I read in one of the documents “For the 2016 Games, the area adjacent to the Maracana Stadium will require large-scale urban renewal“. And then I wonder: how can it be that two years after the World Cup and an investment of 15 billion US Dollar, they have still to renew around the Maracana Stadium, which was where the final was held in 2014?
• Sponsors such as McDonalds: this multinational is not particularly known for their commitment to sustainability, therefore, I wonder if is consistent to accept the financial sponsorship of any company, regardless of what the company policy is.
The current trend is clear. Sustainability is one of the criteria that increasingly has more weight when making decisions in the organization of the Olympic Games. The challenge lies of balancing sustainability with other key issues such as cost, quality, deadlines, risks, etc. The Rio 2016 organizing committee has already received international certification ISO 20121 (International Standard for Sustainable Event Management), which indicates that they are on the right track. I appreciate very much, all the information about this topic, that the organisation until now has been published.
* Sources: all documents on sustainability in Rio 2016 can be found HERE. I have obtained all information and graphics for this post from these documents.
1) CO2 equivalent (CO2e) includes not only carbon dioxide, but all produce greenhouse gases.
Infographic by Alberto Ravelli (www.greenmatch.co.uk/)