World Athletics targets leadership role with Sustainability Strategy

World Athletics recently launched its Sustainability Strategy, which has a central goal of making the organisation carbon neutral by 2030, with ambitions to become a leader in organising sustainable events.

Athletics’ world governing body is seeking to embrace sustainability principles and practices within its operations, its member federations and the organisation of future World Athletics Series events, building on a pathway embarked on in 2018 when it made a commitment to assist the global campaign for improved air quality through installing air quality monitors in stadia around the world.

Among its commitments, World Athletics will seek to reduce its carbon output by 10% each year, switch to 100% renewable energy at its headquarters in Monaco this year, introduce a sustainable procurement code and travel policy and develop best practice guides for its 214 member federations and its event organisers.

The strategy is divided into six pillars – leadership in sustainability; sustainable production and consumption; climate change and carbon; local environment and air quality; global equality; and diversity, accessibility and wellbeing – each of which contain actions and targets for the organisation to pursue.

Included under these six pillars are goals such as producing best practice guides for member federations and event organisers; embedding responsible procurement for all World Athletics activities and sanctioned events; all sanctioned events committing to carbon neutrality targets; working with partners to establish low emission zones around athletics arenas; and air quality emissions to be included in equipment and venue standards.

In July 2019, Monaco’s Stade Louis II set a first for athletics when the stadium’s air quality data was delivered around the world in real time during its Diamond League meeting. The stadium was fitted with its first air quality monitoring device in September 2018. The stadium’s second device was fitted in June 2019 and last year’s initiative was designed to raise awareness about air pollution.

Commenting on how the Sustainability Strategy will tie in with the wider stadium air quality monitor venture, a World Athletics spokesperson told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “World Athletics is committed to ensuring that its athletics events, which are held all over the world, are fully aligned to the principles of sustainability.

“This is in recognition of, but not limited to, the growing environmental challenges that the world faces today, specifically air pollution, climate change and our over consumption of resources and materials escaping unmanaged into the environment alongside the social issues of global equality and diversity creating unequal opportunities.

“The 2030 target is for 100% of sanctioned events to commit to the World Athletics Sustainability Charter (currently under development), 100% compliance with sustainable procurement code at sanctioned events, and 100% of World Athletics Series events to deliver to ISO 20121 standard (International Standard for Sustainable Events).

“By 2030, all host cities will be expected to establish low emission zones around stadia and athletics arenas. Air quality targets will be set and monitored to protect athletes.”

World Athletics is currently facing a task similar to that being tackled by sports organisations across the globe – how to address COVID-19. Earlier this month, the organisation was forced to announce that its World Championships in Eugene, Oregon will now take place from July 15-24, 2022, a year later than originally scheduled, due to the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games.

The Diamond League calendar has also been decimated by the pandemic, meaning that World Athletics has reached out to fans who cannot attend meets through various engagement activities. A new element has been Athletics@Home, a series designed to help people of all ages to stay fit, active and engaged during this period of unprecedented lockdown around the world.

The content, which is appearing on both the World Athletics website and across its social media channels, is divided into four themes: Kids, Active, Rewind and Unwind.

The World Athletics spokesperson said: “It includes Watch Parties of past events – we have been posting a different world championships final every night on YouTube; fitness sessions led by elite athletes including Sally Pearson and Paula Radcliffe; games, activities, puzzles and quizzes for children; and book, film, music playlists and recipe recommendations from athletes. It is also being shared with our area associations and member federations to help them keep their audiences engaged.”