Sport and sustainability

Sport is a platform that enthuses and inspires billions of people across the world. The shared values spanning the sports community are a powerful basis for mutual understanding, cooperation and peace, bridging continental, religious and economic boundaries.

The United Nations has long recognized, advocated for and supported the important contributions of sport to development and peace. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 was followed by the Sport for Development and Peace community with strong interest and a commitment to continue using sport as a unique tool to support this new global plan of action. The International Olympic committee selecting 11 of the 17 goals to target.

The following attributes were identified that enable sport to contribute to development and peace processes:

  • Universal popularity – transcending of national, cultural, socio-economic and political boundaries, when done right, sport is enjoyable for participants and spectators alike and can be invoked in virtually any community in the world.

  • Capacity as a powerful global communications platform – Because sport events offer the capacity to reach vast numbers of people, they are effective platforms for public education & social mobilization.

  • Ability to connect – sport is an inherently social process bringing together players, teams, coaches, volunteers & spectators.

  • Cross cutting nature – sport can be used to address a broad range of social and economic challenges.

  • Potential to empower, motivate and inspire – sport has the natural ability to draw on, develop, and showcase individual strengths and capacities.

As a result of joint efforts, particularly including UN Member States’ support to recognize the contribution of sport to the SDGs, Heads of State and Government and High Representatives declared in the Political Declaration for the new Agenda (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development A/RES/70/1, paragraph 37):

“Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives”

With an ever-intensifying spotlight on the social, economic and environmental pressures we face there is greater pressure on organisations to manage their events and business activities responsibly, at all levels across the sporting world, namely across:

  • International Federations

  • National Governing Bodies

  • Clubs

  • Events

  • Venues

  • Teams/ Athletes

  • Sponsors/ Partners

  • Suppliers

  • Campaigns

  • Host Cities

  • Organising Committees

  • Sustainable Sports Organisations

Earth to Ocean, started a sport and sustainability database of initiatives and has continued to add to this database since 2009. Whilst, this is reasonably comprehensive and has tracked growth in the number of initiatives over time, it is not 100% comprehensive but does give a good oversight into the major initiatives, their focus and the sport sector. The database shows the increasing growth of these initiatives over the past 10 years.

The chart below shows the initiatives across the different types of organisations and the involvement of governing bodies in sport and sustainability, forming just over 21% of the total initiatives.

The second graph compares the number of initiatives by governing bodies and events compared to the total recorded events since 2000. The chart shows that about a third of all the initiatives come from events and governing bodies. The impact of the London 2012 Games can also be seen in 2012, where the number of different initiatives accelerates.

The picture is different across sports as well, with certain sports taking a lead in terms of initiatives. Football has been a front runner, followed by multi-sport events such as the Olympics and Paralympics.

#sustainability #sport #UNSDGs #olympics #paralympics #IOC