Presentation by Mr. Eric Falt, Director of Communications, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), for the Global Forum for Sports and Environment, (G-ForSE) 24 – 26 November 2004, Lahore, Pakistan.
The Sports Industry, Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability
Your Excellency the Governor of Punjab,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to see such a large representation of leaders from business, civil society and government to discuss how sports can be used to support sustainable development.
I would particularly like to thank the chairman of the organizing committee, Farrukh Irfan Khan, and his team for creating such enthusiasm here in Pakistan for this event, especially among the leaders of the sporting goods industry.
I would also like to acknowledge my friend Tatsuo Okada, Executive Director of the Global Sports Alliance, for his commitment and vision in linking the world of sports to caring for the environment.
There is growing realization within the United Nations that sports and the sports industry have a major role to play in promoting the UN goals of a common future of peace, dignity and prosperity.
As you may know, the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution calling on all of us to work together in partnership to promote the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. It also declared 2005 the International Year for Sport and Physical Education as a means to promote education, health, development and peace.
Sport is now firmly on the sustainable development agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sport’s role in sustainable development is both symbolic and concrete. First of all, it represents principles—such as cooperation, tolerance and respect—that lie at the core of UN values and provide the foundation for a better future.
It is also an industry with unparalleled global reach and power.
Globally, sport-related turnover amounts to three per cent of world total economic activity.
In the United Kingdom, for example, sport-related turnover equals that of the automotive and food industries.
Major events such as the soccer World Cup or Formula One Grand Prix are watched around the world. Cricket attracts huge interest in South Asia, and the International Olympic Commission alone earns almost $2 billion from sponsorship and TV rights.
At the same time, the corporate practices of this worldwide industry can and do have widespread impact, socially and environmentally.
Everything we do has an environmental impact. For example, keeping a playing fields green means spreading pesticides and herbicides and using millions of litres of water –a commodity in increasingly short supply. Swimming pools use chlorine gas to treat the water, while the changing rooms are mopped down with bleach.
Major sporting events generate massive amounts of waste. A typical baseball or football game in the United States contributes singlehandedly up to 50,000 polystyrene cups to local landfills. It is estimated that the average spectator generates 2 kilograms of food and beverage waste, much of which could be recycled.
A company that produces, for example, running shoes, footballs or other sports equipment, can also have a have a direct impact on whether the UN Millennium Development goals are being achieved or undermined. This can evaluated summarily in a number of simple questions:
· Are the company workers paid fairly?
· Are women being given equal opportunities?
· Is child labour being used?
· Are employees being educated about HIV/AIDS?
· Is manufacturing being done according to cleaner production principles to protect the health of employees and the environment?
These questions can—and increasingly do— feature in the production of sporting goods, the building of sports facilities and the organization of major sporting events.
The choice to look beyond the strict financial bottom line and exercise social and environmental responsibility is one that can be made by everyone involved in sports, including manufacturers, local authorities, event organizers, and even consumers.
Where industry is concerned, non-financial reporting is becoming increasingly common, something that UNEP encourages through its involvement in the UN Secretary-General’s Global Compact and its promotion of mechanisms for corporate sustainability such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
According to an international review of corporate sustainability reports published last week by SustainAbility, the United Nations Environment Programme and Standard & Poor’s, entitled “Risk & Opportunity: Best Practice in Non-Financial Reporting” (and that we are making available today for the participants to this Forum), company boards are failing to disclose to financial investors how environmental and social issues pose strategic risks and opportunities for their businesses.
Only three reports of the Top 50 companies worldwide assess the balance sheet implications of key environmental and social risks, despite this information being increasingly important to analysts, investors, lenders, insurers and re-insurers.
But the times are changing, and these values are gaining importance from Chicago to Tokyo, and from Berlin to Sialkot.
If it is not yet a standard part of their non-financial reporting, there are many examples of how organizations and companies are minimizing waste and incorporating environmental principles into their activities.
Many sports bodies have introduced environmental guidelines, codes of conduct and environmental criteria for event hosts. Most major golf bodies have been particularly active. Ski resort operators, mountain biking groups, sports facility architects, parks and recreation departments and major sporting goods manufacturers like Nike, Mizuno and Patagonia are among a growing number of proponents of greater sustainability.
For example, Adidas and Mizuno are following the principles of environmental management set out in the International Standards Organization’s ISO 14001 rules.
Nike is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions across its operations worldwide. It also has its ‘Re-Use A Shoe’ programme, where old shoes are recycled to create new products like basketball, tennis courts and athletics tracks.
In Lahore and in Sialkot, I know that our friends in the sporting goods industry are concerned about their competitive advantage. They have courageously tackled difficult issues and they want to be seen as the avant-garde of progress. The environment is one of the first issues on their agenda, and UNEP was extremely pleased when they offered to host this Forum.
I believe it sends an unmistakable signal that the industry leaders in Lahore and Sialkot want to serve as an inspiration to anyone wanting to contribute to a sustainable future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
UNEP places a high priority on working in partnership with governments, with the private sector and with civil society to promote sustainable development.
As the UN Task Force on Sport and Development makes clear, partnerships are the most effective way to implement programmes that use sport for development and peace.
The platform provided by the Global Forum for Sports and Environment is an excellent example.
UNEP has had a long and fruitful engagement with the world of sport.
Our sport and environment strategy has three core objectives:
- to promote the integration of environmental considerations in sports;
- to use the popularity of sports to promote environmental awareness;
- and to promote the development of environmentally friendly sports facilities and the manufacture of environmentally friendly sports goods.
I am pleased to say that we can see tangible progress in all those areas.
Among the most significant developments of recent years is the adoption of the environment as the third pillar of Olympism.
UNEP is represented on the International Olympic Committee’s Sport and Environment Commission through my colleague Tore Brevik (who is also here today), and we are working increasingly closely with Olympic Organizing Committees in various host cities to raise the profile of the environment in their bids and their planning.
For example we are in contact with all the short-listed cities for the 2012 Games, offering to help them refine the environmental component of their bids (One of them is represented here today), and we have forged a close relationship with Torino, host of the 2006 Winter Games.
The competition between cities to host the Olympics is intense. Cities now have to include environmental sustainability as a cornerstone of their bids.
This in itself raises the awareness of everybody involved, which of course involves local government planners, architects, construction companies and so on. These entities are thus sensitized to environmental issues.
We believe this will also have a knock-on effect. Especially when people involved in planning, construction and organization—not just of sporting events, but generally—see that incorporating environmental sustainability into major projects is affordable, cost-effective and beneficial to all concerned, investors as well as the community.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I think we can agree that organizations and companies are increasingly embracing the principles of environmental sustainability in their planning and their reporting.
This event itself is evidence of that.
Which brings me to my main point today.
We have gone beyond the question of why we need to incorporate environmental values and the principles of sustainability, into sport. At forums like this, at planning meetings, and in boardrooms, we need to look increasingly at the how.
How do we make sure that commitment to the environment is not just a public relations exercise?
How do we incorporate environmental care into all our planning processes, taking into account the full life-cycle of a product, the total environmental footprint of an event?
How do we generate less waste? How can we consume less resources?
These are just some of the questions that need to become second nature, in the same way as questions like ‘how can we cut costs’, ‘how can we maximize profit’, already are.
Asking questions is easy. Finding answers is not.
I look forward to hearing your views about some of these issues, and I thank you once again on behalf of UNEP for participating in this forum.
Thank you very much.