The third International Olympic Committee (IOC) Sustainability Report notes that the IOC has achieved 15 of its 18 sustainability objectives for the period 2017-2020, raising its ambition to address climate change and helping to make sustainability mainstream across the Olympic Movement.

The report also outlines the organization’s 17 new objectives for 2021-2024, focusing on climate, biodiversity and the circular economy, and further advancing sustainability across the Olympic Movement.

“We can confidently state that sustainability is now firmly embedded as an executive priority within the IOC, and this ethos flows into our corporate ways of working, our focus on ensuring sustainable Olympic Games, and how we engage with the wider Olympic Movement,” writes HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, chair of the IOC’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission, in the foreword to the report.


HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, chair of the IOC’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission. Credit: Palais Princier.

Highlights of the 2017-2020 objectives achieved include the following

IOC as an organization:

IOC as owner of the Olympic Games:

  • Ensuring that sustainability is addressed as a strategic topic with cities from the earliest stages of the Future Host process.
  • Reinforcing sustainability commitments in the Host Contract, including for all upcoming Games editions to be carbon neutral, and climate positive from 2030 onwards

IOC as leader of the Olympic Movement:

  • Co-launching and leading on the implementation of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework
  • Ensuring the exchange of information and best practices between Olympic Movement stakeholders
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Addressing the climate crisis:

While COVID-19 has been the most disruptive factor affecting the IOC, most notably through the postponement of Tokyo 2020, the fast-accelerating climate crisis is likely to represent one of the future’s greatest challenges, the report says.

Having achieved carbon neutrality for the period 2017-2020, the IOC has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and to becoming climate positive by the end of 2024. This means that it will be removing more carbon from the air than it emits.

From 2030, all Olympic Games are required to be climate positive, too.

The creation of an Olympic Forest as part of Africa’s Great Green Wall is an integral part of the IOC’s climate positive commitment, while the 2019 opening of the IOC’s new headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland – which has been certified as one of the most sustainable buildings in the world – has been another highlight.

The UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, co-launched in 2018 by the IOC and UN Climate Change, has so far garnered almost 300 signatories. They are now required by UN Climate Change to reduce their carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and aim to achieve net zero by 2040. The IOC continues to lead on the implementation of the Framework.

Mainstreaming sustainability

To facilitate its sustainability work, the IOC has recently integrated the themes of sustainability, legacy, gender equality and inclusivity, and human rights into one Corporate and Sustainable Development Department.

Sustainability has also become further integrated into the process for selecting future hosts of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Both the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 have sustainability at the centre of their Games concepts.

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To advance the sharing of information across the sports world, the IOC has produced a series of guidance documents on topics such as carbon footprintingsustainable sourcing and biodiversity. The IOC has also supported the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) in the launch of the Sustainability Sport platform, which is intended to be used as a library by sports organizations.

Looking ahead: IOC’s Sustainability Objectives 2021-2024

IOC: carbon reduction and Olympic Forest – Of the 17 new objectives, four relate to the IOC as an organisation, and cover carbon emissions, the Olympic Forest, sustainable sourcing and training for IOC staff. They include work on reducing the IOC’s CO2 emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, with a 30 per cent reduction by 2024; and creating an Olympic Forest to support the IOC’s climate positive commitment, while delivering long-term social and biodiversity benefits to communities in Mali and Senegal.

Olympic Games: climate-positive Games and “no-go” in protected areas – There are five objectives for the Olympic Games, which focus on climate, biodiversity, human rights and sustainable tourism. These include assisting and accelerating the transition to climate-positive Olympic Games, and a requirement that no permanent Olympic construction occurs in statutory nature and cultural protected areas or UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Olympic Movement: sustainability strategies and empowering athletes – The eight objectives in the IOC’s role as leader of the Olympic Movement include working with the IFs to have a sustainability strategy in place by 2024; assisting the IFs and NOCs in joining the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework; and working with athletes and other role models within the sports world to raise awareness about sustainability.

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Download the complete report here.


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