ITU launches global push for a more sustainable sport
 to combat global warming

09 March 2020

Following its commitment to UNEP’s IOC-supported Clean Seas initiative and the UN Sport for Climate Action framework, the International Triathlon Union is taking major steps through 2020 to set new benchmarks for sustainability in the sport.

Established at the start of the year, the ITU Sustainability Commission is tasked with creating a detailed pathway for greater environmental consideration in all policy making, both among stakeholders and Local Organising Committees, as well as within the organisation itself.

“There is no doubt that concerted actions must be taken now to halt and reverse global warming and its effects on the planet. Following the establishment of our Sustainability Commission, the actions taken as a result of their work will see the international triathlon family moving together to innovate, develop and share the best methods to achieve this. Many of our events and members already have actions in place, some are only just starting out on their journeys towards sustainability. But we are all in agreement that there is no time to waste in our effort to ensure that change is both quickly effected and highly effective,” said ITU President and IOC member Marisol Casado.

ITU itself is studying its carbon footprint to be in a better position to build upon the policies of avoiding non-essential travel and using the most efficient routes where necessary. Furthermore, every step of the project management process of its events will now be measured for sustainability.

That includes the even closer assignment of Technical Officials and contractors based on their location, in order to reduce flight distances. As part of the new Staff Handbook for 2020, ITU now encourages working from home up to 30 days a year to help lower commuting emissions. The forthcoming Sustainability Guidelines for Event Organisers will soon consolidate and extend that effort with the LOCs. 



“It was extremely important that we reach this position to be able to include a sustainability certification requirement in all the bid documents for the next phase of World Series and World Championship events. Mandating environmental considerations in all areas of our event management will have a significant reduction in their impact on the planet. The World Series hosts have already been forward thinking in a lot of their work, and we now have a consolidated set of guidelines that will allow all our stakeholders and LOCs to follow those excellent examples,” said ITU Head of Operations and member of the Sustainability Working Group, Thanos Nikopoulos.

The Sustainability Guidelines to be released in the following weeks will give a comprehensive framework for host LOCs to work within and aim for, as well as the certification system which will be mandatory for World Series and World Championship hosts to attain.

The 2020 World Series cities Abu Dhabi, Bermuda, Yokohama, Leeds, Montreal and Hamburg have all developed unique initiatives that will be the focus of a series of articles on sustainability throughout the coming season. Grand Final host Edmonton is staking its claim as the greenest World Championship event in history across all areas, from procurement and mobility to waste management and infrastructure.

The first meeting of the ITU Sustainability Commission took place on 5 March. The commission members are Dr Sarah Springman (GBR), Abdellatif Labaied (TUN), Justin Park (KOR), Liber Garcia (URU), Loreen Barnett (CAN, chair), Mads Freund (DEN), Phillip Dally (NZL). Among the items under discussion were ways of further reducing air travel and plans to produce a carbon-neutral Paris 2020 Congress. The Commission also emphasised the importance of reducing waste from clothing and other consumables in particular at this year’s Edmonton Grand Final.

On 14 March, the 2020 Mooloolaba World Cup will take place featuring a host of sustainable initiatives, including reusable elastic bungees instead of plastic cable ties to secure signage, and the Age-Group event will see compostable cups replace plastic bottles, which will be turned into soil conditioner at a local facility. Fabric signage that cannot be reused will be upcycled into market bags and the event goal is to improve on last year’s achievement of 70% of waste not going to landfill.

The Spanish Federation has also announced that for the Huelva European Cup and Punta Umbria Duathlon European Championships the same weekend, recycled, card-based water bottles will replace plastics and a tree-planting initiative will offset the events’ carbon footprint.

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