environment & climate change

How to easily implement sustainability principles in your sport event strategy?

Dec 11, 2015

Making sport events sustainable can easily be perceived as an overwhelming task. Geert Hendricks, Head of Projects, AISTS, will make you change your mind with a simple tool – the Quick Start Guide!
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Smart Cities & Sport: Sustainability is a word used in many different contexts – not only in the sport events industry. Can you tell us what is a sustainable sport event?

Geert Hendriks: First of all, I would like to say that sustainability is about more than just being “green”. Making a sport event sustainable is about achieving excellence, doing things more efficiently and creating a positive impact. Athletes strive to break records. Organisers strive to promote the best event possible. Why shouldn’t they together not aim to achieve the next level up of quality by being sustainable?

More precisely, a sustainable sport event can be described as an inspirational event that requires financial, natural and human resources in a rational and efficient way. It contributes to the development of the economy and tourism, it is an effective branding tool for event owners, organisers and hosts, and brings both environmental and social benefits.

Smart Cities & Sport: We often hear that making sport events sustainable involves additional financial resources. True or False?

Geert Hendriks: False! There are actually strong business reasons to make sport events more sustainable – it is not only because it is “the right thing to do”. As a matter of fact, sustainability has the potential to help cities:

  • To save energy – Using resources in a more rational way is proven to reduce operational costs. Energy savings alone can reduce costs which can be reinvested in other sustainability initiatives.
  • To differentiate a sport event from others in today’s congested sports calendar – Sustainability has the potential to attract the attention of the media and spectators, and differentiate a sport event from other competitions on the calendar.
  • To provide sponsorship opportunities – Increasingly, major global companies are working to align their brands with sustainability values, which results in creating sponsorship opportunities for events and sport organisations.

Smart Cities & Sport: To help cities integrating sustainability principles in their sport event strategy, the AISTS (International Academy of Sport Science and Technology) in collaboration with Vancouver 2010, developed the Sustainable Sport & Events Toolkit (SSE Toolkit). A short introductory version of it called “the Quick Start Guide” is available online – could you please tell us more about this guide and how it can be helpful to cities?


Geert Hendriks: The Quick Start Guide helps cities developing the outline of a four-step plan to guide their sustainability actions:

  1. Know the value of sustainability for your event (Why)
  2. Assemble your champions (Who)
  3. Define your playing field (What)
  4. Use the SSE Toolkit management approach to plan for action (How)

This four-step approach is accompanied with some practical tips, best practice examples, tools and frameworks.

To download the Quick Start Guide for free, please click here.

Smart Cities & Sport: What would be your final piece of advice to cities who have the ambition to implement sustainability initiatives?

Geert Hendriks: Well, there are many things cities can do. And these very much depend on each city’s own objectives. However, if I could give four tips to cities, it would be these ones:

  1. Partner with event stakeholders on initiatives that have a shared value (i.e. valuable for both/all partners)
  2. Keep measurement simple and consistent (but make sure you measure!)
  3. Communicate your success stories and lessons learned.
  4. Avoid the common trap of running sustainability actions separated from the core business of organising the sport event.
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