World Sailing: Trailblazers for Sustainability in Sport

By Alex Beck | Apr 14, 2021 3:12:38 PM

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World Sailing: Trailblazers for Sustainability in Sport

By Alex Beck | Apr 14, 2021 3:12:38 PM

This article is based primarily on a talk to Sport Works by World Sailing's Head of Sustainability Dan Reading, explaining how environmental protection and sustainable innovation became a core priority for the federation. In 2020, World Sailing became the first winner of the GAISF Sustainability Award for its strategy, Agenda 2030. Here we examine that strategy in detail.

You can watch the full video here.

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When did the sustainability efforts begin?

A re-branding from ISAF to World Sailing introduced a new focus on sustainability, under the tagline 'Sport, nature and technology in powerful harmony'. Of course, the reliance of sailing on the environment is major. Part of this re-branding brought a new mission "to create a tangible sustainability programme that maximises the positive effect that the sailing community can have on our environment". From the outset, sustainability was integrated into the heart of World Sailing's purpose.

The work began with a sustainability commission of 8 experts around the world, in areas such as academia and sport. The commission started with a blank canvas - what can be done in terms of sustainability within the sport?

How did World Sailing involve a wider range of stakeholders?

The commission produced a series of targets. An expansive consultation over 4 months asked as many members and stakeholders as possible about the targets and when / how they can be achieved. This generated great engagement (responses came from around 75 countries, and overall support for all targets sat at 87% from the very outset), creating early buy-in from the general sailing population. Unanimous support from the membership officially came in May 2018.

Other sponsors and partners were crucial. Strategic partnerships with the IOC, United Nations and International Maritime Organisation, among others, brought in expertise, and partnerships with universities such as Bristol, Exeter and Shenandoah brought in academic knowledge in engineering and sustainability. This collaboration underpinned World Sailing's approach.

Sailing 1What did the strategy entail?

The strategy was guided by 12 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: the bedrock of any sustainability strategy. World Sailing's aims include being carbon neutral by 2022, 20% on-board energy generation on new big boats by 2024, and the development of a hydrogen support boat, also by 2024. World Sailing's Ocean Heroes campaign aims to turn the tide on plastic use and the effect it has on our seas.

A World Sailing Sustainability Education Programme was also a huge part of their work, being translated into 13 languages and proving particularly popular during lockdown when children have not been able to get out onto the water.

How were these sustainability efforts measured?

In broad terms, ISO 20121 - the international standard for sustainable event management - underpinned the entire strategy, using the standard to continually improve events. Targets were set for the upcoming decade with milestones set along the way, with work plans created to deliver those milestones and work towards the long-term target.

On a more local level, World Sailing put together a sustainability self-assessment tool for sailing clubs to fill in, across areas such as governance, drainage, water and plastic use. This would generate an overall score for the club as a rating of their sustainability efforts. World Sailing then produced guidance and best practice showing what other clubs are doing to achieve better sustainability.

An example to be followed

World Sailing's efforts are far-reaching, impressive and, in the words of IOC President Thomas Bach, a "benchmark project" for sustainability efforts in the industry. It has been fascinating to read and hear all about their strategy and we look forward to learning more about how they chart a course into the future for the sports and events industry.

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WeTrack's upcoming sustainability module

Learn more about WeTrack's new sustainability tracking software, which is in development. This module will allow organisations to set targets, track indicators and hit achievements in sustainability, social responsibility, diversity, legacy and more.


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