Last month, we took another step towards improving the sustainability of the Games by publishing the first edition of our Carbon Report, containing the estimated carbon footprint (CO2eq) for emissions generated by the Games. But why is this a concern?
This is an important question, since we are dealing with climate change that affects the day-to-day lives of each one of the planet’s inhabitants. And at this stage in the game, every step taken is crucial in improving this critical situation and guaranteeing a future for all of us.
As Organising Committee workers, we were not just concerned with doing our bit. We also wanted to take others along with us, partners, suppliers, everyone. Like a good match, this had to be a question of teamwork.
So we adopted the so-called ‘iceberg principle’, thinking beyond merely the visible aspects. Rather than solely considering the consequences, we needed to understand and act on the causes. Where do these emissions come from? What can be done to prevent them? And the most important question: how can we make this a lasting legacy?
Outlining a simple strategy, we based our actions on three pillars: knowledge, reduction and offsetting. For the first, we underlined our commitment to estimating our carbon footprint for the Rio 2016 Games, leaving efforts to cut emissions to one side. We arrived at a total emissions figure of 3.6 million tonnes of carbon equivalent. To give you some idea, this is equivalent to the emissions resulting from the use of 32 million mobile phones for a year!
The estimate was calculated by two independent companies, based on a thorough investigation covering the staging of the Games, building the facilities, city infrastructure and emissions generated by spectators travelling to the city, finding accommodation, eating and drinking, and arriving to watch the competitions.
We insisted on a thorough study. For instance, to calculate the emissions resulting from the steak that an athlete eats at the Olympic Village restaurant, we examined the entire life-cycle of the process, ranging from livestock practices, transport, production, packaging, through to the final destination.
In terms of reducing emissions, we already know that this is fundamentally a question of good planning. We need to affirm that we are not doing anything unnecessary and are avoiding waste wherever possible. We examined all our operations based on an alternative scenario in which we could substitute or optimise everything. This does not mean complicating an already difficult task. Quite the opposite! The simplest solution can be the best in this case. For instance, in our licensed products, we noticed that simply replacing one of the fabrics would significantly reduce our footprint and cut costs. That is why the requirement for sustainability is a fundamental part of all the Organising Committee’s purchasing policy.
To offset our emissions, we also need support from our partners. We have a partnership with DOW for technology-based offsetting – in other words, we will create opportunities for new low-carbon technologies to be adopted in various sectors of the Brazilian economy, improving various processes and thereby preventing fresh emissions. This is not a modest objective. It means that by 2016 we will have offset two million tonnes of carbon equivalent.
Furthermore, the State government of Rio de Janeiro is also focusing on offsetting achieved by restoring the Atlantic Forest biome. Their objective is to offset 1.6 million tonnes of CO2, and the good news is that we are already half way there!
We will soon be launching a new sustainability website to offer some enlightenment on this subject. With partners, suppliers and the community playing in the same team, we are sure that we can take gold and become low-carbon champions!