By Phil Osterholt
Amidst a sea of snotty professional athletes (who probably think sustainability means driving a luxury sedan twice a week rather than a tricked-out, over-sized SUV) it's refreshing every two years when the Olympic Games occur and remind us just how "good" the world of sports, and the world in general, can be.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an organization that has earned the respect of the world. And like the straight-A student who just haaaaadto put in more community service hours than everyone else, the IOC reminded us of its integrity during the 9th World Conference on Sport and the Environment last week in Doha, Qatar.
Oh, that question you're asking yourself, "What in the heck is the World Conference on Sport and the Environment?" needs to be replaced. "Why in the heck ..." is better suited. The answer: "The IOC does this to lead by example."
There was no international agency that tapped the IOC on the shoulder and said, "Eh-hem, to comply with XYZ regulations, you shall participate in a biennial meeting to establish progressive means in which the world of sports may demonstrate sustainability."
Well, let's not be too Polyanna about this. It’s probably not completely “just because,” as there are other "business" reasons for the IOC doing this sort of thing, mainly to maintain that sterling reputation and to generate some ink from time to time (happy to oblige).
In general though, it appears that this type of conference is essentially put on to benefit mankind.
The roots of the World Conference on Sport and the Environment are based in the 1992 "Earth Summit" held by the United Nations. The meeting prompted the IOC to consider the environment in its actions, and in 1994, the IOC made "the environment" the third pillar of the Olympic Movement while creating a branch of the organization to handle environmental issues. The IOC then teamed with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to host the first biennial World Conference on Sport and the Environment in 1995 in Switzerland.
And where has the IOC gotten to now? Let's look at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, for which the Olympic Village went on to be honored with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating...
Reduce: they warmed buildings using heat generated from raw sewage, lowering the need for traditional energy sources.
Re-use: they utilized wood from trees that had been killed by pine beetles in construction of the Richmond Olympic Oval [picture above], and collected rainwater from roofs to flush the toilets.
Recycle: they turned the venue into a community center upon completion of the Games.
Again, these were not things they had to, but things they wanted to do. When the eyes of the world are upon you, that's the right thing to do.
So whose eyes are on you? You’re following your EHS regulations and playing by the rules, but what little things could you, or your company, do to take it to the next level?
Maybe your company can reduce its paper output by converting its utility bills to paperless, or by offering direct deposit (it's not just abut the paper with direct deposit, but also eliminating employee's superfulous trips to their respective financial institutions).
Those are itsy bitsy teeny tiny things, and are "tired" thoughts at this point. In other words, those aren't "leadership" actions, but "follow-the-herd" actions. That’s not to say that the little things help change our world too, but leadership is about doing something huge.
And if "just because" doesn't float your boat ... try making an innovative change in the right direction, and see what it does for your "image."
And, again, think about whose eyes are on you.
If you’d like to increase the number of those who know of your good deeds, feel free to brag about something you've already done by leaving a comment below. It’s not just bragging, it’s sharing ideas so others can follow.