Sustainability report for the 2010 Olympics

Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) – The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) has released its first Sustainability Report, outlining the games’ environmental, social and economic impacts as well as related sustainability strategies. The report provides great detail on VANOC’s efforts, and will add significantly to the debate on how the games are being managed.

VANOC based its analysis on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the ‘gold standard’ for corporate sustainability reports. This was supported by the environmental management system model (ISO 14001) of the International Organization for Standardization, with additions for economic and social interests.

The Vancouver games have expanded on an Olympic movement towards environmental and social responsibility by making sustainability a key performance indicatory for the entire planning process. VANOC reports that our six sustainability performance objectives have been incorporated into the strategic business planning process: Accountability; Environmental Stewardship and Impact Reduction; Social Inclusion and Responsibility; Aboriginal Participation and Collaboration; Economic Benefits; and Sport for Sustainable Living.

The Committee has mostly been under fire for the social impacts of the games, as many are concerned that the event will lead to an increase in rental rates and displacement of low income housing. VANOC and the City of Vancouver are hoping to mitigate these potential effects through careful planning and with support from the province, which recently committed to purchase 10 Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver for affordable housing.

The most publicized environmental aspect of the games thus far has been the re-routing of the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler through the Eagleridge Bluffs. Though VANOC acknowledges that such projects are related to the Olympics, it does not have any direct involvement in their management. The report therefore focuses on activities such as venue construction, event planning, and games operation, areas in which significant steps have been taken to ensure environmental sustainability.

Managing for a ‘green games’

VANOC’s environmental actions can be generally divided into the following:

  • Designing for less through smart site selection, venue design and procurement

  • Operating “eco-efficiently” by minimizing consumption of energy, water and materials and minimizing waste and emissions

  • Rehabilitating or offsetting negative impacts that cannot be avoided

All venues are being designed with guidance from the LEED ‘Silver’ green building rating system, and partners such as the City of Vancouver also intend to pursue formal certification for venue construction. VANOC’s new head office in east Vancouver has been renovated to incorporate LEED Commercial Interior design features, such as natural and energy-efficient lighting and an improved heating/ventilation/air conditioning system.

Sporting venues have been designed to minimize impact on the environment, particularly those in mountain habitats. The cross-country area at Whistler was redesigned several times to lessen its impacts and increase the amount of protected area; an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) was developed for protecting tailed frogs and their in-stream habitat; and the popular Baden Powell trail in Cypress bowl was relocated from a gravel road to a forested area with help from a local group to make room for the alpine freestyle venue.

Seeking ‘carbon neutrality

VANOC intends the games to be ‘carbon-neutral’, following in the footsteps of the Torino 2006 organizers. This means sourcing venue energy from renewable sources, procuring a low emissions vehicle fleet from GM, and taking other steps to reduce GHG emissions at the source, while committing to offset unavoidable emissions through carbon credits or offset projects.

The offset investment program is still in development. Emissions must first be measured, and VANOC believes the GHG impact of the Games should arguably include the Paralympic Games period and cover international travel by athletes, officials, spectators and workforce, as well as direct GHGs. Following that, credible and verifiable offset projects must be identified from a variety of options before investments can be made.

One challenge noted by organizers is that the supply of biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol blends) is currently limited in the Vancouver and Whistler region, and they are uncertain how much will be available by 2010.

Further energy and climate change steps for the upcoming year include:

  • Refining the transportation and energy strategies to reduce energy usage and maximize use of renewables

  • Designing a strategy to fully offset Games-based emissions

  • Designing a program to showcase business innovation and tell the “energy story” of the Games through integrated design and zero emission, and other environmental technologies

  • Design a program to create greater awareness and commitment to action on climate change from individuals and organizations

Zero Waste goal

VANOC, along with the host communities of Whistler and Vancouver and many surrounding communities in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Greater Vancouver Regional District, has embraced a “Zero Waste” challenge. This requires planning to minimize and divert as much waste as possible from landfills during venue construction, Games planning and operations, and during the post-Games decommissioning phases

In priority, actions to target zero waste focus on:

  • Source reduction — minimizing material purchases and packaging

  • Reuse — identifying post-Games use for materials and equipment

  • Recycling (including composting)

  • Waste to energy (electricity generation from waste incineration)

  • Reduce disposal to landfills

So far, VANOC reports it has sent zero waste to landfill. In particular, the waste loop was ‘closed’ on wood waste produced by land clearing for the Nordic venue in Whistler: wood was chipped, composted, or returned to the hillside where it came from to reuse 100% of the wood waste.

With current plans, VANOC forecasts that 85 percent of waste from the games will be diverted, so the group will engage partners and stakeholders to determine how the extra 15 percent can be diverted.

Other environmental, social and economic sustainability aspects of the games are included in VANOC’s Sustainability Report 2005-06, available here.

Sustainability Reporting Consultation

VANOC has retained Eclipse Environmental Consulting Ltd. to facilitate stakeholder engagement on the Sustainability report. An online survey is available until June 30, 2007.

The goal of the consultation is to ensure that VANOC’s Sustainability Reports are valuable tools to promote accountability to stakeholders regarding its sustainability commitments. This consultation does not focus directly on VANOC’s sustainability performance (its activities and actions), but rather on how effectively it reports its performance.

For example, VANOC wants to know if you find the Sustainability Report 2005-6 relevant, complete, accurate and useful. Views will be used to improve future reports.

Questions on the consultation can be directed to Eclipse Environmental Consulting at or by telephone at 604 329-3153.

For More Information: Source Document

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