Environmental Sustainability at Putin’s 2014 Russian Olympics
Like other Canadians, I was excited about all the gold medals we won at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, especially in hockey, our national sport, and in giant slalom, a personal favourite of mine. It was an honour to be involved in the event’s development. After serving as a Strategic Advisor for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics, I was approached by Russian authorities for advice on how to minimize the 2014 Olympics’ effect on the environment.
This wasn’t a minor issue. Sochi is a popular choice for eco-tourism because of its biodiversity and breathtaking natural wonders, and the International Olympic Committee had concerns about the Sochi environment and potential environmental impacts from its role as Olympic host. It was a great opportunity to be able to work with the Sochi environmental team. Many plans and initiative were incorporated into the country’s preparations, which can be seen in detail on the Sochi 2014 website < http://www.sochi2014.com/en/development-harmony>. These changes included habitat restoration, animal resettlement, compensation of the Games’ carbon footprint, innovative waste management systems, and using only wood and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Many of the Olympic sponsors did their part as well, such as Dow Chemical, who provided a new technology and resources to keep the 2014 Olympics carbon neutral.
Companies such as Dow Chemical recognize the value of associating their brand with an environmentally sustainable Olympics. Of course promoting green practices and sustainability preserves the environment, a priceless goal, but it makes good business sense as well. Sustainable methods create less waste and are therefore more efficient. Furthermore, by getting involved, companies such as Dow show to the world that they’re industry leaders, and that their brand philosophy is about more than simply making a quick buck. It earns them respect, which can be invaluable.
The results of the Sochi 2014 sustainability sadly weren’t perfect. The Russian marketplace was not well-prepared for the demands of a green Olympics and many initiatives weren’t implemented as comprehensively as they could have been. However, it was a definite step in the right direction. Hopefully it will give Russians inspiration for further sustainability initiatives in the future. Certainly the Olympics’ marketing campaign frequently mentioned its use of FSC-approved materials and hopefully that idea has resonated with suppliers. Perhaps in the near future, people will look back on the 2014 Olympics and say that that was a catalyst for a new green movement in Russia.