A Retrospective on the 2018 USA Special Olympics Games

It was great to see Lew Blaustein’s GreenSportsBlog post today that tells the story of our work to bring sustainability for the first time ever to a Special Olympics USA Games last July. It’s a nice prompt to share some lessons learned, now that the adrenaline rush of the Games is behind us. For this blog, I interviewed Tim Reeve to share some of his reflections.

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Sustainability Impact Report was released last December. It shares the sustainability vision and achievements of this incredible 11 day event that brought over a hundred thousand people to Seattle to cheer on athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID). The report showcases the thoughtful and integrated approach to sustainability that amplified the social goals of the Special Olympics as well as reduced its environmental footprint. We were particularly impressed with how the Games hardwired inclusion into its operations and procurement by providing training and work opportunities and hosting a Job Fair for athletes and others with ID.

The biggest lesson learned for the organizing team was to reach out to stakeholders early to build a relationship and enlist them in the in the Sustainability Program. According to Tim Reeve, “The Special Olympics is a natural platform for progressive brands. The trick to being successful is to build the sustainability brand into the DNA of the event early on in the process, so sponsors see the opportunities to showcase their sustainability performance.” In Tim’s experience, partners and Sponsors are looking for platforms that allow them to communicate positive messages about their brand and their social purpose. Many are willing to contribute financial and technical resources to help the Games’ Organizing Committee activate, implement, and expand their sustainability goals. At the 2018 USA Games, both Coca Cola and SourceAmerica delivered major social impact in providing employment opportunities for individuals with ID at the Games and promoting inclusive hiring through the Job Fair.

Finally, encouraging a focus on responsible sourcing by the Games’ Organizing Committee, partners and sponsors can make a huge impact on the overall sustainability of the event. “Engage vendors and suppliers as early as possible on your sustainability goals and get some firm commitments,” Tim advises. “Planning for sustainability too late in the Games’ cycle means lost opportunities with sponsors, suppliers, staff, and volunteers.”

Reeve Consulting is a sustainability strategy firm that has worked with a wide variety of organizations to design and implement sustainable procurement strategies and programs, including the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Canada Winter Games and the recent 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. We help our clients create winning Sustainability Strategies with clear impact goals and sourcing strategy that brings on side the creative solutions and full potential of their supply chain partners.