Promoting Change

Ben Ainslie and Susie Thompson with ISO20121 certificate

Ben Ainslie and Susie Thompson with ISO20121 certificate

Of late and in no small part thanks to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, sustainability has become a regular feature of major events and sailing is no exception.

Sporting events are no strangers to being used as political platforms; take the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics or the human rights protests surrounding the 2008 Beijing Games as just two examples.

Some might argue that the Olympics were never designed as a political or human rights platform, but it is not surprising that in this modern era with large audiences, corporate support and media interest, not to mention a heightened expectation around corporate social responsibility, any major event – sporting or otherwise – is going to present a valuable opportunity to promote social change.

It may seem hypocritical for major events to promote environmental sustainability when their very existence encourages mass consumption, but not only can they seek to minimise the impact with good event management but also persuade their audiences to change behaviours.


The sailing world is leading the way with the Barcelona World Race becoming certified to ISO 20121 (an international standard for sustainable event management) and even the world governing body ISAF requiring its World Cup events to use the ISO 20121 framework.

The recent ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland was hosted at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, which The Green Blue helped become the world’s first organisation certified to ISO 20121.

In February this year, Ben Ainslie Racing was awarded the Olympic-inspired international standard too. BAR is the only sports team in the UK to achieve the certification across all its activities and sustainability in its widest form (encompassing environmental, social and financial benefits).

It has been integrated into every aspect of the team’s running – from its BREEAM Excellent standard new headquarters in Old Portsmouth to its role in the World Series America’s Cup in Portsmouth in July. With the America’s Cup attracting so much media and public attention, it is a huge opportunity to use the spotlight to inspire, engage and lead change.


In July, The Green Blue’s US equivalent Sailors for the Sea and their Portuguese counterpart teamed up with the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover Lisbon and helped the event achieve silver level in their Clean Regatta programme.

Practical initiatives on the ground were aimed at resource management with 97 waste and recycling bins around the race village for its 200,000 visitors, paper-free race results and 85 percent of single-use tableware eliminated amongst other objectives.


In August, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week is designating the first Saturday of the regatta as ‘Green Blue Day’ to raise awareness of sustainable boating amongst the 1,000 boats, 8,500 competitors and 100,000 spectators

Kickstarted in 2013 by Sunsail, Cowes’ Official Sailing Charter Partner (and also a current holder of the ISO 20121 standard), ‘Green Blue Day’ is fast becoming a regular feature in the regatta calendar. Created on the back of Sunsail’s partnership with The Green Blue, the day has been embraced by Cowes Week to promote its commitment to sustainable sailing and act as the perfect platform to raise awareness of marine stewardship to everyone involved.

With environmentally friendly products being given to skippers to use on board – from bilge socks to phosphate free detergent; promoting reusable water bottles at the water filling stations in Shepards Wharf and Cowes Yacht Haven; sharing top tips such as responsible blackwater disposal to keep bathing waters clean to ensuring a ‘nothing overboard’ policy – it is great to see sailing events of this profile, calibre and tradition taking the lead and doing their bit for the environment.


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