Over the weekend the Guardian ran a critical piece about fears London 2012 will not be able to meet sustainability targets for the upcoming Olympic Games:
London Olympics pollution on course to land hefty fine from IOC
So why is it a good sign to see these headlines? Although this kind of coverage might upset some, there's a few reasons to see this as positive:
Objectives for sustainability are being integrated into event planning. Instead of being critical of the potential to achieve the targets before the event has been executed, let's pause and consider how progressive it is to even have an event sustainability strategy with publicly stated objectives and requirements for transparent reporting. This unto itself still appears rare.
Targets are challenging. And so they should be! Furthermore, if air pollution reduction was easy to achieve would we be criticizing targets as too weak? It's possible. Without making targets challenging how can we make ambitious progress? Even if we only get part way there, is it not still a forward step, even if just shy of the goal?
Performance is tied to incentives. Here access to revenues provides a clear motivator to make a serious attempt to achieve targets. This shows a clear business motivator to be sustainable, moving beyond the sometimes touchy-feely motivators of 'doing the right thing' that we often rely on.
The philosophy is doing less harm and doing better. In a recent post GMIC Canada talks about the desire to create an 'embossed relief' from events, drawing attention to the fact events should do less harm and also make things better. The exciting thing about these air pollution targets it they actually enable this to occur. Targets are aimed at developing programs that improve the situation. Proof events can be catalysts for more sustainable cities. Imagine that: our industry as champion of the environment, not a burden on it.
Still doubtful? Check out a response to the article by David Stubbs, head of sustainability at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, including a link to their latest report of progress. Yes: progress!
It's an unfortunate phenomenon that those organizations that hang out their sustainability shingle are often more the target of criticism than other groups that fail to plan for or disclose sustainability targets. When this happens it can seem those who try have the most at stake to lose, very publicly. It's a shame that the intention to 'go farther and be better' sometimes gets overshadowed by 'we're sorry, but that's not far or good enough'.
And let's not forget - the race is still being run. We won't know how well sustainability targets will be met until the Games themselves are done.
So in the lead up to the Games I'm going to get behind the home team, cheer their event sustainability targets and hope they can continue to push through to improve how we all do what we do. Go Team London 2012!