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Alpine World Championships in Åre sets standard for sustainability

The World Championships in Åre 2019 was the first Alpine World Championship to be certified for sustainability. The sustainability issue was actively worked on prior to the World Championships, which led to RISE being able to certify the event. Hopefully more events will jump of the back of Åre, which set a high standard for the world championships.

By realising as sustainable championships as possible. It was the ambitious goal of Åre 2019, and work started as early as two years before the championship. RISE's auditors then started to investigate how far the event had come in its sustainability work, and how far it had left for a certification.

Not only environmental sustainability

Sustainability applied not only to environmental issues, but social and economic sustainability were also included in this case. Some of the targets set were to carry out a fossil-free event, that half of all waste would be reused or recycled, and seventy per cent of all transport would be sustainable.

In October, RISE's auditors were in place in Åre to perform the actual certification audit. With the results compiled, the auditors were able to issue certification according to ISO 20121, the international standard for sustainable events.

“Besides examining documentation, prior to the event we went through the activities and met with representatives of all parts of the organisation. They had done their homework and were well prepared, and when some discrepancies were rectified we could take the decision to issue the certificate,” says Sophia Engström, audit manager at RISE.

Åre 2019 wants to be a model

When the competitions were in full progress, the auditors were back on the site to follow up on how well the action plans were implemented, and how the sustainability work progressed in reality. As it turned out, very well, and now the hope is that Åre 2019 can become a model for upcoming major events.

“I think the big international organisations behind e.g. the World Championships in Åre, will inherit all the things that the organisers behind this event have done, and their idea is to share this with others in the world of sport,” says Sophia Engström.

The hope is that the sustainability approach here causes ripples in the waters of society as whole, for example, through the 1400 volunteers who have gained an insight into the issues, and all the visitors who can potentially spread the message further.

Make a difference in the long run

To certify a World Championship in terms of sustainability also sends signals that can make a big difference in the long term.

“The certification is a clear step towards a more conscious, sustainable society, I am convinced of this. Everyone needs to join in and do their share in order to save our planet. A clear vision of the organisation has been to leave a legacy for upcoming events, and it has already been generous in sharing its experiences,” says Sophia Engström.

Even the organisers see a great value in having accumulated knowledge that in the future can benefit other events.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved, especially in the area of fossil-free transport and electricity production. We are the first event to try to be fossil fuel-free and we have learned a lot, also about the limits of what is possible,” says Riikka Rakic, who was responsible for sustainability at Åre 2019.

The Swedish Sports Confederation wants to be involved and take responsibility

There were also representatives from the Swedish Sports Confederation on site in Åre to study the sustainability work in particular. Currently the Swedish sports movement has more than three million members, and is an important player in society.

“That's why we want to be involved and take our responsibility. With our base we have a great opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable world. This applies to everything from our own organisation, to the association to the major international championships,” says Leif Johansson,Swedish Sports Confederation.

The Confederation sees sustainability certifications as a prerequisite for creating more sustainable events in the future, and a way to get everyone involved to start thinking more sustainably. For many years, the sporting movement has been working, in particular, with social sustainability in the form of inclusion, participation, health and education, but it may not have called it sustainability. 

“Work on sustainable sporting events and the creation of tools and support in this work are well underway. The Swedish Sports Confederation as umbrella organisation for the collected sports movement has now begun to take a holistic approach to the sustainability issue for the sporting movement, which also includes ecological and economic sustainability,” adds Leif Johansson