The man who sold the world

Shaun McCarthy

March 1, 2010   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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It could be said that the Corinthian Spirit sold her soul many years ago, that amateur elite sport has not existed for 30 years or more and that the Olympics these days are all about big money and sponsorship. How can the Games be sustainable if it is all about money?

The structure of London 2012 reinforces this. The organisation responsible for investment in facilities is a public body (ODA) and funded with public money, whereas the organisation responsible for staging the Games (LOCOG) is a government-owned private company required to raise from private sources all of the £2 billion needed to stage the Games; mostly television rights, ticket sales, sponsorship and licensing merchandise. Everything is for sale. Companies are invited to pay cash, provide services for free, or both, in return for various levels of brand recognition to a global TV audience. Doubters question how such a hard-headed commercial environment could possibly deliver sustainable outcomes.

Our most recent report on LOCOG’s procurement and commercial partnerships demonstrates that they are doing rather well. This starts to demonstrate that naked capitalism and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, and that profitable and sustainable solutions are there to be had for smart companies.

LOCOG has worked hard, ever since the bid, to make sustainability an integral part of the London 2012 brand; the appointment of our independent Commission helps to reinforce this commitment. To be associated with such a brand is attractive to sponsors who want to develop their green credentials and to offer high levels of sustainability. This starts to create a virtuous cycle of sustainability between partners and gives rise to some amazing deals. Examples such as the relationship with Adidas whom LOCOG trust to manage labour standards well, leading to a significant proportion of sponsorship and licensing revenue from this one supplier alone. The appearance of adiZones in each of the Host Boroughs to provide community sports facilities is a result of this relationship too. Another example would be the offer of low emission cars from BMW and the provision of adapted cars for disabled drivers for the first time in Olympic history. As a result of association with a sustainable London 2012, BT are carbon footprinting their contribution to communications infrastructure and services with a view to creating a new standard for the communications industry to identify and reduce its operational and embodied carbon emissions. This is ground-breaking work, inspired by the Games, and could lead to massive carbon (and cost) savings in this industry sector.

I believe that good procurement can act as the catalyst for sustainable development and that procurement/commercial teams can act as gatekeepers for sustainability in organisations such as LOCOG. We struggled with LOCOG last year to understand how they will fulfil this role but we are now convinced that they are getting it right. Sustainability is an integral element of procurement decisions and post-award management. Procurement professionals are being recruited for their capability in this area, provided with training and operating at an early stage of the procurement process where they can make a difference.

Of course there is still have a long way to go and the Commission will re-visit procurement well ahead of the Games but the current indications suggest that profit, big business and sustainability can be made to work together.

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