Shaun McCarthy clarifies media inaccuracies re stadium wrap procurement

February 2, 2012

There is a great deal of inaccurate reporting surrounding Meredith Alexander’s decision to quit the Commission. We were sad to see her go but respected her decision. However, her resignation has sparked a media flurry that largely failed to understand the Commission’s true role. We are not an apologist for Dow, LOCOG or any other company, but an independent body whose remit focuses solely on whether the London 2012 Games will deliver its commitments towards a sustainable games and legacy.

•   The media have reported Meredith as saying the Commission ‘publicly repeated Dow’s line that it bears no responsibility for Bhopal’. This is untrue: we have never made any kind of statement, supportive or otherwise, on Dow’s relationship to the Bhopal disaster. 

•   So what does the Commission do? We provide assurance over everything from employment in the host boroughs to the catering during Games-time. We analysed green energy choices, argued against the use of HFCs on the Olympic sites, and reviewed waste management plans. Our reports and reviews are not just passed around the Games organisers; they are publicly available for anyone to read, and we actively promote our recommendations. We’re also not afraid to call out organisers and sponsors when we have objective evidence to demonstrate that they are not living up to their sustainability commitments. But we do not set the standards or make the decisions. To put it simply: we are an assurance body, not a campaigning body and the final choices still rest with London 2012.

•   Our Assurance Framework has a procedure for emerging issues. We decided to use this when stakeholders including Amnesty International and Tessa Jowell raised concerns.  While it is beyond our remit to investigate Dow’s legal obligations with respect to Bhopal, we can, and did investigate whether LOCOG’s decision to select Dow as the stadium wrap supplier followed its own stated procedures for sustainable procurement and achieved the most sustainable outcome of the tenders on offer.

•   Our Commissioners play an extremely valuable role. However it has never been our policy to consult with every Commissioner about everything.  We engage Commissioners collectively to set our work program and priorities, and individually for their specialist knowledge on specific issues. As the wrap procurement was a matter of assuring that the most sustainable option was procured, I carried out the core investigations personally as I am the Commission’s procurement expert.  I sought input from Meredith Alexander as well as from another Commissioner with knowledge of both the Indian and English legal systems. Meredith’s advice was received, and I was able to confirm that the outcome of our investigation was supported by the second Commissioner.  While Meredith put forward some very valid views, some of these were not able to be accommodated within the terms of this Commission.  As it happens, a small minority of Commissioners subsequently expressed concerns about the way our conclusions had been presented, but the majority were supportive.

•   We found that Dow’s wrap was the most sustainable material on offer, but this does not mean we endorse any description of Dow as a sustainable organisation. We also found that LOCOG followed its agreed procedures when they selected Dow for the wrap but this does not mean, either, that we would endorse the use of these procedures in future. LOCOG followed accepted good industry practice, and we would argue strongly that industry good practice in this area is no longer good enough. The Commission hopes that the lessons learned as a result of London hosting the Games will represent a step change in how business will be done in the future.

•   The media has inaccurately described the Commission as an ‘Ethics Commission’ or an ‘Ethics Champion’. This is incorrect. However, this experience makes it clear that this ‘ethics champion’ role will be necessary and we have already advised that future Olympic and Paralympic Games incorporate new rules to ensure that sponsorship is inexorably linked to Olympic and Paralympic values and ethical behaviour. We hope that this recommendation is adopted and will be pushing to ensure that it is.

Shaun McCarthy

Chair, Commission for a Sustainable London 2012