Commission statement on BP Target Neutral programme at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

March 19, 2013

The Commission has completed its assurance of BP’s Target Neutral Programme.

BP was appointed by London 2012 as the Olympic and Paralympic Games offset partner for official travel. In addition, BP established a voluntary programme which offered to offset travel related carbon emissions for spectators, London 2012 corporate partners and the wider ‘Olympic family’ such as athletes and country delegations.

The Target Neutral Programme:

“…is an initiative that provides information and tools primarily through a website ( but also other channels such as Facebook, to support the reduction of carbon footprints. The information and tools are structured around three topic areas: ‘Reduce, Replace and Neutralise’. Participants are encouraged to reduce their travel emissions, for example by replacing car journeys with public transport, by driving ‘smarter’, driving less and maintaining vehicles better. Participants are also encouraged to consider new fuel-efficient vehicle technologies such as high efficiency engines and improved tyres, or products that may support vehicle efficiency such as “BP Ultimate Fuels” and BP’s “Castrol” lubricants. The ‘Neutralise’ stream encourages participants to offset the carbon emissions from unavoidable travel, and provides the facility to offset”[1]

The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (‘CSL’ / ‘The Commission’) decided to conduct assurance of the Target Neutral Programme in order to determine the robustness, efficacy and success of the programme in offsetting travel related carbon emissions and in influencing participants’ travel and offsetting behaviour.  To assist in its assurance CSL commissioned consultants Point Carbon to carry out a technical assessment of the Programme’s carbon offsets and the behaviour change elements.

The Commission is satisfied with the robustness of the Target Neutral Programme in respect of its treatment of carbon offsets.  The review found that BP has established a carbon offset programme which is innovative and which surpasses best available standards for the voluntary offset market in some respects, and met best available standards in all other respects.

The Commission believes that BP carefully researched and established a programme that could influence spectator and partner behaviour to make less carbon intensive travel choices and to consider offsetting their journeys to and from the Games. However, there is no evidence yet that longer term behaviour change has occurred although BP has put in place measures to engage participants over time through its ongoing carbon offsetting programme.

The Programme offset 99,027 tonnes of carbon and 501,412 journeys, which we estimate to be  between 3.88% and 7.76% of all spectator journeys[2] and 20% of the travel-related carbon originally estimated in LOCOG’s initial carbon footprint for the games[3].  This required over 500,000 people to actively engage with Park-based offset activities in order for their offset to be recognised under the programme which was a significant achievement. While the carbon offset was within expectations, the voluntary nature of the scheme meant that this was only a small proportion of all carbon emissions linked to travel for the Games.

The Commission recognises that offsetting carbon related to travel for major events can play an important role in reducing their overall carbon impact.  Previously we have been critical of moves to integrated carbon offsetting as a fundamental management strategy for addressing carbon as part of the London 2012 programme, as this can reduce the priority placed on reducing carbon impacts at source in favour of offsetting.  However, we supported the use of a travel related carbon offsetting strategy given that travel is largely unavoidable for international visitors.

As the Target Neutral Programme was voluntary, a key factor in the level of take-up for the programme was its visibility to spectators and partners and the level of public discourse and therefore awareness about climate change and carbon emission issues at the time.  The Commission has previously commented on the high level of press interest in local sustainability issues during the 2012 Games.  A notable exception to this was the general lack of media interest in global sustainability issues such as climate change or resource shortages (for example, water, or materials).  This may have played a part in the modest uptake by spectators of the offer to have their travel carbon offset.

The Commission believes that the BP Target Neutral Programme experience offers powerful lessons for future major events considering offsetting travel related carbon emissions and has a number of observations for future major event organisers.  The high standard of BP’s carbon offset programme sets a new bar for the major events industry and BP should be congratulated for its programme design in this regard.

It will be important for future events to try and establish a baseline of changed consumer preferences resulting from engagement in travel offset programmes so that learnings can be gathered about what works best and why during and after the programme has been implemented.  Early engagement by event organisers to determine a clear goal for a travel related carbon offset programme will be crucial in this regard. Defining parameters including behaviour change will assist delivery partners in designing a programme which best incentivises involvement, and which measures behaviour related impact.

Notwithstanding the very successful Park activation activity operated by BP, serious consideration should be given to ways in which spectators’ engagement with the programme could be even further strengthened, for example, by increasing the attractiveness of programme incentives or by stronger ties between event organisers and offset delivery partners.  We are aware that BP sought opportunities for greater connection with ticket holders but not all of these opportunities were given the go-ahead by games organisers.

There is merit in a globally standardised approach to calculating emissions from travel for international events. BP’s methodology would make an appropriate basis for this approach.  In communicating how an individual journey has been calculated, future programme design could optimize further the interest of the consumer and their engagement with ways to reduce emissions at source.


[2] This estimate is based on the total journeys being equivalent to between 50 and 100% of tickets sold.  The total number of spectator journeys is not known as some spectators received more than one ticket  for events on the same day.