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News27 Sep 2021


World Athletics and Sport and Sustainability International join forces to lead sport industry air quality working group

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World Athletics and Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) today announced the creation of the Air Quality & Sport Working Group, a coalition of international sports organisations dedicated to solving air quality issues that impact global sport. The working group will be the first ‘lab’ to operate within the Sustainable Sport Lab, a programme powered by SandSI that is focused on exploring, experimenting, and engaging sustainable initiatives that advocates for high impact systematic change across the global sport sector.

This announcement aligns with the UN Environment Programme’s International Day for Clean Air for Blue Skies and its 2021 theme, ‘Healthy Air, Healthy Planet’, which was celebrated earlier this month. The day was established to focus attention on the impacts of air pollution on health, particularly during the global Covid-19 pandemic, and to facilitate solutions and urge action to clean our shared air.

Partnering with SandSI and World Athletics on this global initiative are the European Sports NGO (ENGSO), ENGSO Youth, Formula E and the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Poor air quality represents one of a number of growing environmental concerns impacting sports today. Working together, the participating organisations are committed to driving awareness about air quality issues, collaborating on resources, sharing knowledge and expertise, investing in research and coordinating with industry partners in an effort to collectively address and resolve these issues.

“We are excited to collaborate with this incredible group of organisations who share our common goal of addressing air quality issues facing sports and the world today,” said Geert Hendriks, SandSI Founding Director.

“We are pleased to host this newly formed group which will operate as part of the Sustainable Sport Lab, a SandSI programme that focuses on the innovation and development of resources designed to the use of sport for the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

“Air quality is one of six key pillars of the Sustainability Strategy we outlined in 2020, something that directly impacts the 1.4 billion people around the world who run regularly,” said Bob Ramsak, Head of Sustainability for World Athletics. “We recognise that the sports industry has an important role to play in advocating for improved air quality. Partnering with our peers from other sports allows us all to both raise awareness about the dangers posed by air pollution and to find solutions to air quality issues more quickly and efficiently.”

The impact air quality has on athletes, events, organisers and spectators has become a growing concern across the industry and across the globe in recent years. The Air Quality & Sport Working group recognises that the issue is larger than any on organisation and can only be addressed through industry-wide collaboration, commitment and determination.

Isabella Burczak, Advocacy and Development Manager at UCI, said: “As the world governing body for cycling, we are convinced that the increased use of the bicycle as an everyday tool is a key solution to reduce air pollution and congestion. At the same time, we recognise the impacts of poor air quality on our sport, our teams and our riders, and are thus committed to supporting the development of solutions to air quality issues faced by both the cycling family and many other sports, through this new collaboration.”

Hannah Brown, Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer at Formula E, said: “Contributing to improvement in air quality, particularly in urban environments, is a key priority for Formula E. Our partnership with SandSI and Air Quality & Sport Alliance is an important part of how we can maximise our contribution.”

Brown said that Formula E is committed to showcasing alternative energy solutions and clean transport technology in partnership with leading global brands who are focused on reducing air pollution and the impact of transport on the climate.

“We’re committed to sharing insight, learnings and best practice to support our common goals,” Brown added.

Stefan Bergh, President of ENGSO, said he too is eager to begin the partnership.

“Sport cannot be a healthy endeavour, if performed in a polluted environment. Through our work in grassroots sport, we are developing policies and tools that promote health, climate action, equality, inclusion, sustainability, integrity and more. Our aim is to contribute to a better quality of life, using grassroots sport as a tool.”

Founded in 2017, Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) is a Swiss association seeking to accelerate sustainability in and through sport, aligning its activities with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A global membership organisation, SandSI’s current membership includes sport and non-sport entities as well as individuals representing more than 45 countries across all continents.

The Sustainable Sport Lab (www.ssl.sport) is an international programme powered by SandSI that explores, experiments, and engages sustainable innovations to facilitate high-impact systematic change across the global sport sector and to foster collaboration among entities.

To learn more about this initiative, visit ssl.sport/airquality.

World Athletics