Surrey, 08 December 2014 –

After a year of extensive consultations it was all over in a single day: Monday 8 December 2014 saw the conclusion and unanimous endorsement of IOC President Bach’s strategic review – Agenda 2020.

Already the cynical among the sports media hacks (i.e. most of them) are trying to ‘out-underwhelm’ each other by making out the reforms are not really radical after all. Or that it’s a lot of warm words that won’t be matched by action. I beg to differ. This has been a quantum leap forward on many fronts.

Who would have expected such an established and traditional organisation as the IOC to adopt a line on non-discrimination based on sexual orientation that goes further than the UN Declaration of Human Rights, or to adopt a suite of recommendations on strengthening ethics and transparency? They also voted in stronger measures to protect and promote ‘clean’ athletes, and to intensify the fight against doping.

Any new President of an organisation likes to make a mark, but this has been a thorough and far reaching examination of what the Olympic Movement is all about.

For me the highlight has been to see the confirmed emphasis on sustainability both with respect to the Games and the IOC’s own corporate activities. The specific recommendations adopted were:

Recommendation 4

Include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games

The IOC to take a more proactive position and leadership role with regard to sustainability and ensure that it is included in all aspects of the planning and staging of the Games

Recommendation 5

Include sustainability within the Olympic Movement’s daily operations

The IOC to embrace sustainability principles

As a member of the Sustainability and Legacy Working Group I am proud to have played a part in formulating these recommendations and their underlying details but this has only come about because of the collective effort of so make stakeholders from across the Olympic Movement, and externally. It’s nice to see that so many people cared, and that they shared common views of the way forward.

Of course there is a lot of detail required to turn these recommendations into tangible actions – and there will be hard choices along the way – but the momentum is there and this is a clear and publicly stated commitment. To think that only two decades ago sustainability was not on anyone’s agenda and the notion of environmental responsibility had only just crept into Olympic circles. This has been a rapid evolution.

It is also an object lesson for any major organisation seeking to embark on a sustainability journey. One of the first rules when undertaking such a mission is to find out what your stakeholders think and want – what we call in sustainability jargon a ‘materiality assessment’.

The IOC has done that in spades. And with the unanimous voting by its members at this week’s special Session in Monaco, the IOC has now achieved the legitimacy and authority for its Agenda 2020 recommendations to drive real change.