What We Can Learn From Tokyo 2020

Every four years, one city carries the weight of the sporting world as it braces to host the historic Olympic Games. Aside from facilitating over 300 sporting events, the host must ensure it delivers on a number of global expectations – with an increasingly close eye on sustainability. 

This year, however, Tokyo was called upon to bear a heavier torch than ever. Yet in spite of a year’s postponement and strict COVID-19 regulations, they managed to pull off the first-ever carbon negative Olympics. Let’s take a look at how they did it. 

The Games’ 5 sustainable themes

Tokyo 2020 mapped out five main sustainable themes. They all fell under the banner ‘Be Better, Together’:

  1. Climate change  Moving ‘Towards Zero Carbon’ with maximum energy savings and use of renewable energy
  2. Resource Management – Achieving ‘Zero Wasting’ throughout the supply chain, underpinned with the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle 
  3. Natural Environment and Biodiversity  Ensuring a comfortable urban environment existing in harmony with nature, following the mantra ‘City within Nature/Nature within the City’
  4. Human Rights, Labour and Fair Business Practices – Incorporating diversity and inclusion, following the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and ensuring fair business practices free of corruption and anti-competition
  5. Involvement, Cooperation and Communications – Creating a level playing field for all through participation and cooperation

Realising carbon neutral

The logistical gap left by the absence of physical spectators was filled by an entirely different challenge: ensuring a COVID-safe environment for the tens of thousands of participants, media and other associated personnel. And still Tokyo set the sustainability bar higher than it’s ever been.

Ingenuity and attention to the finer details was the key, epitomised through (among many other things) cardboard beds with recyclable mattresses, authentic medals casted from discarded mobile phones, and an Olympic torch produced with aluminium waste from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts.

Along with zero-emission transport and solar-produced hydrogen energy, Tokyo also purchased 150% of the required carbon credits to offset other unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

Key takeaways: Your lessons from the Games

Tokyo 2020 hasn’t just provided food for thought – it has set the ultimate precedent for the future. Here’s what we’ve learnt:

  • Carbon neutral is possible even for the largest of events – It begins with widening the lens around what’s achievable and working out what carbon neutral means to you. 
  • Tokyo went above and beyond expectations, even amidst strict pandemic regulations – With the right planning and conviction, the future is green 
  • Legacy is key – And, in this case, it’s not about learning from mistakes, but absorbing Tokyo’s success and building upon it

At emc3, our sustainability efforts start from within. We approach events with the right values, intentions and interactions, which lays the foundation for action – from sustainable venue sourcing to waste reduction and everything in between. To learn more about our green event credentials, get in touch with us today.