Interview with David Stubbs, the former Head of Sustainability at London 2012

Posted by on abr 10, 2014 in Eventos Sostenibles, Sin categoría | 0 comments

Interview with David Stubbs, the former Head of Sustainability at London 2012

We had the opportunity to contact David Stubbs, the former Head of sustainability programme at London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we ask his opinion about sustainability at sporting events.

Here’s a short biography and his answers. Hope you find it useful!


David Stubbs is an internationally recognised leader in sustainability, environmental management and conservation biology.

Much of his career has centred on sustainability management of sport and major events. He led the award-winning sustainability programme of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, widely recognised as the most sustainable Games in modern Olympic history.

He now works as an independent sustainability expert advising organisations and major projects throughout the world. For more information see:

Why do you think it is worth to make a sustainable sporting event? Which benefits would you remark in doing so?

Sustainability is important for the whole of society and that includes sport.  Like any activity sport has to be done responsibly but what I suppose sets it apart from most other industries and activities is that sport is founded on values and codes of conduct – the rules of the game.  If people like and understand sport – and most people do – then they should be able to appreciate the values and purpose of sustainability.

Of course, modern sport often deviates from those traditional values through commercial pressures and that is when sustainability problems start to arise.  Large scale events and the construction of venues can have significant impacts on the environment and local communities.  In turn, such impacts can damage the reputation of the sport and lead to economic problems. That is why it is so important for those responsible for organising major sporting events to think about sustainability across everything they do.

Which actions would you highlight of a sustainability plan like the one you did for the London Olympic Games?

London 2012 was a story of transformation; we took a large, derelict  and badly polluted area of East London, cleaned it up and transformed it into a new sustainable neighbourhood complete with parklands, new housing, sports venues, better transport connections and other vital amenities and infrastructure.  In short we turned it into a nice place for living, working and enjoying.

We also focused on making the Games – the event – as sustainable as possible: low carbon, zero waste to landfill, inclusive, celebrating diversity, accessible and responsible in the way we managed resources and sourced the goods and services we required.

We achieved all this and many other benefits because we embedded sustainability principles from the very beginning and aligned them with our vision: “to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change”.


How were these actions notified?

I think the best summary of what we achieved is in the post-Games sustainability report.  This forms part of a vast on-line library of Learning Legacy documents which are freely available.

Could big sporting events be a great sustainability broadcast platform with their media coverage?

For me one of the key attractions of major sporting events is the opportunity to raise the profile of sustainability to new audiences on a vast scale. I think we demonstrated that pretty well at London 2012.

Of course you have to be realistic: the primary purpose is sport.  In these situations sustainability is only ever the back story.  But if you get it right it is a very important part of the overall story and will be especially so in the legacy phase which carries on long after the sporting action has finished.

Do you think that society and the world of sports welcome these actions?

Yes but not always.  There is still a long way to go for everyone in the world of sports to appreciate the opportunities that sustainability can offer.  But that’s true in all sectors, not just sport.

If you think that by their nature sports people are always looking to improve their performance – to do things better – they should be open to new ideas and methods.

To make a sustainable sporting event involves additional economic efforts, true or false? Why?

Totally false.  It is a common misperception that sustainability costs more.  I say that being unsustainable is what costs you more.

London 2012 really showed the business value of doing sustainability properly.  Our programme helped the Organising Committee achieve several tens of millions of Euros in additional sponsorship revenue, and we realised significant cost savings (again in the tens of millions of Euros) through our sustainable procurement programme and through Games-time resource efficiencies.

Do you think that ISO 20121 will assist in the implementation of sustainability on sporting events?

Definitely.  It is a management system standard specifically adapted for events.  If you follow the principles and procedures of the standard, your organisation will be well placed to achieve its sustainability targets.

In your opinion, what is missing to make sustainably all sporting events?

Leadership. It’s that simple.  If the boss is committed, then it will happen.  I mean mayors of cities, presidents of sports organisations, chief executives of organising committees and delivery bodies, politicians etc.  These are the clients.  If they stand up and say they want their sport, or their event, or their city to be sustainable, then there is everything else available to make it happen.

How do you think Brazil is going to face this challenge in the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games?

I’ve no idea about the World Cup but it is too late now to do anything about it – I just hope no more construction workers are killed or seriously hurt in the final dash to finish the venues.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games still have time and I know they have some great people who have been working hard on this theme for several years already. It won’t be easy – it never is – and really we won’t know the answer until some years afterwards, when we can evaluate the legacy and see it in context with other cities and countries.  But I hope we will have some impressive surprises from Rio 2016.

Thank you so much David for your time and for sharing your experience!  Unknown

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