The row about the decision by the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics to accept sponsorship from Dow Chemicals for the stadium wrap demonstrates that good intentions are no longer enough. As the Playfair 2012 campaign that the TUC helps run argues, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) needs to put ethics at the heart of the financial decision-making of the Olympic movement. People had hopes that the London Olympics would be the first ethical Olympics, and the TUC believes the organisers have done more than any previous organisers in that direction (disclosure: the TUC have signed Principles of Cooperation with LOCOG covering many ethical issues). But it is becoming clearer, as the opening ceremony comes closer, that they have not done enough. And with the Brazilian World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016 looming, we need to learn – and apply – the lessons of London 2012.
Campaigners – especially in India – are demanding that Dow take responsibility for the actions of the firm they bought, Union Carbide, in causing the terrible chemical disaster at Bhopal. The TUC has made clear to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) that we share these concerns. Recently Meredith Alexander, the director for supply chains and behaviour change at the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 and head of policy at Action Aid, resigned in protest. On Friday, CSL Chair Shaun McCarthy published a heartfelt statement which demonstrates the limites of the current approach.
CSL describes itself as “an independent body whose remit focuses solely on whether the London 2012 Games will deliver its commitments towards a sustainable games and legacy” – and as such, it felt that it didn’t have the power to reject the sponsorship deal with Dow. Their examination of the decision found that Dow’s plans for the stadium wrap were the most sustainable on offer, but that this in itself did not exonerate Dow and indeed reaised more questions than it answered:
“We found that Dow’s wrap was the most sustainable material on offer, but this does not mean we endorse any description of Dow as a sustainable organisation. We also found that LOCOG followed its agreed procedures when they selected Dow for the wrap but this does not mean, either, that we would endorse the use of these procedures in future. LOCOG followed accepted good industry practice, and we would argue strongly that industry good practice in this area is no longer good enough. The Commission hopes that the lessons learned as a result of London hosting the Games will represent a step change in how business will be done in the future.”
Shaun McCarthy’s conclusion is one we would totally endorse. He wrote:
“this experience makes it clear that [an] ‘ethics champion’ role will be necessary and we have already advised that future Olympic and Paralympic Games incorporate new rules to ensure that sponsorship is inexorably linked to Olympic and Paralympic values and ethical behaviour. We hope that this recommendation is adopted and will be pushing to ensure that it is.”