Tokyo Olympics in danger of failing to be sustainable

Posted on 20 January 2020

GLAND, Switzerland (20 January, 2020) - With little more than six months before the start of one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Tokyo Olympics, WWF is raising serious questions about its sustainability. 

WWF-Japan CEO Ron Tsutsui, said: “The Tokyo Olympic Games Guide on Sustainable Sourcing clearly sets out the objective of making the event at the ‘forefront’ in the field of sustainability [1], and yet, as things presently stand, the Tokyo Olympics are lagging far behind. The Committee working on the sourcing protocols for commodities like timber, fishery products, paper and palm oil [2] has finalised standards that are far below the global best practice and inappropriate for a global event such as the Olympics”.

Tsutsui said it was deeply concerning that the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), produced protocols that fell far below globally accepted sustainability standards. The Committee also showed little regard for the expert advice they sought from the Working Group they set up to assist in developing world class protocols. “As an active member of the Working Group and as an environmental organization committed to protecting our natural world, we felt we had no choice but to write to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to raise our serious concerns,” said Tsutsui.

The WWF letter requests the IOC to:

  • Instruct the TOCOG to disclose the procurement results [3]. Specifically, the origins and ratios of certified products with a breakdown of individual certificates to be disclosed for all the commodities procured for the Tokyo Olympic Games;
  • Conduct an external review on TOCOG’s Sourcing Codes and its performance in sustainable sourcing, and to publish a report on this by 31 December 2020.

“As a host country of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan is responsible for sourcing and consuming products in a sustainable way. If the Tokyo Olympics fails to lead sustainable sourcing, how can it lead future Olympics or leave a legacy for Japanese society to transform to be more sustainable?” said Tsutsui.

WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini supports the assertions of WWF-Japan and said: “The planet is under threat as never before and people, particularly youth, are worried about the catastrophic impacts of human activities on our planet. Around the world people are speaking up and demanding that we address the twin planetary emergencies of climate change and nature loss.

“High profile events like the Olympic Games now have the opportunity, and duty, to lead and be truly sustainable, becoming an inspiration for other events and the millions of people watching. At this critical time for the planet and with the world watching, the 2020 Olympic Games need to implement the most ambitious and transformational sustainable practices across everything they do.” 


For further information and interviews: 

Notes for editors:

  1. The Committee working on the Sustainable Sourcing Codes for the Olympics and Paralympics is called the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games or TOCOG
  2. [1] Olympic Games Guide on Sustainable Sourcing (April 2019) (page 15)
  3. [2] Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber
  4. Sustainable Sourcing Code for Fishery Products 
  5. Sustainable Sourcing Code for Paper
  6. Sourcing Code for the Promotion of Sustainable Palm Oil
  7. [3] Specifically, the origin and volume of all products including timber used to construct all the facilities of the Tokyo 2020 Games, as well as the ratios of certified products, and a breakdown for each certificate including non-certification.
  8. Official letter to IOC
Tokyo, Japan will play host to the 2020 Olympic Games
© Michel Gunther / WWF