Is this the end, or just the beginning?

28 March 2013
Following the launch of our last report, Making a Difference we had a bit of a party to celebrate the work of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 over the past seven years, before we finally close down at the end of this month. Around 100 people turned up but we could have filled the room many times over with all the people who have helped us over the years. My role as chair of the commission has been unique and I feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity. Working in large corporations, it is tempting to think you are working with a broad church of people but this is not necessarily the case. They are all people who have chosen to work for a big corporation. The commission’s work exposed me to a massive range of sustainability issues and people from all walks of life that have given me a broader and richer perspective on everything.

We can learn a lot from London 2012. Their relentless pursuit of success in all things, including sustainability, can help all of us in our daily working lives and thanks to the robust intervention by one of my commissioners, professor Stuart Green, many of these lessons are recorded on the learning legacy website.

However, the biggest lessons for me are related to the things LOCOG did not address fully, despite noble efforts to do so. These relate to the difficult relationship between corporate interests and the Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship. There is no doubt corporate sponsorship is essential to sport, both at an elite and grass-roots level, but I met many people with genuine concerns about the behaviour of some of the sponsors. In the past ‘corporate Shaun’ may have dismissed these people as ‘tree huggers’, ‘loonies’ or possibly more graphic descriptions. Not any more. This is too big an issue to dismiss but a practical framework is needed, not some sort of Star Chamber that decides who is a good and bad sponsor.

There are also issues related to ethical supply chains. Official mascots

Wenlock and Mandeville were a hit with the kids but the Playfair Alliance report Toying with Workers’ Rights exposed the conditions under which some of this merchandise was made. It is well known that audits and databases do not solve the problem, so there needs to be another way. I spoke to a lot of people at our final party. The most frequent questions were “how do you feel?” and “what’s next for you?”. I don’t feel sad - we all knew the commission would come to an end - I feel proud. In 2005, we started something that had never been done before, we made it work with a minimal budget and a tiny team. People that matter appreciate our work and that is all that matters to me.


next for me? Well, I stop neglecting my business Action Sustainability, and stop neglecting my family too. I will carry on with my role as an advisor to the Transport for London (TfL) board. I continue to get very excited about the Supply Chain School. My business is the delivery partner for this successful initiative and I also chair the leadership group. I also plan to get involved in some capacity with the Institute of Human Rights and Business in developing an ethical framework for global sport events and their supply chains. I also want to get involved in the initiative to create an ISO standard for sustainable purchasing. I will carry on blogging here and plan to write more if I can find the time. And there are probably other opportunities out there that I don’t even know about yet. So is this the end? Or the beginning? Or the beginning of the end? Or the end of the beginning? Who knows? ☛ Shaun McCarthy is director of Action Sustainability
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