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Volvo Ocean Race launches official Sustainability Programme

by Volvo Ocean Race on 20 May 18 May 2017
Volvo Ocean Race launches official Sustainability Programme © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race has launched a major Sustainability Programme for the 2017-18 edition and beyond – signing partnerships with 11th Hour Racing, AkzoNobel and United Nations Environment, while outlining a series of commitments that focus on ocean health.

The race is putting sustainability at its heart and focusing on taking action to help 'Turn the Tide on Plastic' – the rapidly growing and critical problem of plastic polluting the ocean, highlighted by the United Nations Environment's Clean Seas campaign that is being adopted by the Volvo Ocean Race.

There are three key pillars to the Volvo Ocean Race sustainability strategy:

  • To minimise the race's own footprint with a particular focus on reducing and where possible eliminating the use of single-use plastic by the teams, and in the Race Villages – a challenging task but one that will help to change behaviour by making it a focus.

  • To maximise the race's impact using its global communications platform to spread awareness, an educational programme to change views, and a science programme, using the Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts to capture data while at sea and contribute to our understanding of the oceans in the most remote areas of the planet.

  • To leave a positive legacy wherever it goes, through many actions but in particular the creation of Ocean Summits to bring together science, government, sport and business, with an objective of getting attending parties to commit to new positive actions in this area.

The three partnerships, announced in Gothenburg on Thursday during a major presentation on the race's future, provide significant amplification of the race's efforts.

11th Hour Racing will be the founding Principal Partner of the Sustainability Programme.

The partnership will allow the Volvo Ocean Race to work together with 11th Hour Racing on a wide spectrum of goals, from pioneering new approaches to tackling ocean plastic pollution issues, to providing a model of sustainable practices for the world of sports and event management; promoting change among sports fan as well as on a governmental level to foster long term planning around sustainability, particularly in relation to plastic consumption, waste and ocean health; and inspiring future generations.

This partnership will raise awareness on Ocean Health issues and promote solutions to the specific problem of plastic pollution. Volvo Ocean Race is committed to scaling up its activities right across the sustainability space. The partnership will include the organisation of a series of Ocean Summits to build on the impact created in the last edition in 2014-15, and the production of educational content in the Race Villages at every Host City.

The Summits will foster a space for dialogue, change and action among key stakeholders within governments, companies, education and scientific communities.

"11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race are natural partners," said Jeremy Pochman, Strategic Director and Co-Founder of 11th Hour Racing, a programme of The Schmidt Family Foundation which aims to increase our understanding of the oceans, find innovative solutions to the challenges that impact marine resources, and promote stewardship of the seas through strategic partnerships within the sailing and marine communities.

"Today we applaud a series of outstanding objectives and commitments around the broader concept of sustainability. This is the first milestone in a long term collaborative journey that will benefit the teams, increase the overall efficiency of the event, engage fans all over the world, benefit local and global communities, influence the sporting industry as a whole, and help restore and protect the health of our ocean and waterways."

The race has signed a partnership with AkzoNobel to amplify its Sustainability programme.

The partnership – will focus in particular on educating people about reducing plastic use and protecting our oceans – will pro-actively build on the long-established commitment to sustainability of both parties.

"Our involvement with the Volvo Ocean Race and the participation of team AkzoNobel are a perfect fit with our Planet Possible sustainability strategy," explained André Veneman, AkzoNobel's Corporate Director of Sustainability.

"There's a fundamental link between the sustainability goals of the race itself and our own efforts to achieve radical resource efficiency, such as offering sustainable and innovative products to customers that provide a positive social and environmental impact. So it makes perfect sense for us to support the fantastic Volvo Ocean Race sustainability programme being put together for the next race."

The race will also collaborate with the United Nations to help support its 'Clean Seas' campaign.

The partnership with UN Environment will see the Volvo Ocean Race use its storytelling platform to amplify the Clean Seas campaign to 'Turn the Tide on Plastics' in the ocean, tackling the growing problem of marine litter.

Together, Volvo Ocean Race and UN Environment will draw attention to what is at stake – with one study predicting that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 * if we do not act. Each of the Volvo Ocean 65s will carry the Clean Seas message on the boom and the race will amplify the campaign in all 12 Host Cities and across the globe, seeking strong commitments to combat marine litter from countries, cities and individuals alike.

"Marine plastic pollution is a global problem that needs global solutions. Through the #CleanSeas campaign, UN Environment is bringing together countries, companies and citizens who are committed to protect our oceans. We are so excited that Volvo Ocean Race has joined this effort and hope that through this partnership we will see even more commitments. Together, we can turn the tide on plastic," commented Erik Solheim, Executive Director, United Nations Environment.

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner explained the three pillars of the Volvo Ocean Race strategy.

"Firstly, we have to minimise our own impact and that's true right across all of our operations. Specifically, we are trying to reduce, or eliminate where we can, single use plastics in our Race Villages and our own operations because that problem in its own right is a major one for the health of our oceans.

"Secondly, we are using our global communications platform to change other people's views and other people's behaviour in this respect.

"And, thirdly, our goal is to leave a legacy. We go to 12 Host Cities and in each location we are able to impact, influence, change views, and get new commitments while we are there from governments and business.

"We will use a series of Ocean Summits to bring science, politics, government and sport together to get them to commit to changing the way they behave or operate."

Looking further ahead, the Volvo Ocean Race will use the One Design race boat platform to do everything possible to reduce and then eliminate fossil fuels on board the boats in the future.

The use of a hydro-generator for the first time during the 2017-18 edition should be a significant first step in reducing the use of fossil fuels, with race management able to mandate the use of the hydro-generators by each team.

The long-term vision will be to eliminate the use of fossil fuels on future boats, while maintaining the minimum energy onboard for safety and communications. The commitment to One Design for the new 60-foot foiling monohull unveiled at the Gothenburg announcement provides the best platform to make this happen in the fastest possible time.

One Design means some small compromises on performance can be made to help deliver better solutions in other areas – for example a small weight gain in a One Design fleet, impossible when teams are doing their own designs, can be imposed to allow a heavier but healthier energy source.

"Achieving zero fossil fuel while maintaining safety and communication capacity will take time as the technologies continue to develop," commented the race's CEO Mark Turner, "but the important thing is to have a clear goal and ambition." Also in 2017-18, the race opted to deliver to all teams the RIB support boats used for both performance management, safety and guest transfers – rather than each team sourcing their own. By managing the whole process and delivering centrally, the race has been able to switch everyone to using a low emission petrol engine from Volvo Penta – with the best-in-class energy efficiency and environment footprint currently available. Centralising non-performance elements of the teams' operations has allowed many such savings in both energy footprint and cost.

Further details on this Sustainability programme will be released closer to the start of the 2017-18 edition in October.

* World Economic Forum report: The New Plastics Economy January 2016

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