Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Saturday, 26 November 2011

London 2012: sustainable partners?

Countdown to 2012 (c) Pittaya Sroilong
Following my recent post on London 2012 and Dow, I have decided to look at other partners that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) are using. As LOCOG are using ideas of sustainabilitythis article will focus on their sustainability partners. 

I am using London 2012's Sustainability Plan: Towards a One Planet 2012 (hereafter called The Plan) as the guiding framework for my analysis and comment. The plan was approved initially in June 2006 before receiving final approval in December 2009. LOCOG chose its six sustainability partners between July 2007 and November 2009 - i.e. when the plan was being finalised. As such, this makes it the most relevant document through which to assess London 2012's sustainability. The plan is based around 5 priority themes; climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living. 

The six sustainability partners that were chosen are BMW, BP, BT, Cisco, EDF and GE. EDF was chosen to be the first London 2012 partner. Page 22/23  of The Plan on climate change notes the importance of influencing change in behaviours:
...This is entirely in keeping with the London 2012 vision and our call for people and organisations to help us make the Games more sustainable by taking their own small steps to reduce their own carbon footprint...
EDF have recently been fined £1.3 million by a French court, and two of its employees have been sent to jail, after hiring a company called Kargus Consultants to spy on Greenpeace over several years. I wonder whether they measured the extra energy they used, and paid for the carbon emissions as part of this fine. Akin to the ongoing hacking case with News International, I also wonder whether more people within EDF knew of this 'crime'.

EDF are a major player in the nuclear industry. In 2009, they were accused of secretly dumping uranium in Siberia. EDF are due to build the next generation of nuclear power plants in the UK. The Guardian reported that thanks to their lobbying efforts, they have now been granted what amounts to a taxpayer's subsidy for the disposal of nuclear waste. Corporate Watch also note safety issues at the Areva EPR reactor in France. This reactor is similar to the proposed new generation of reactors to be built in the UK. Perhaps there is something to this, given the explosion at an EDF owned nuclear waste plant in France two months ago. EDF fall some way short of sustainability. climate change, waste and healthy living. 

As for the most unreliable sustainable candidate and partner, BP surely has to take the biscuit. Besides their toxic mismanagement and cover-up of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP have have a long history of pollution. Prior to Deepwater, the last 2 major incidents took place at the Texas City Refinery in 2005 and Prudhoe Bay in 2006.  In both cases, BP sought to deflect the blame and cover-up evidence, yet in both cases they were found to have been trying to minimise costs at the expense of human and animal life. 

Along with other oil giants, BP have had to pay settlements to public water providers in the USA, because an additive that they used in their process contaminated the groundwater. The lawsuit alleged that BP, and others, would have known of the detrimental effects of this chemical.   

Page 47 of The Plan states:
Inclusion underpins all other sustainability themes – poorer people and minority groups are the first to feel the effects of climate change and declining biodiversity – and has a particularly close link to health. Deprivation also remains a strong determinant of ill-health. It responds to the One Planet Living® principles of health and happiness, equity and fair trade, and culture and heritage.
Platform supply vessels battle the blazing remnants of the off
shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon (c) US Coast Guard
This being the case, and with BP's less than favourable sustainability history, how did they ever get the gig? Following Deepwater, why do they remain a sustainable partner? If anyone from LOCOG happens upon this article, could you please explain how BP were chosen as a sustainability partner, and why they continue to represent London 2012. 

Polluting the earth's waterways has also been a problem for GE. Over a number of years, GE polluted the Hudson river, killing off a large number of fish in the river, although some have evolved. For humans, the primary health risk came from eating contaminated fish, as the pollutants are considered carcinogenic, and have been linked to other diseases and disorders. There have been problems with the clean up too, as GE have failed to follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines in removing sufficient volumes of the toxins.  

Referring to Page 41 of The Plan:
Biodiversity is essential to the global economy, serving a vital function in climate change mitigation and adaptation, watershed management, provision of sustainable natural resources and enhancing the quality of life that we enjoy.
This ties in with ideas of healthy living. In 2008, The New York Times reported that workers employed by GE, involved in a joint venture with Xiamen Topstar Lighting in China, were unaware that they were working with mercury. Furthermore, the report by Policy Matters Ohio indicated that Chinese labour laws were being flouted; workers were working longer than the maximum allowed, they were not being paid overtime, they were not given salary slips and had to forego a month's wages if they chose to quit without permission. Again, why were GE chosen to represent London 2012? 

Sourcewatch note that Cisco purchase their products from Tyco Electronics in China, who have also been accused of similar malpractices. BT have a partnership with Bezeq International who provide telecommunications to Israeli settlements and the West Bank. As for BMW, the last company to be granted the coveted sustainable partner status, I have found nothing that might suggest any wrongdoing on their part. 

So what does all this tell us about London 2012, sustainability and the Olympics?  
The core promise of the London 2012 Games – as expressed in the final bid presentation to the IOC in Singapore in 2005 – is to connect young people to sport and the Olympic and Paralympic values.
So write LOCOG on Page 77 of The Plan. The Olympic and Paralympic values are respect, excellence, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration and equality. Given that LOCOG chose EDF, BP and GE as sustainability partners, there is little to suggest that London 2012 fits in to the Olympic and Paralympic ideals of respect, friendship and equality. Nor would I call these partners excellent, courageous or inspirational, although I would acknowledge that they are determined. Determined to profit from loss, and determined to profit from London 2012. 


  1. Great points made, and it would be interesting to see how, when, if LOCOG responds and what the partners end up doing to make the games more sustainable? I think they are struggling and will find making any impact difficult at best. After all these are supposed to be the most sustainable games ever, but are they really????

  2. Thanks for your comment. If you happen to know of any other articles on this topic, feel free to point me in the right direction. I am hoping to follow this up in the near future.