Sustainability in swim, bike, run


British Triathlon are working towards a sustainable future for triathlon, where participants swim in clean water, breathe unpolluted air, and take part in thriving natural environments.

Whether it’s open water swimming, cycling through the countryside or running through an urban park, training on your own, in a club or taking part in an event, participants, spectators and volunteers within the sport cannot help but be aware of the reliance on a clean and healthy environment, as well as the potential impact through taking part in sport and physical activity within those environments.

Triathlon and the disciplines of swim, bike, run are intrinsically tied to the environment, however sustainability for British Triathlon goes beyond the environmental and includes social aspects to leaving a positive impact from our sport.

Creating more physically active communities throughout Britain and promoting participation in swimming, cycling and running are key to the sport’s sustainable future.

In 2021, British Triathlon established a sustainability commission, a body made up of external experts from business, academia and sport, to help the organisation in the way it operates and leads the sport of triathlon in Britain.

Since then, the commission has undertaken various activities to understand the current situation in regard to sustainability in triathlon, and which of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are relevant to encouraging sustainability to be fully embedded into swim, bike, run, and allowing them to draft an action plan.

One of the initiatives that British Triathlon have already signed up to is the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which incorporates Race to Zero, a UN-backed programme aiming to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, and become net zero by 2040.

Alongside the Sustainability Commission, British Triathlon also has a Sustainability Working Group, focusing on implementing the sustainability strategy. The commission and the working group operate together to explore how sustainability can best be achieved in swim, bike, run and challenges can be overcome

A big part of how British Triathlon ensure a sustainable future for the sport will be through the major international events that they organise.

In 2022, both AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds and Volvo 2022 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea were recognised by World Triathlon for their efforts and achievements in sustainable operations, and for embedding these into the event preparations, delivery and post-event assessment.

AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds became the first event globally to achieve the gold standard of World Triathlon’s Sustainability Certification.

Showing their commitment to sustainability by setting an example for events nationally and globally, British Triathlon was awarded gold certification for its approach to sustainability across an array of areas in the planning and delivery of the event.

Within the criteria set out by World Triathlon is a review of not only the operational elements of an event such as energy usage, waste management and materials used, but also how the event will raise awareness of sustainable practices and promote sustainability behaviour change, the social impacts of healthy living and protecting biodiversity at the event venue.

As a mass participation event, AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds provided the opportunity to educate a large number of participants on sustainability and showcase the sustainable operations of the event. Specific participant-focused initiatives at the event included providing a wooden finishers medal from FSC-certified wood that was grown in Britain instead of a plastic or metal alternative.

In a post-event survey of participants, 88% of respondents agreed environmental sustainability is an important consideration for them when attending an event, with 64% car sharing to the event. In relation to the event itself, 75% noticed that the finisher gift was made from recycled materials and 35% recognised that the merchandise was also made of recycled and sustainably sourced materials.

Following on from the work in Leeds, British Triathlon’s first-ever standalone World Triathlon Para Series event took place in Swansea in 2022.

Volvo 2022 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea became the first paratriathlon event to receive a sustainability award from the international federation.

Awarded silver last year, British Triathlon will further its work in the second year of hosting an event in the city and set out to achieve gold in 2023. This year will also see the organisation seek to  retain its gold certificate from Leeds by once again maintaining this high standard as the event moves to the city of Sunderland.

For both AJ Bell 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series Sunderland and 2023 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea, British Triathlon will be working with the local authorities, suppliers, stakeholders, participants and all event attendees to achieve the gold level of World Triathlon Sustainability certification and setting an example for events of all sizes as to  how to become more environmentally sustainable.

Beyond its major events in 2023, British Triathlon’s Sustainability Commission will consult on its action plan with stakeholders from across the sport in Britain. This consultation will include British Triathlon Home Nation members, affiliated clubs and event organisers to gain their input and support for the action plan to help make it an effective and agreed upon blueprint for making the sport more sustainable.

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