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Volvo Ocean Race | Winning for the Oceans

by Simone Balman

In line with World Clean Up Day on Sat, 15th September, S+L celebrates the Beyond Sport award won by the Volvo Ocean Race for the Best Corporate Campaign in Sport for Good.

The VOR has centered much of its attention on raising awareness for sustainable seas. Yacht racing, and specifically ocean racing, has become more about the awareness of the sustainability of the oceans than performance alone.

At the prestigious international Beyond Sport Awards, in New York, the VOR’s sustainability programe won in ‘The Best Corporate Campaign or Initiative in Sport for Good’ category.

The judges commended the programme for its ‘fantastic use of a global platform to spread an important message around the danger of plastic pollution’ and commented on how the campaign encouraged young people to become climate activists, and used robust scientific research.

Promoting the UN Clean Seas Campaign

Working to promote the UN Clean Seas campaign and through a range of communication channels the message reached millions of people during stopovers and many more through media and online platforms.

Volvo Ocean Race’s global platform presented us with a unique opportunity – and a clear responsibility – to join the race against plastic pollution. Our Ocean Summits bring together sport, science, government, NGOs and the private sector. Designed to generate discussion and create local relevance, we’re sending out a call to action, asking for commitment by government and industry to ensure clean seas for the future,’ says Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Programme leader Anne-Cécile Turner.

In Boston, the New England Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected the race’s Newport Stopover Team to receive an Environmental Merit Award in recognition of the race’s exceptional work and commitment to the environment.

Anne-Cecile Turner, Sustainability Programme Leader, said: “We set out with the ambition to engender positive behaviour change to tackle the plastic crisis affecting our oceans. As a global sporting event we have minimised our own footprint and educated and empowered the millions of people the race touched.

Like-minded partners

“By working with a range of supportive and inspirational partners we were able to realise our ambitions and leave a lasting legacy for ocean health and are thrilled this has been recognised by Beyond Sport and the EPA.

“We will continue to lead, inspire and engage through an even stronger programme, combining sailing and innovation platforms to create real and tangible impacts for ocean preservation.”

The programme allowed the race to work in partnership with Founding Principal Sustainability Partner 11th Hour Racing; Principal Partner, the Mirpuri Foundation and the UN Environment’s #CleanSeas campaign.

Todd McGuire, 11th Hour Racing Program Director, commented: “Being shortlisted for the Beyond Sport Awards is an incredible recognition and honour. We wish to congratulate Volvo Ocean Race for their outstanding work and for successfully implementing such a powerful campaign to promote positive change. We believe in the power of sport, and much like brands have used sport to market their products, we see this arena as a unique opportunity to gather large crowds around environmental issues.”

Working with other main partners, Volvo, AkzoNobel, Bluewater, Stena Recycling and Ocean Family Foundation, the programme aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Volvo Ocean Race enabled us to showcase in real-life at each stopover how Bluewater is already today turning words into action to deliver sustainable drinking water to people and businesses in heartily populated urban environments regardless of the quality of the water source,” said Anders Jacobson, President and chief strategy officer at Bluewater.

The science behind it all

To advance science by combining it with sailing, an expert scientific consortium, funded by Volvo Cars, used cutting edge technology to build state of the art equipment that would capture the most relevant ocean data.

Stuart Templar, Vice President, Internal Communications & Sustainability, Volvo Cars, said: “Volvo Cars is delighted that the Volvo Ocean Race Science Programme has been recognised by the Beyond Sports Awards.  We’re proud to have supported the Programme and help promote understanding, awareness and action on the global problem of marine plastic pollution.

“It’s also encouraged us to make strong commitments including removing single use plastic from our restaurants, events and offices, as well as aiming to ensure that from 2025 at least 25% of the plastic in newly launched Volvo will contain recycled material.  The Volvo Ocean Race has set the standard for other major sporting events to follow in terms of practicing and promoting sustainability. We look forward to supporting the further development of the Sustainability Programme.”

The Turn the Tide on Plastic entry, supported by Sky Ocean Rescue, alongside Team AkzoNobel’s entry, collected seawater samples that were tested by race scientists for microplastics as well as levels of salinity, dissolved CO2 and algae. The findings were uploaded ‘open source’ to benefit scientific understanding of the plastic threat.

Summits for Change

Convening a series of Ocean Summits and workshops, at key host cities, the problems linked to our seas were discussed by key influencers, such as politicians, scientists and business leaders, and innovative solutions proposed to shift current thinking and drive action. An education programme and race village activations also broadened the sustainability message to a wider audience.

Paulo Mirpuri, President and Founder of the Mirpuri Foundation, said: “We are extremely proud of the great work developed by our team over the last 12 months and its huge impact to tackle the horrific plastic problem that is challenging our oceans.  The Beyond Sport Award honours both the Volvo Ocean Race and the Mirpuri Foundation sustainability teams.”

Lisa Emelia Svensson, Director for Ocean, at the UN Environment, added: “This award shows what we can achieve together. Sport is an fantastic way to engage people all over the work across sectors, culture and genders.

“We will build on this achievement and continue with our innovative partnership to drive action and real change.”

The annual Merit Award, presented in Boston, recognises outstanding environmental advocates who have made significant contributions toward preserving and protecting our natural resources.

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