On track: UCI’s Sustainability Report provides update on cycling roadmap

October 26 2023

Following a sustainable narrative is challenging enough, but making sure internal operations are following the same path is imperative. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has demonstrated its own dedication to sustainability with the launch of its Sustainability Report 2021-23, building on the strategy launched a couple of years ago.

On track: UCI’s Sustainability Report provides update on cycling roadmap

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body for sports cycling and international competitive cycling events across numerous disciplines, including road, track, mountain bike, BMX racing, BMX freestyle, trials and cyclo-cross. Most recently, it oversaw the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland in August.

This year, the UCI has also decided to mark its dedication to cycling and its impact on both the planet and its communities with the publishing of its Sustainability Report. 

"Our objective is to engage all our stakeholders to adopt the UCI Sustainability Strategy." Ben Barrett, Sustainability Consultant for the UCI

A credible lead

The UCI published its Sustainability Report 2021-23 yesterday (Wednesday), detailing the work it has undertaken in the two years since launching its Sustainability Strategy on World Bicycle Day in June 2021.

UCI’s ambition is clear: make cycling one of the world’s most sustainable sports. The governing body is also aiming to promote cycling as a key mode of transport, helping to combat climate change, while also improving public health.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the UCI will aim to uphold the five principles of  the UN’s Sport for Climate Action Framework: support the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Sustainability Strategy and contribute to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from UCI and UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) operations; integrate sustainability into UCI policies, operations and decision making, and more.

The UCI’s Sustainability Strategy further outlined more pressing goals to achieve between 2021 and this year. The newly published Report has highlighted positive steps in the governing body’s journey to achieving these goals.

“Of the initial 28 time-bound organisational objectives due to be initiated or completed by 2023, the UCI has achieved two-thirds – 19 targets,” explained Ben Barrett, a Sustainability Consultant for the UCI.

Barrett also told Global Sustainable Sport at the launch event that the missed targets have been brought forward and included in the follow-up strategy.

“That was phase one, and our journey has been really focused on our governance. Getting our house in order is the only way I think we can credibly lead the rest of the cycling family,” he said.

As part of the Sustainability Report, the UCI also published its Climate Transition Plan, as the body’s organisational emissions stabilised during 2022, following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has provided a clearer picture of the specific actions that will need to be implemented to achieve the UCI’s target of reducing its organisation greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030,” added Barrett.

Last year, the UCI Congress approved the Cycling’s Agenda 2030, revising the organisation’s Sustainability Strategy to align with the Agenda 2030 objectives.

Making progress

The 19 achievements that Barrett alluded to were published in the UCI’s Sustainability Report, with initial wins including making its sustainability policy public in 2021; hosting sustainability-focused panels and workshops; incorporating sustainability objectives into UCI’s key performance indicators (KPIs) from 2022; reporting on its carbon footprint and progress; and conducting a life cycle cost analysis to improve energy efficiency at UCI facilities.

Elsewhere, the UCI has implemented flexible working hours for staff to reduce emissions from commuting, and has developed a carbon calculator tool, offering training for national federations and teams.

Climate Action Charter

Following its adoption by the UCI Management Committee in September last year, the UCI Climate Action Charter was officially launched during COP27 in Egypt a couple of months later.

The charter includes eight principles for cycling stakeholders to follow, to help rapidly reduce the emissions produced by the sport. Pillars include consistently measuring and reporting emissions; promoting active travel; ensuring climate change is factored into future plans; implementing sustainable procurement; reducing energy demand and waste; prioritising low-carbon transport and raising awareness of biodiversity’s values.

Some 18 UCI WorldTeams, UCI Women’s WorldTeams and UCI ProTeams are among the signatories, which in total amount to 100. Representation also comes from 51 event organisers, national federations and 18 other cycling organisations.

“Our objective is to engage all our stakeholders to adopt the UCI Sustainability Strategy and incorporate the obligations of the UCI Climate Action Charter,” said Barrett. “The revised sustainability strategy contains specific actions with targets to reduce the climate impact of UCI World Championships, UCI World Cup events, and professional cycling. This includes introducing a UCI event sustainability rating standard to monitor and communicate compliance with UCI Sustainability Guidelines.”

Barrett added: “The UCI has already provided direct support on Sustainability Strategy to organisers of UCI World Championships and recently launched the UCI Sustainability Impact Tracker to help event organisers measure their impacts, develop action plans, and benchmark themselves on sustainability programme development.”

Diversity and Inclusion

While the UCI’s Sustainability Strategy was launched in 2021, the body’s work across other aspects of internal ESG (environmental, social and governance) matters began in 2019, when it took steps alongside the WCC to achieve EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) Certification.

The certification measures the performance of an organisation concerning gender and pay equity within the workplace, the existence of a framework around equal career opportunities, and the promotion of an inclusive work culture.

After being audited by the independent certification body in September 2019, the UCI became the first sports federation to obtain EDGE Assess certification in October 2019. The UCI then achieved the second level of certification called ‘Edge Move’ in January 2022, recognising the quality of UCI’s internal policy regarding work flexibility, equal pay, prevention of harassment and the promotion of diversity and integration. This was also one of the 19 achievements noted by Barrett.

“In addition to environmental sustainability, the revised Sustainability Strategy encompasses areas such as Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), athlete well-being, combatting harassment and abuse in the sport, race safety, and solidarity,” explained Barrett.

The 29 objectives and 84 actions included in the revised Sustainability Strategy have been mapped to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are organised into four pillars: Climate Action, Nature, People and Cycling for All.

Barrett added: “The UCI has committed to targets reflecting the total sphere of its influence and potential for impact as an organisation, through UCI events and as the leader of the cycling family.”

Climate Transition Plan

The newly published Sustainability Report also focused on the UCI’s Climate Transition Plan, which includes a spotlight on the WCC in Aigle, Switzerland.

The WCC houses the UCI headquarters, and also doubles as an elite international and national, coaching and training centre.

Primary missions, while working alongside members and partners, are to manage and promote cycling as a competitive sport; continue the organisation of major events; offer cyclists from the five continents to access the highest level; encourage the development of cycling as a healthy leisure activity and guarantee the integrity of cycling.

Part of the UCI Climate Transition Plan includes a roadmap for how the UCI will reduce its organisation-driven carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Between 2019 and 2022, emissions relating to the UCI and UCI WCC were attributed to energy use, fuels, water, waste, business travel, logistics, commuting, materials use and purchased goods. The majority of emissions came from business travel by air, which accounted for 53%.

Against the baseline reference year of 2019 and last year, the UCI has seen a 2,223m t CO2 (20%) reduction in organisational emissions, primarily due to a decrease in air travel. The adoption of virtual meeting technology where possible, limiting the UCI Commissions to one in-person meeting per year, allocating UCI Commissaires to events based in their proximity, and efforts to reduce travel have all contributed towards the reduction.

To reach the goal of a 50% reduction and the removal of the remaining 3,273m t CO2e, some 546 tonnes will need to be reduced annually by the UCI until 2030. This would represent a 5% annual reduction versus the baseline reference year of 2019.

“Getting our own house in order first has been important to developing the new Sustainability Strategy." Ben Barrett, Sustainability Consultant for the UCI

Promoting sustainability

The UCI is currently developing a plan to work with professional riders and other cyclists, to participate in campaigns to promote sustainability.

Barrett explained that the UCI is in the stages of finalising a cycling ambassador strategy, aiming to collaborate with media partners to launch campaigns encompassing climate change, environmental issues and social justice. He also mentioned that working with others has allowed the UCI to achieve the majority of its phase one goals within the two-year period.

“We’ve been able to accelerate our progress because of not working in isolation,” added Barrett. “I cannot understate the importance of the working group that Julie Duffus at the IOC [International Olympic Committee] has assembled.

“We’ve all got the same shared challenges, we all want to contribute to building a better world through sport. And being an extension of the IOC strategy, and as much as I’ve been helped through that process with advice or even being pointed in the right direction for resources, that’s also now our role to bring everybody to the same level.” 

This collective effort extends to elsewhere within the UCI, led by UCI President David Lappartient – the man behind Cycling’s Agenda 2030 – who “understands” and has “got it” when it comes to the importance of sustainability.

“We’ve got an internal working group, and I’d say one of our absolute champions is from the commercial team,” said Barrett.

“We’ve also benefitted from that because every conversation he’s having with potential, or current partners, this is popping up. We’ve seen some contract renewals or sponsorship renewals specifically highlighting these shared values.”

The launch event for the Sustainability Report 2021-23 proved that tackling climate change, not just within sport but in general, is a shared goal.

“Everybody from all these different organisations, from active travel, cities, events, everyone, they get it,” added Barrett.

He concluded: “The first phase of UCI sustainability objectives was heavily focused on governance and organisational actions to lay the foundations for our stakeholders to build upon.

“Getting our own house in order first has been important to developing the new Sustainability Strategy and credibly leading our stakeholders towards making cycling the sport of the 21st century.”

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body of cycling, recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It was founded on April 14, 1900 in Paris, France. Its headquarters are located at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland. The UCI has 203 National Federations spread across five Continental Confederations.

You can read more of the UCI’s Sustainability Report 2021-23 here.

Images: Unsplash

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