Sports events traditionally lead to the production of tournament uniforms for officials and volunteers. T-shirts, jackets, etcetera, with the tournament-logo are popular souvenirs but often also have a higher negative impact on the environment than expected. The assessment of a 1-day international athletics event resulted in an estimate of water consumption of 2,500 cubic meters of water related to the provision of t-shirts to event officials and volunteers. This equals to more than 20,000 showers of five minutes’ in length.
During their first appearance at the Games since 1924, World Rugby decided to change its approach to their official uniforms for the group of approximately 80 World Rugby delegates in Rio, including match officials, technical delegates, and officials. The objective was to limit needless environmental waste and reduce costs, while acknowledging the importance of branded clothing to build team spirit and support a professional appearance.
From the group of 80 World Rugby delegates, approximately 50 would have received some kind of official Rio 2016 uniform. For those not entitled to this clothing, the “unofficial” uniform for Rio 2016 was limited to one jacket, one cap and 1 to 3 polo shirts, subject to their role. Previously, delegates may have received at least 1 branded shirt per day. The clothing was to cover 8 days, which included all 6 tournament days. World Rugby staff could supplement this clothing with their own generic World Rugby clothing. Whereas previously staff may have received up to 8 polos for a similar period on-site, the decision to reduce quantities was taken to limit needless environmental and economic waste. It saved the production of up to 350 shirts at an approximate total cost of USD$3,500, not including additional shipping and freight impacts.
Necessity often leads to innovative and practical solutions – for Rio, if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it wasn’t ordered and this approach helped reduce waste while making economic sense”
Jaime McKeown, Development and International Relations Project Manager, World Rugby
Furthermore, while local production of the tournament uniforms would have saved transport costs and reduced carbon emission (due to transport of goods), World Rugby chose to produce their uniforms in Europe with an existing supplier certified for sustainable and ethical production. Instead of shipping the uniforms in a container, the reduced numbers of shirts, caps and jackets were distributed to staff in advance so they could bring them to Rio in their own luggage, thus avoiding further travel impacts, potential delays, and associated costs.
Sustainability is often defined as a 3-legged stool, balancing social equity, environmental integrity and economic efficiency. World Rugby’s initiative addresses all 3 areas of sustainability.
Limiting the production of tournament-specific clothing and utilising existing generic World Rugby clothing saved thousands of cubic litres of water (environmental impact) that would have been needed for production of the clothes. Working with a certified supplier ensured the products were made under ethically acceptable circumstances (social impact). Finally, World Rugby saved several thousand dollars through reduced production and smart transport of the uniforms.
For future events, World Rugby aims to further increase the use of uniforms without tournament logos to encourage reuse of existing generic clothing.