What are the challenges of a sustainable event?

What are the challenges of a sustainable event? We spoke with Viivi Firat, the Secretary of Rally Finland and Sustainability Manager of the event and she tells us everything about it. 

What does it take to get the FIA 3 stars certification on a WRC event?

The FIA certification includes all the aspects of making events in general. This involves a lot of things! It starts from the organization itself and our organization is fully willing to take the environmental challenges as seriously as it should be. This is an important aspect of the whole organization process that we take in account in all the levels of preparation. This became the basement of all our daily actions. On top of our need to fulfill the requirements of the authorities of our country, our duty is to think about the future and make sure our sport will be part of changes of tomorrow. 

One of my main targets as Sustainability Manager is also to spread my knowledge to the organizing team in order to make sure everyone acts and works respecting the environmental requirements and aspects because this is something I can’t do alone. It’s a team effort. Climate change is real and we have the responsibility to make it our priority number one in many aspects. This is also a knowledge that we want to share together with our partners because we can’t achieve our sustainability goals without them. We share the same values and contractually, they need to comply with the sustainability guidelines. This cooperation is important because we need to monitor everything including their carbon footprint. To take only this example, the electricity used in the Paviljonki Service Park area has been coming from green energy since 2019. We have smart objectives, and we do everything to reach them. From our partners emissions to the merchandising for example but also the energy used for our infrastructures, cars, water, waste management, meals, the salt used on the roads, the noise level of the rally cars and machines and so much more! Every single aspect needs to be monitored. This is so critical to get all this info in order to be able to compensate our emissions. If you don’t monitor everything, you can’t compensate accordingly. In parallel of this compensation aspect, the most important for me is to learn how to decrease the emissions of our rally year after year. For example, from 2017 to 2018 we decreased our emissions by 19%. We use less resources, paper, energy, we have also a very smart waste management system, etc. We have learned to work with only what we strictly need and we try to minimize our environmental impact in every steps of the organization of our event.

What is the biggest challenge in term of sustainability?

One of the biggest challenges for us is to monitor the water consumption. We are working on improving this aspect as water is such an important resource but it’s very challenging. 

Also, I feel that it’s difficult nowadays to communicate about such environmental actions as a motorsport event organizer and the critics are disappointing sometimes. But we are doing everything we can to make our events as sustainable as possible. We really put a lot of effort on this, and we want to do it. There’s nothing more gratifying when we see our sustainable results improving year after year. We will continue to work hard on this. 

What has been your best achievement in your work for Rally Finland?

The zero emissions project with the tree planting action together with all the work done to reduce our emissions is one of them and it’s something we will continue to improve with more sustainable actions in a near future. But my greatest achievement as Sustainability Manager is the Sustainable Travel Finland Label Rally Finland received last year. When we decided to be part of the FIA Environmental Program, we focused on environmental sustainability but it’s not only that. Sustainability involves also safety, social, ethical, economical, health and cultural aspects. And that’s what is all about in the Sustainable Travel Finland Label. You need to comply with all these aspects and this represents the roof of sustainability. It doesn’t matter if we are environmentally friendly during our event and we forget our local people, if doesn’t matter if we create environmentally friendly products and there are not made in an ethical way. I’m so proud we achieved this and improved drastically our actions to make a better rally and better sustainable event in so many ways. 

With all the work done to improve drastically the environment standards, how do you see the future of rallying in term of sustainability and environment?

I think that the future is bright. Rallying is a laboratory for the future sustainable technologies. 2022 will mark a strong turn in that matter with a new regulation involving hybrid rally cars. Fuels are also improving with greener options. There are already so much things done to reach the zero emissions level in rallying and this will reflect in our daily life because we need cars and we always will. As an event organizer, we will be carbon neutral already in 2021 because we will compensate the emissions of the cars and our organization by planting trees next spring. We will continue to work on this purpose very hard and our aim for 2030 is to be a totally carbon neutral event, including all our suppliers, partners, public and international aspects of the event. The FIA is supporting us very strongly and we have our own motivation to improve these things. Our knowledge is getting better and better and more we learn more efficient we are in reaching our sustainability goals. I don’t see rallying as a threat but as an actor of this general evolution and as well as a scene to prepare the future challenges. 

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