What is the Athletics for a Better World Standard?






A key component of the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, which was unveiled in April 2020, is to embed principles of sustainability into the delivery of all the events World Athletics owns or controls, like our World Championship events, and those we license or influence, like the events that make up our one-day athletics meeting series and tours and label road races.


To do that, actions around each of the six pillars of the strategy were built into two tools we developed to drive the strategy across all of our events: a Sustainable Events Management System, or SEMS, which offers best practice guidance in 15 key areas of event planning and delivery, and the Athletics for a Better World Standard, a certification that evaluates, measures and scores an event’s achievement in sustainable delivery and in delivering the event in alignment with the six pillars that frame our strategy.


The ABW Standard consists of 55 action areas that address all levels of event delivery - including procurement, waste management, energy, food and water management, travel and accommodation planning. Diversity, accessibility and inclusion of staff and volunteers is also addressed. So is ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of all participants and stakeholders. It concludes with guidance on monitoring, reporting and finally communicating about organisers' efforts.



Athletics for a Better World Standard achievement levels



The standard is tiered, with platinum, gold, silver, bronze and recognised event achievement levels that will eventually have to be met as part of the evaluation process of all World Athletics-licensed events from 2024. Cities bidding to host upcoming World Athletics Series events, for which bids launched in the first half of 2023, will be required to commit to a gold level achievement, making sustainability a core feature of all future World Athletics championships events.


The standard is also scalable so that any event at any level, from a local parkrun or club track and field meeting to a national or world championship, should be able to achieve the highest standard of sustainable event achievement.


The World Athletics Sustainability Strategy was the foundation of the management system we put together to ensure that sustainability is firmly embedded in our events. That system achieved ISO 20121 Sustainable Event certification in April 2023, an important milestone that lent credibility to our efforts and illustrated that the path we’re creating is the right one. That certified system also includes our Athletics for a Better World Standard.


Since it was unveiled in December 2021, organisers of nearly 300 one-day competition series events and label road races have been introduced to the system. Several dozen piloted the system and standard in 2022 and about 100 were expected to pilot it in 2023, providing valuable input prior to its implementation from January 2024.


The system is also being incorporated into the delivery of all World Athletics Championships and increasingly into all World Athletics Series events. 


Organisers of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 were the first local organising committee to fully embrace the Athletics for a Better World standard, giving it a full throttle test run at the recently held event in the Hungarian capital. Organisers of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24, set for March, have also announced their strong ambitions in delivering against the standard. Planning meetings with sustainability leads of the 2025 World Championships in Tokyo are already underway.


Implementation from 2024


Implementation of the Athletics for a Better World Standard will have different objectives, depending on the event category. 


Annually held events, such as those that are part of the Wanda Diamond League, the Continental Tour or Label Road Race series, will be able to set longer term targets and objectives and chart their progress year-on-year. World Athletics championship events will focus on both strong delivery and the sustainability legacy they create for their host venues and cities.


In 2024, its inaugural year, events will not be asked to meet a bronze, silver, gold or platinum achievent level. All events are expected to begin utilising the ABW Standard and embedding it into their delivery, and to achieve at least 40 points, the Recognised Event level. Events that have participated in the system's webinar series or requested one-to-one guidance from World Athletics should have the know-how and advice necessary to meet that threshold in 2024.  Webinars were held on 5-6 December 2023, to ensure that organisers have the guidance and tools they need to be able to achieve the Recognised Event achievement level. Organisers of more than 150 events participated. Additional webinars will be scheduled throughout 2024.


The Athletics for a Better World Standard reporting form, which includes the scoring methodology, performance requirements and guidance notes, is available in Excel format. Event organisers can request the latest version via email to sustainability@worldathletics.org. Via the same address, organisers can also request a one-to-one session with World Athletics to conduct a pre-implementation evaluation of the most recent edition of their event.


A web-based Athletics for a Better World Standard reporting form will be launch in January 2024. Webinars will be hosted to to introduce the reporting process to organisers.


Roll out of an extensive best practice guidance section on the World Athletics website will begin in the second half of January 2024.


Last updated: 11 January 2024