Joint NGO Statement on Tokyo 2020 Olympics’ «Fake Sustainability»

Organizers called on to learn from & fix procurement failures linked to rainforest destruction in light of the Olympics postponement

Today, 8 NGOs issued the following joint statement in light of the Olympics postponement, urging Olympics organizers to come to terms with the negative impacts caused by Tokyo 2020’s timber procurement practices. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee committed to publish three Sustainability Reports over the course of their Olympic-related activities. But with the postponement of the Games until 2021, publication of the second “Sustainability Pre-Games Report” has now been delayed. This provides a new opportunity for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to reassess this report, in order to document missteps and lessons learned, and set a clear roadmap for sustainability for others to follow.


We, the signatories to this letter, acknowledge the extraordinary circumstances of this moment, given the terrible impacts of COVID-19 on lives, health, and livelihoods for people around the world, including on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The urgent need to respond to the pandemic and resultant economic impact is rightly taking priority. However, the Earth continues to face a dual crisis of rapid climate change and unprecedented biodiversity loss that, like the coronavirus, will require unprecedented global action in solidarity with those most vulnerable. Our hope is to raise public awareness of how these crises have been fueled by Tokyo 2020 so that we can achieve a more sustainable and just future for all of us inhabiting the Earth.

The organizers of the Tokyo Games made a promise to deliver a Sustainable Games, but the reality has been a "Fake Sustainability." Tokyo 2020’s use of large quantities of tropical plywood linked to rainforest destruction for construction of the Olympic venues was a clear violation of its commitment to sustainability, as embodied in its Sustainable Sourcing Code. However, in the previous Sustainability Report (published March 26 2019), the organizers failed to confront this timber issue and instead engaged in green-washing to appear as if they were keeping their sustainability promise. The organizers have decided to conveniently interpret their own rules and defy logic in order to dismiss any complaints lodged against them and claim no violations occurred. Moreover, the organizers have failed to demonstrate any willingness to learn from their mistakes. There is a danger that Tokyo 2020 will leave a "harmful legacy" for future generations that tolerates this "fake sustainability."

Given the postponement of the Games, Tokyo 2020 organizers now have the ability to revisit their Pre-Games Report, recognize the Olympics’ sustainability failures, and facilitate the implementation of progressive measures that are necessary to protect forests. They should acknowledge and face the fact that the Tokyo Olympics contributed to tropical deforestation, thoroughly examine how the problem occurred, and derive lessons from their mistakes to avoid reoccurrence. An irresponsible response that evaluates only what was done well and neglects what was done poorly is unacceptable. A “true legacy” demands that the organizers sincerely acknowledge the problems that occurred in ensuring sustainability, and present clear solutions in the sustainability reports that can serve as guidelines for sustainable procurement by the city of Tokyo and other local governments, the Japanese Government, as well as the private sector.

Forests, especially tropical forests, play an important role in regulating the global climate and rainfall patterns. Forests absorb and store carbon, help to meet the basic needs of people living in and around the forests such as water and food, and contribute significantly to the conservation of biodiversity. The protection of forests and wildlife habitat is also being increasingly recognized as an important defense against deadly diseases like Covid-19. It is for these reasons that the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 15.2 aims to “halt deforestation” by 2020, and Target 15.5 aims to “halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.” Despite Tokyo 2020’s promise to promote the SDGs, its use of substantial quantities of tropical timber has gone in the opposite direction of sustainability. This failure should be spelled out in the Pre-Games Report as well as the Post-Games Report and provide lessons for future sustainable procurement.


Rainforest Action Network (RAN), United States

TuK INDONESIA, Indonesia

Sarawak Campaign Committee, Japan

Bruno Manser Fund, Switzerland

Hutan Group, Japan

Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JATAN), Japan

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)

Friends of the Earth Japan

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