“When you have been an athlete, especially if you are an outdoor athlete, you realize how important the environment is,” she said. “It’s close to your heart. For me, personally, the oceans are very important.”
Kendall, who joined the Sport and Environment Commission in 2009, said she has seen a growing environmental awareness throughout the Olympic Movement over the years. The Commission contributes to that trend by working with sports organisations and by hosting a biennial World Conference on Sport and the Environment for representatives of sport, government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, the scientific community and the media.
The Commission also advises the IOC Executive Board on environmental matters and works with Olympic Solidarity to support environmental initiatives by National Olympic Committees.
“Everyone is becoming more and more aware of just how important sustainability is, which is great,” she said. “It’s a huge problem that can be overwhelming, but if everybody just does a little bit, what a difference it can make. It needs to go down the layers to the grassroots. It needs to start at the local clubs. How do they look at their power consumption? How do they look at their water use? How do they look at their recycling?”
The IOC considers environmental responsibility an integral part of Olympism, along with sport and culture. In keeping with a recommendation by the Centennial Olympic Congress in 1994, the IOC amended the Olympic Charter in 1996 to stress the need to “encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly.”
Because environmental standards differ widely around the world, Kendall said education is an essential element of promoting sustainable development.
“It all starts with education,” she said. “It’s always going to be a work in progress. You’ve got to really balance between development for legacy and not developing to harm the environment.”
Kendall said she views her environmental work as part of her responsibility as the mother of two children.
“Growing up in New Zealand, I experienced the most amazing environment,” she said. “I want to make sure the world is a beautiful place for my kids when they grow up. That’s a strong motivator behind being passionate about the environment.”