Athletes must use their powerful global platforms to promote meaningful change, Great Britain athlete Hannah Mills has said.
Speaking at a Great Britain SailGP Team event held in partnership with SailGP’s Champions For Change, Mills said ‘it is no longer acceptable to just be an athlete’.
“With the rise of social media and the visibility and the reach that many athletes have, you’re such an influence over the people that follow you and your sport and that’s a huge responsibility to be showcasing the right qualities.”
She highlighted a study undertaken by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which shows that the cultural and global influence of athletes far outweighs that of politicians.
“That just shows how big a responsibility athletes and sport have to be leading by example in showing what needs to happen,” she said. “We need to be the communicators and the people that are getting those messages out there and we have the profile and the platform to do that.”
Mills, who is a three-time Olympic medallist and International Olympic Committee (IOC) sustainability ambassador, recalled her experience campaigning for the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which she was ‘blown away’ by the damage and plastic pollution of the coastline.
“It was eyeopening, and I think everyone at some point has that moment that clicks in terms of climate change and sustainability and that was it for me.”
She consequently used her ‘huge platform’ as an Olympic athlete to push out messaging around sustainability before setting up her own campaign, the Big Plastic Pledge.
Mills also pointed to the British team and SailGP’s work to promote and make meaningful change in the areas of sustainability and climate change.
“Off the water, there’s so many amazing amazing initiatives around impact and purpose,” she said, pointing to the Impact League, Women’s Pathway Program and SailGP’s ambitious aim to become fully powered by clean energy by 2025.
“It’s not enough to just make these statements, it’s about how you actually back that up and ensure that happens,” she said.