The view of an IOC Sustainability Ambassador

August 13, 2021

In the year of the coronavirus, Martin Helseth, IOC Sustainability Ambassador, decided to relieve his boredom with a daily dive. With every dive he collected plastic from the ocean.

Martin Helseth - Olympic rower
Age: 27

International track record:

  • 9th Tokyo Olympics 2021
  • Silver WorldCup III 2021
  • Bronze WorldCup I 2018
  • Bronze WorldCup II 2017
  • Silver U23 World Championships 2016
  • Silver U23 World Championships 2015

In summer 2020, Martin was supposed to compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The buildup for the competition was suddenly put on hold and the team was sent back home from their training camp in Portugal. Martin was sent back home to Aalesund to go into quarantine and did not hold out much hope for the rest of the rowing season. The local rowing club was shut down and there was little activity, so he returned to his favourite hobby of freediving and spearfishing. He started by going out for one dive a day for a couple of months.

After witnessing at first hand what goes on beneath the surface of the water, Martin made a rule for himself. From now on he would always bring back more waste than fish from his spearfishing trips. However, after trying this out for a while he found out that it made more sense to focus on collecting waste rather than hunting. He made a deal with the local waste handling company whereby they would take care of all the waste he could collect. He also started a crowdfunding campaign, where he set up a goal of cleaning 1kg of waste for every 10 Norwegian kroner donated. At the end of the project, he had cleaned almost 7 tonnes from the areas around Aalesund and Oslo.

His main activity is rowing and during his years on the national team he has won international medals at World Cup events and in the Under-23 World Championships. He follows a strict training regime and works out between 20 and 30 hours per week. He takes no holiday to speak of. The sport enables him to see the world, meet incredible people and pursue his childhood dreams on a daily basis.

Martin has found out that he can use his position as an elite athlete to draw attention to the issues he cares about. Since childhood, he has spent much time in and around the sea and he is now very worried about human impact on our seas, waterways and oceans. He has therefore become an IOC Sustainability Ambassador and an EU Climate Pact Ambassador through an organization called “The Big Plastic Pledge”, which was started by British sailor Hannah Mills. She started the organization after witnessing the bad water quality, and the amount of plastic in the water, during the Rio Olympics in 2016.

In 2020 Martin entered into a partnership with MMC First Process, to assist the company in its work of promoting and contributing to a sustainable world. Martin will be advising MMC First Process on its sustainability strategy and will act as our compass, helping us to stay on course as we navigate our way through sustainability and the promotion of our products. Martin grew up in the north-west of Norway and has always loved nature. MMC First Process and Martin share the common vision of making the most out of nature.

“I take great pleasure in being out in the open air and I am mindful that the level of resources we extract from nature for our own consumption needs to be kept as low as possible – and we must make use of everything we harvest,” says Martin. This basic view of how to treat our common resources is strongly shared by MMC First Process.

“Why plastic, I ask. Why not something else?” “Plastic is visible, and it clearly does not belong in the sea. It is easy for people to understand. Everyday choices matter as we try and work out how we can secure a sustainable future for young people. Martin buys much of his food from a shop that sells food that is close to its expiry date and food that has errors in the packaging, or for other reasons cannot be sold in a regular supermarket. He drives an electric moped and voices his opinion in IOC panel discussions.

“I do what I can, both in my everyday life and in any forum where my voice can be heard. The changes that are required should happen as part of people’s everyday lives and we should all make choices that promote sustainability. The same goes for companies – every company must do what it can to be sustainable. MMC First Process is in a great position to do its part: namely to promote and develop technology to make sure we take good care of the fish we produce”.

MMC First Process has an ambitious goal; that of being “A complete game changer”. It involves paying maximum attention to fish welfare and optimising our clients’ processes to ensure that as much as possible of the fish caught in the ocean or farmed in controlled environments ends up as high-quality food for people. This is a goal that we expect Martin to hold us to and help us to achieve.

“There are many serious issues with industrial food production, but it is a hugely important part of the sustainable food equation. MMC First Process is using technology, experience and their basic ethos to achieve the highest possible standards. I hope that I can make a contribution to this important journey,” says Martin.


”To compete globally, we have to travel. However, I have suggested changes. For example, holding several competitions in one place in a shorter timeframe. I also try to avoid flying, if possible, preferring train, car or even my own bicycle”, says Martin.


Sign up to our newsletter