Strategic Systematic Approach to Sustainability

For sustainability to successfully deliver social, environmental and economic benefits, it needs to be integrated into the planning of the event. It is important to note that the sustainable event strategy outlined in the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol is not an additional process, but a series of processes to be integrated into the existing management system.

Strategy Driven by Standards

BS8901 provides good guidance in the design of an sustainable event management system. BS8901 is not a checklist or a ‘how to’ guide. Instead, it provides requirements for the strategic approaches and processes for planning and managing sustainable events. It requires identification and documentation of key sustainability issues which may include: venue selection, operating procedures, supply chain management, procurement, communications, transport and others.

The standard is applicable not only to large events such as the Olympics and COP15, but can also be applicable throughout the sector supply chain encompassing:

• Event organisers.
• Venues.
• Destinations.
• Organisations and individuals in the supply chain.

If the established criteria is met, and if procedures are well documented, the event management system may be eligible to earn a self-certification designation, or be eligible to be certified by a third party as compliant with the BS8901 standard. It is important to note that the event is simply the outcome of the event management system and is itself not certifiable under the standard. The planning process or event management system is what is subject to standards compliance.

Although it was originally created for the UK events industry in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics, London, BS8901 has now been implemented all around the world by organisations such as the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/COP15, Microsoft, MPI and the US Green Buildings Council.

Beginning in 2009, and continuing until 2012, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is developing an internationally recognised sustainability standard called ISO20121. ISO20121 builds and improves on BS8901with the integration of material from the ISO2600015 standard for Social Responsibility, and enhanced guidance on the management system specification and environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Developing a Sustainable Event Strategy

The CSMP highlights five key steps that are required to create a good sustainable event management strategy that can be certified by BS8901. The event strategy needs to be nurtured by the outcomes of the leadership element of the CSMP. This means that without a clear vision, purpose, principles and commitment then a sustainability strategy won’t succeed fully and won’t be able to achieve external BS8901 certification.

The five key strategical steps are:

Issues: Identify key business issues, risks and organisational drivers that will affect the event. The SWOT and STEP (social, technology, environmental and political) model is useful for brainstorming and defining these issues. Care should also be taken to assess legal and other requirements.

Scope: Decide what is to be included into the management system and what will not be included. For example, an organisation may decide to include event logistics but not the sales and marketing of an event. Initial boundaries are often based on areas where the planner has influence and control. The APEX Green Meeting categories outlined in the section on Operational Integration provide an additional tool for narrowing down areas of the event which should be included in the sustainability management system.

Objectives: Set aggressive short-term (less than one year) and long-term (three to five year) SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time based) objectives and targets. Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which enables efficient monitoring of success.

Priorities: Decide where the event team should focus their energy by identifing the key priorities. It is useful to spot any objectives which can be quickly and easily achieved. These quick wins help planners to demonstrate that the sustainability project has a good business case which, in turn, helps to build management support, personal motivation and to engage other stakeholders in the vision and project. For events which attract a high degree of media attention, it is often advisable to focus on the highly visible areas of the event. Examples of highly visible initiatives might include the calculation and offsetting of emissions, sustainable catering, transport, Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) paper and strategic placement of easy-to-interpret recycling stations.

Policy: Summarise the sustainability strategy components into a short concise one to two page policy document. This includes the vision and purpose of sustainability within the event boundary, organisation commitment, objectives, targets, priorities and principles. The event sustainability policy also needs to underline a commitment to constant learning and improvement. The policy should be written to be shared with
all key stakeholders of the event, across the value chain.