ISO 20121 puts sustainability at the heart of event management and planning. The standard was introduced prior to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and ensured that the event reached hitherto unparalleled levels of sustainability across all its targets. These events have become the blueprint for all those that follow. ISO 20121 was developed from an earlier British Standard, BS 8901 ‘Specification for a Sustainable Management System for Events’ (2007) which called for event organisers to embed social responsibility and the reduction of their carbon footprint at the heart of their functions, without sacrificing financial success. The system was so successful that when LOCOG (the organising committees for the Olympic Games) was first devising their plans, they incorporated its values and tenants into their strategy, with spectacular results.
Particularly prominent are the sustainability statistics to emerge after the games finished:
• Much of the London 2012 Olympic stadium was made using recycled steel – over two thirds – which cut construction costs by £500,000.
• Over 70% of the waste from the games was re-used, recycled or composted.
• The games achieved a 47% reduction in carbon emissions compared to standard construction processes.
• Food outlets at the venues, including multi-nationals, were required to source their raw ingredients from local suppliers.
• Contaminated soil from the site was washed and reused to create habitats for indigenous wildflowers and wet woodland species. The local river, The Lea, was also cleaned and now supports wildlife not seen in the area for many years.
• Over 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide were saved due to sustainable practices.
• All the timber used in the construction of the Velodrome came from certified, sustainable sources.
• The stadium wrap was recycled after the event and the panels went on to be reused or re-purposed in projects in the UK, as well as to provide shelter for children at risk in Uganda and much of it will be incorporated into Rio’s Olympic Games in 2016.
The Olympics are undoubtedly on an unprecedented scale and their complexity increases with every event that passes. But what lessons can organisers of less ambitious events learn from the importance of the ISO 20121 standards and how can they apply them to their own events?
What is ISO 20121
ISO 20121 is a specification for a management system by which an event’s sustainability objectives can be measured. Organisations involved in event management, of whatever scale, can achieve ISO 20121 certification by demonstrating their commitment to a strict set of criteria. These require the management systems in place to have considered not just the commercial success of any event, but also its impact on wider society, as well as its environmental impact. The simplest gesture, such as providing Fair Trade tea and coffee for refreshments for example, makes a positive statement that the organisation recognises the implicit unfairness inherent in society, and seeks to participate in redressing the balance.
The Benefits of ISO 20121 Certification
ISO 20121 certification is a clear statement of your intent, as an organisation of whatever size. The benefits are both immediate and far-reaching and include minimising negative impacts on the environment as well as making a positive contribution to local communities and the economy. By managing sustainable development issues organisations can reduce both cost and their carbon footprint, strengthen their image, credibility and reputation with both existing and potential customers and boost the morale of their staff who feel they are engaged in a worthwhile process.
ISO 20121 encourages events organisers around the world to assume the default position that ethical and environmental behaviour is the norm, rather than the exception. It challenges organisations to think creatively about their normal business activities and to re-evaluate how they conduct themselves – this can lead to a more focused, highly-competitive organisation which is able to attract clients who share similar ethics and objectives. When it comes to tendering for projects, ISO 20121 can make a huge difference in terms of competitiveness over rivals who are not certified – particularly when dealing with the public sector.
ISO 20121 Around the World
Globally, ISO 20121 is being adopted as some of the highest-profile events in the world. June 12 2014 sees the FIFA World Cup kick off in Brazil. FIFA and the event’s organising committee have committed themselves to a transparent and rigorous sustainability programme that encompasses every aspect of the tournament. This includes a firm commitment to reducing the tournament’s carbon footprint in every aspect of this highly-complex event. They have identified energy production such as electricity use, refrigerant gases, the treatment of water and waste water, food and beverages, merchandise production, accommodation, logistics and travel as the main constituents in carbon output, the latter primarily because of the sheer scale of the country. They have stated plainly that all suppliers to the tournament were required to be ISO 2012 certified, demonstrating that an event on this scale can be a power for environmental and societal good.
When Dubai was announced as the host of Expo 2020, in November 2013, it was seen as an opportunity to demonstrate sustainable excellence in action. The event, which is expected to attract 25 million global visitors over six months, has the potential to have a dramatic impact on how sustainability is viewed in MENA and influence future events within the region. Every detail of the event has been designed with sustainability in mind, from the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) which is in the process of obtaining its ISO 20121 certification, to the use of technology to disseminate information and thereby cut the use of waste paper. It’s an enormous challenge to the organisers of the event but one which will influence the way in which the industry conducts itself in the future.
Looking even further ahead, the FIFA World Cup will come to Qatar in 2022. The organisers have faced severe challenges thus far – criticisms of the choice of destination given the extreme temperature participants and spectators will have to endure at the hottest time of the year are at the forefront. FIFA have been collaborating closely with the organisers of the event to ensure that all these concerns are met and to include in their documentation concerns surrounding the working conditions of migrant labourers who are involved in the construction process. Demonstrating their commitment to ISO 20121, the organisers have produced a Worker’s Charter which outlines their plans to open bank accounts for workers, their determination to comply with stringent health and safety regulations and to offer accommodation which meets minimum standards of comfort and facilities.
How Can MiceSus ISO 20121 Consultation Help You?
Whichever part of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions sector your company specialises in – from security and protection, audio visual or lighting, catering, venue management and set construction through to event organisation within both the public and private sector – MiceSus can help you in more ways than you could imagine. Whether you need our consultation services to ensure that you’re as ISO 20121-compliant as we are (and we are rightly proud to be the first company within the MICE industry to have such certification), or if you’re looking to host a sustainable event, of whatever scale, we can help.
Our unique blend of sustainability knowledge and events expertise enables us to provide a greenprint to which deals with pre- and post-event analysis and evaluation, ensuring your environmental KPIs are met, your procurement and green supply chain is set, your carbon footprint is reduced and your branding and marketing incorporates your sustainability objectives. All this means that MiceSus is able to reduce your operational expenses by implementing your event in accordance with ISO 20121 guidelines and within the KPI parameters we will work with you to set. Moreover, MiceSus is fully-compliant with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s sustainability standards.
Organisations within the MICE industry are clearly seeing the benefits of ISO 20121 and are responding enthusiastically and rapidly. ISO 20121 has been proven to work – it saves money, it avoids damaging the environment and it changes people’s lives for the better, throughout the world, as well as playing a vital role in reducing costs which means your business benefits too. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the Middle East and North Africa, where businesses of every size, especially those in the MICE industry, are keen to demonstrate their sustainability credentials to retain existing clients and attract like-minded new ones. Those organisations who fail to respond to the sustainability challenge or think that sustainability is of little or no importance will quickly find themselves left behind in this socially-responsible and forward-thinking industry, where people and the environment matter as much, if not more, than profit.