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August 9, 2009

BS8901 PLUS:Why the standard offers more than sustainability

With an updated version of the BS8901 sustainable events standard due for release in the autumn, Ian Whiteling finds out that gaining accreditation boosts far more than just a company’s green credentials.

BS8901 has been revised based upon over 12 months of experience with the standard. The new version, due to be released in the next month or two, is easier to understand and has a clearer structure, according to Tim Sunderland, managing director of Sustainable Event Certification, which provides training, advice and certification to BS8901.

“The new standard is much simpler, although it is still a hard read due to the nature of the language in which these standards are created,” says Sunderland, who was involved in driving the changes to the standard.

“BS8901 is designed to help organisations improve the sustainability of their event-related activities, products and services, but in essence, it simply prescribes a business management framework.”


It’s the innovations today that will become common practice
tomorrow, and it is the innovators that will gain the competitive
edge as clients, such as the London 2012 Olympics, start to demand
more sustainable solutions to their events.” Sunderland


Consequently, Sunderland is seeing how BS8901 is becoming a valuable tool to help small and medium-sized organisations restructure their management systems and improve efficiencies – not simply a driver of sustainability.

Running better

The benefits are particularly apparent in multi-sited organisations and those that are growing and hiring new people, according to Sunderland, as the adoption of best practices and the improved transparency required by BS8901 enables new recruits to be quickly assimilated into the business. One organisation even commented on how adopting BS8901 has significantly reduced emails and phone calls simply because everyone now knows how the organisation operates.

Improving operations in this way can play a key role in getting companies through the downturn, as it can raise service levels giving them an edge in the marketplace, and increase efficiency; thereby saving costs.

Driving innovation
In addition to improving organisational effectiveness, BS8901 is also driving more creativity and innovation in the industry.

“Sustainability is all about innovation and finding new ways to exceed client expectations that have a lighter environmental footprint and a stronger social contribution,” explains Sunderland. “We are seeing catering firms offering lower carbon menus, new tools being applied to demonstrate the return on investment of events, venues providing 100% compostable service ware and achieving 100% waste diversion rates from landfill. We’ve also witnessed event organisers running events with zero handouts and giveaways, conferences being powered by solar energy, even free concert tickets being provided to those who support community projects.”

Many of these creative approaches to sustainability are also saving costs, once again helping companies’ cash flow at a critical time.

The green agenda will return
“It’s the innovations today that will become common practice tomorrow, and it is the innovators that will gain the competitive edge as clients, such as the London 2012 Olympics, start to demand more sustainable solutions to their events,” says Sunderland.

Although sustainability has slipped further down the agenda of some organisations during the recession, environmental and social issues won’t disappear and there’s every chance they will climb back up it once the economy starts to recover. For most governments and multi-national organisation, however, sustainability has not only remained key, but has become even more important.

Wal-Mart, for example, which reportedly touches a third of the world’s productive capacity, has revised its business strategy to improve the sustainability of all of its products – affecting more than 100,000 suppliers.

From Sunderland’s experience over the past year, it appears the route to BS8901 certification not only boosts a company’s sustainable credentials, but also results in improved operations and encourages innovation. As such, it can not only help companies through the recession, but also prepare them for take off once the economic storm passes.

For details on BS8901 training courses, visit www.sustainableeventcertification.com

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