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December 12, 2008

The standard will not be compromised

With sustainability bringing cost savings and not adding costs to meetings and events, the framework for sustainability provided by the British Standard for Sustainable Events, BS8901, has the potential to save the meetings and events businesses, and provide a commercial edge through the downturn.

Following our recent look at whether CSR and sustainability will be forced off the agenda for corporate planners and event managers seeking to deliver the best possible value, this week we look at whether the recession will impact on the good work that has been done in meetings and events by the British Standard for sustainable events, BS8901.

“It is a disputable fact that sustainability comes at a cost; educating staff may incur a cost but beyond this sustainability should be a balance of economic, environmental and social best practice. BS8901 is a framework for implementing sustainability,” says Fiona Pelham who heads up Positive Impact and Organise This. “Those who implement this framework will find their everyday way of working is changed so environmental and social impacts are considered on the same basis as economical impacts. It should not be overlooked that implementing sustainability can also win business, for example London 2012 are looking for their suppliers to demonstrate sustainability.”


Leading by Ex-ample: ExCeL London was the first venue
in the UK to independently accredited for BS8901


Many UK venues and suppliers have already been working towards BS8901 accreditation and compliance for some time, and this has and will continue to be a USP for them even in tougher economic times. One of those venues is ExCeL London, and James Mark, the venue’s group head of event management and 2012 Olympics project director, is adamant the standard will not lose its impetus. “ExCeL London was the first UK venue to be third-party accredited with BS8901 earlier this year, which was achieved at the Meeting Professional’s International’s European Meetings and Events Conference. We are working with a long list of clients who want us to work with them to achieve this standard for their events and I know other venues are seeing the same.”

Making the industry a better place

He continues: “As the largest Olympics venue – hosting seven events and five Paralympic events – we are working very closely with the 2012 Organising committee to help deliver the most sustainable games ever staged and BS8901 is an integral part of this. The standard does not need saving as there is now real desire from the industry to make this happen and move our industry into a better place.”

Tom Treverton of the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) is equally effusive in his support of the standard: “Now more than ever the meetings and events industry needs BS8901 and it needs to be better educated as to what the standard and 'sustainability' are.
“BS8901 is designed to combat the misguided belief by some that sustainability does indeed come at cost, and to help people understand sustainability and provide a framework to help businesses incorporate sustainable initiatives into their management systems. As panel members of BS8901, we are still involved in the standard's growth and development, and continue to meet to realise this ongoing process. We can say, with confidence, that industry demand is high, and increasing.”

Looking to the future

Amanda Barnes, chief executive, Faversham House Group, believes organisers need to be looking to the future as well as looking at this year budget. “The expectations of stakeholders are growing and we want to work with our staff, our suppliers, our exhibitors and our visitors to ensure a sustainable future,” she says. “By looking at areas such as onsite policies and procedures many organisers will realise that they are already working towards the standard. Areas such as recyclable carpet, recycling bins around the shows, re-using electrical components in lighting and mains, and encouraging car sharing among visitors, all of this contributes towards best practice. I believe we should be not looking to achieve the standard for individual events, rather as a management ethos going through everything we do.”

Nick Porter, managing director of creative communications specialist, Fresh Group believes this will soon start to drive a huge divide through meetings and event suppliers – from venues right the way through to AV suppliers. “As more suppliers become environmentally sound, those that do not have a defined environmental statement may find that certain venues will be unwilling to work with them,” he opines. “So, even when clients are spending less, those companies that have adopted an environmental system are more likely to stick with it. Going forward, businesses which have placed ‘green’ issues on the top of their agenda will probably continue to do so.”

Having said that he believes it may be difficult to encourage new companies to implement the standard in an economic downturn. “The only way to do this is to demonstrate the long-term benefits that having a more structured approach to sustainability can bring – it can actually increase revenue and attract potential clients,” he concludes.

Indeed, rather than being under threat, the EIA’s Treverton believes BS8901 itself that has the potential to save events businesses, and provide a commercial edge.  “Requests for sustainability policies are undoubtedly climbing, and industry stakeholders who posses the ability to demonstrate evidence of sustainable initiatives within their operations are thus more likely to prosper,” he adds. “In the current economic climate, it sounds like BS8901 could be a highly valuable asset to the events industry. We should all be very pleased we have it, and embrace it.”

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