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April 4, 2008

BS 8901: Your questions answered

Following on from EVENTS:review's BS 8901 Week dedicated to issues surround the launch of the new sustainable events standard, you put your questions to BSI British Standards…

What are the benefits of following the standard, when for the moment there is no chance of official independent certification?

There are considerable benefits of using BS 8901 whether an organisation pursues certification or not. The potential benefits for organisations using BS 8901 include improved sustainability performance, wider community involvement and possible savings through reduction of waste, lower energy use and re-use of equipment. Use of BS 8901 will also enable an organisation to ensure it meets stakeholder expectations, reduces risks in event management and potentially makes better strategic business decisions.

Certification provides confirmation that an organisation is gaining the full benefits from the standard and offers possible differentiation from competitors who don’t have certification.

Although there is currently no certification scheme in place for BS 8901, organisations are able to self-certify. In this instance, the standard provides a benchmark against which an organisation can compare its existing management practices with respect to managing events more sustainably.

How will official certification to the standard come about and when will this happen?

If there is enough demand for certification from the events industry, UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (www.ukas.com), may consider providing accreditation for certification bodies. Accredited certification ensures that the certification process is of a high and consistent standard.

What are the cost implications of building in compliance to BS 8901? What were the additional costs face by Manchester International Festival, one of the events that piloted the standard?

BS 8901 offers potential savings through the reduction of waste, lower energy use and re-use of equipment. Time and financial costs depend entirely on the scale of the organisation or event and the activities involved. For example, a village fete and a stadium event would experience different costs appropriate to their respective size and the level of activity.

In the case of Manchester International Festival, there was a time cost involved in using BS 8901, particularly in terms of communicating with staff and stakeholders. The festival experienced the substantial benefits of using the standard, including meeting the expectations of stakeholders: a poll taken at the festival showed that 100% of those asked thought that a festival should demonstrate sustainability.

The supply chain is important in making an event comply with the standard. How can we encourage sceptical suppliers to become more sustainable?

BS 8901 encourages dialogue with suppliers and an explanation of the benefits of the standard may encourage sceptical suppliers to comply. The key benefit for suppliers is the possibility of cost-saving by increasing efficiency and making better use of resources. As sustainability requirements begin to appear in contracts and tenders, a supplier that embraces it may put themselves at an early advantage.

How does BSI British Standards expect small events companies to allocate time and resources to complying with the standard? Is this just not further compounding the plight of these companies in an industry where they are already struggling to find profit areas?

The requirements of BS 8901 are proportional to the size of the organisation and the scope of its activities. For example, it may not be appropriate for a smaller event to undertake a full stakeholder analysis or write sustainability into every contract. What is important is that the organisation has justified the measures it takes to embed sustainability.

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