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April 16, 2008

The sustainable events standard launches

As BS 8901 is officially unveiled, EVENTS:review gives you the chance to put your questions to BSI British Standards.

Today, after several months’ consultation with the events industry, BSI British Standards launches a new standard for sustainable event management.

Regular readers of EVENTS:review will be familiar with BS 8901 as it is known, as we have followed its progress on this web channel from concept to consultation. This week we will be giving you the chance to put questions to BSI about the standard. Simply email your queries all this week to [email protected] and we will forward them on and publish the answers to the best ones in a special feature.

In the meantime, we’ll report back tomorrow on the launch event, which takes place at 2pm today, while on Thursday we’ll feature a summary of the video interviews and reports on BS 8901 that have appeared on EVENTS:review to date, so you can get up to speed on the debate. We hope it will also fuel further questions for BSI.

The aims of the standard
To summarise briefly, BS 8901 sets out the requirements for planning and managing a sustainable event. Climate change, the protection of historic sites, equal opportunities and investment in local skills are just a few of the wide-ranging considerations the standard takes into account, and which are becoming increasingly important for event organisers and planners not only from an environmental standpoint, but, with growing pressure from customers and rising energy prices, an economic one too.

To claim compliance with BS 8901, an organisation must define and implement its sustainability policy, monitor and evaluate the event against key performance indicators and eventually review the event, feeding conclusions back into the policy to positively affect future events.
As well as enabling the events industry to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, BSI claims the standard also offers benefits to the individual organisation that include:

– Demonstration of improved sustainability performance within available budgets.
– Possible savings through reduction of waste, lower energy use and re-use of equipment and infrastructure.
– Healthy competitive advantage for compliant suppliers.
For and against
Since the idea to launch the standard was first muted several months ago, it has received widespread support from the live marketing industry.

Six organisations and venues, including Lord’s Cricket Ground, Earl’s Court and Olympia and Manchester International Festival, trialled the standard throughout the summer to find out exactly how it could work in practice.   

Lord’s Cricket Ground regularly draws a crowd of 29,000, which can generate a mountain of waste. In addition, irrigating the pitch requires tonnes of water. Commenting on the standard, Russell Seymour, projects officer at Lord’s, said: “BS 8901 provides a valuable framework within which to set targets around waste recycling and energy usage. The standard brings the potential for cost savings, both in reducing landfill tax and on bills.”
Meanwhile, Fiona Pelham, of Organise This, the Manchester-based events company that helped Manchester International Festival trial BS 8901, said: “Approaching this standard without a background knowledge of sustainability, it could look daunting and difficult. However, no matter how big or small, every company can implement BS 8901 and every company can make a difference.”

The standard, however, has not been welcomed in all quarters. Eventia’s executive director Izania Downie, for example, expressed her concern over its complexity in a video interview with EVENTS:review. As BS 8901 accredits individual events, Downie claimed this would prove unworkable from a cost and time perspective for smaller projects, as all elements of the supply chain need to be compliant.

The party line
However, BSI claims the standards has been designed for the entire range of events, from large-scale conferences and unique events such as London 2012, to rock festivals and amateur sporting events. The organisation also claims that it’s applicable to event organisers, clients, venues and organisations in the supply chain.
“Increasingly, customers are demanding sustainable products and services,” said BSI director Mike Low. “BS 8901 will serve as a road map for organisations wanting to improve the sustainability of their events be they global, national or at a local level. This standard provides a simple framework which can be used to address concerns such as reducing carbon emissions and improving resource efficiency.”
No doubt the debate will rage far after the standard is launched and, as mentioned earliery, you too have the chance to contribute by sending through your questions for BSI by emailing them to [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you…
For more official information on BS 8901 or to order a copy, visit www.bsi-global.com/BS8901
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