Sustainable Events

The Future Environmental & Sustainability Responsibility Of The Conference Organiser

The October 2016 edition of Conference News has a feature on sustainability which takes the rather narrow perspective of ‘greening’ the event for the benefit of the environment. The top 5 suggestions for organising a sustainable event include:

Travel: focus on reducing travel time and lift sharing

Venue: choose a location that is sustainably recognised and ideally Green Tourism certified

Community: manage noise levels and arrange deliveries within reasonable working hours

Suppliers and Contractors: work with local sustainably minded suppliers

Waste: keep waste to a minimum and use recycle bins

All of the above are absolutely sensible and laudable recommendations but sadly they give the impression that sustainability is just about environmental impacts. And here’s the bit that many people miss. Sustainability isn’t just about being green. It is a combination of being commercially successful, contributing to a stronger and more just society. Thereby reducing the impact of activities on the environment.

BS8901 ‘Sustainable Event Management Systems, the British standard developed in 2007 specifically for the events industry and ISO 20121 an international version of the standard developed and introduced to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics the industry is well served by standards and accreditation bodies.

ISO Terms For Future Event Planning

The ISO 20121 website http://www.iso20121.org/ sets out in simple terms the building blocks of a management system that will help any event related organisation to:

  •        Continue to be financially successful
  •        Become more socially responsible
  •        Reduce its environmental footprint

However, ISO 20121 is a specification that determines the elements of a management system that organisations must have in place. These may also require changes to existing practices and the adoption of new practices. It is not a checklist and it is by the websites’ own admission “difficult to understand”. So it is perhaps of little surprise that out of many a conference organiser, more out of convenience rather than ignorance, pay little if any service to implementing sustainable practices into their events.

At Blackberry Productions we used to use a single AV supplier that would truck the crew and equipment around the UK. We try not to do this now, using local crew and equipment where possible thus making a contribution to the local economy where the event is being held. Giving students an opportunity to gain paid work experience to increase their chances of future employment and we strive to be commercially successful to help us create employment opportunities for others.

We believe in meeting people where they stand. While we would not advocate avoiding or ignoring the standards. This we feel that by making small adjustments where possible can make a big difference towards compliance with the ethos, if not full adoption, of the standards.