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Thinking about sustainability in events


One of our colleagues is currently enrolled on the M&IT Sustainability in Events course which has sparked a number of conversations around the office out of which has emerged regular ‘how do we know we are doing the right thing’ questions.

Sustainable development was defined in the World Commission on Environment and Development's 1987 Brundtland report ´Our Common Future` as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

While this overarching statement needs careful consideration the outtake was deemed to be that sustainable development is based on three fundamental pillars: social,economic and environmental. These principles are also informally used as profit, people and planet.

Further work on the three principles identified six factors of sustainability: climate change, environment, innovation, technology, people, and ethics.

Subsequent World Sustainable Development Summit’s strive to reinvigorate global action and commitment towards the delivery of the sustainable development agenda.  

Specific to the event management industry and the delivery of sustainable development goals via live events was the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games which was the catalyst for ISO 20121 standard.

Among stakeholders who provided input to the development of the standard were members of the sustainability team for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

David Stubbs, Head of Sustainability at LOCOG, said: “London 2012 is proud to have been the catalyst for ISO 20121. This is a piece of legacy with the potential to transform how events around the world consider their economic, environmental and social impacts.”

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ISO 20121 has been developed to help ensure that events, ranging from local celebrations to “mega events”such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, leave behind a positive legacy in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits, with minimum material waste, energy consumption, or strain on local communities.

The new management standard was created by the event industry for the event industry.

The team at Blackberry Events strive to embrace the principles of sustainable development in all that we do looking to work with clients to identify the potentially negative impacts of events, removing or reducing them, and capitalising on the more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

According to David Stubbs,“it is easiest to implement sustainability from the outset, rather than try to retrofit it at a later stage.’’ Of course, that is particularly relevant for one-off events. For those who do repeat events or are already established organisations in the event sector, you have to start where you are and build from there.

But returning to the key question ‘how do we know if we are doing the right thing?’

Understandably due to the extensive media profile of global warming and climate change sustainability is very frequently interpreted as minimising negative environmental impact.

We believe it is also important to look closely at the other two pillars of social and economic or people and profit, striving where we can, to invest in the local community where the event is taking place, employing local businesses, local people and spending money in the local hospitality such that we make a contribution to the social and economic well being of the local area.

It's frequently a very fine balance to determine which of the three pillars receives the most focus but for us the key here is ‘balance’ ensuring that we do the right thing when and where we can.  

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