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Sustainable Events

Model of Sustainability

What are management systems and why do we have them?

A management system approach establishes the way that the Directors of a company want their business to operate through installing a framework for all team members to work within. This means that you can be sure your team are all working towards your objectives whilst taking responsibility for their own actions, roles and responsibilities. 

There is a common misnomer that Management Systems ‘straightjacket’ an organisation. However the opposite is true. It is the company that gives voice to the system and not the other way round. In other words you are in a position to be as creative as you want to be, working towards and developing your own objectives and targets within a system of continual improvement. Think of the Highway Code as being an excellent example of a Management System – how many of us need to refer to this manual (or even keep one in our car?!) yet we understand it and use it successfully to get to our destinations.

Management Systems require you to measure your progress by developing quantitative and qualitative Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to verify whether or not you are meeting your targets. This is a significant advantage of a management system approach as you can only manage what you measure. Through these kinds of instructive analyses you can make sure your company is going in the right direction, as lessons learned are fed back into the system to ensure continual improvement is achieved. 

The alternative to a management system approach is to use end-of-pipe solutions as a means of rolling out company rules and regulations. However, this far more reactive approach can be both costly and time consuming in that you can end up in the wrong place by trying to do the right thing! For any system to be effective it is essential to adopt a dynamic life-cycle approach when identifying the aspects of your activities, products and services that give rise to economic, social and environmental impacts. For example, printing involves paper, ink, personnel time and use of energy as well as creating waste that you will be paying to uplift. The use of equipment non-essentially also negatively affects your capital investment figs for that equipment. Having an awareness of these inter-relationships is vital in order to make accurate business decisions, facilitate cost savings, increase resource efficiency and reduce your environmental impacts. 

It is arguably more important in the area of environmental issues that a management system approach is adopted as there are no hard facts and figures to direct you to your end destination. Even the 2,500 scientists that form the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel of Climate Change) are still debating over the accuracy of their climate change models (primarily due to a number of amplifying positive feedback effects that are accelerating climate change). Therefore, objectives in this area are both performance and research driven, with the benefit of putting you firmly in the driving seat to ensure the wellbeing and longevity of your company. 

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BS8901: 2009

An overview of BS8901: 2009 Sustainability Management System for events - Specificatiion with guidance for use

About the standard

BS8901 was launched as a draft standard in November 2007. Over the recent months at Eventia we have been conducting reviews of the standard for the corporate events industry by consulting with different segments of the membership, including agencies, hoteliers and venues. These reviews have influenced the revision of this draft standard which has now been released in its form with the title:  BS8901: 2009 Sustainability Management System for events – Specification with guidance for use. 

BS8901: 2009 is a new British Standard which specifies the requirements for a Sustainability Management System for Events. BS8901 applies to event clients; event organisers/management; venues; and related supply chains.

Like ISO9001 (Quality Management System), ISO18001 (Health and Safety Management System) and ISO27001 (Information Security Management System), BS8901 is a standard that you can certify against. Certification is against the management system used by the organisation to manage their event-oriented activities, products and services and can be against one event only (in this regard it is essential to request the ‘scope’ of certification when requesting this information from suppliers or contractors). The event, therefore, is considered to be the ‘output’ of the system. 

Please be aware that for any Certification to be recognised by your clients and authorities, the audit needs to be carried out by a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited Certification Body (e.g. SGS; AJA, BSI QA; Lloyds, etc.). UKAS is a member, like other national Accreditation Bodies, of the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) who set the international criteria for certification. Each country has an Accreditation Body that assesses the competence of the Certification Bodies (those authorised to assess companies). It is also worth shopping around as costs vary considerably.  See Accredited Certification, Non-Accredited Certification and Benchmarking.

BS8901 is being pioneered by LOCOG in that it is being used as a ‘road map’ for organising 2012 London Olympic Games. It has recently been put forward to the International Standards Organisation for update to an ISO (currently referred to as ISO2012-1) but this is likely to take at least 2 years given that this procedure requires over 80 countries worldwide to agree and sign up to the standard. Organisations who have already achieved certification against BS8901 will be given a moratorium period of about 18 months to update their system according to any changes that are made (these are often fairly minor) so there is no cause for panic! 

The purpose of BS8901 is to help the events industry conduct business operations in a more sustainable manner. The standard is applicable to the full diversity of events and needs to be applied to the full life-cycle of the event (i.e. from conception to final review) as well as extend throughout the supply chain. It is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act process that is already used in event project management and requires measuring and monitoring of performance and the identification of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) within a context of continual improvement. 

The standard is also described as “proportional”, in other words, an organisation or individual’s role and position in the supply chain, its size, capacity to adopt the system and ability to implement it, will determine the requirements of the standard that apply. This means that the application of the standard in any situation is a matter of “informed” judgement with the measurement and monitoring of performance guiding decisions going forward so that continual improvement can be made.

Eventia members support on BS8901: 2009

To assist members overall understanding of BS8901:2009 standard we have created an overview of the key steps involved.  If you’d like to purchase the standard it is currently £60 to members of British Standard or £120 to non-members and can be found at http://shop.bsigroup.com/en/SearchResults/?q=BS8901:2009  

Download the Overview of the key steps in the BS8901:2009 standard

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ISO14001: 2004 Environmental Management System - Specification with guidance for use

This is a well established, robust and globally recognised management system, launched over 14 years ago and revised in 2004. Many organisations in other industry sectors cannot tender without certification against ISO14001. Like all management systems, it is a flexible, strategically pro-active approach that is research as well as performance driven.

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Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol

The Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol (CSMP) offers a flexible, umbrella framework that can be used to organise large, complex meetings in a more sustainable way. The protocol is not a standard that you can be accredited / certified against, but is intended to help planners in sustainably managing their meetings.  The CSMP aims to complement other existing guides present in the market, and it is not only targeted at corporate, government and association event organiser, but also consultants and managers in venues and large hotels.  It is designed to be used in combination with the ‘COP15 Event Sustainability Report.’

THE CSM is divided into chapters on: sustainable event management; introduction to the Protocol framework; leadership and commitment; strategic approach stakeholder engagement; operational integration; governance; and sustainability and the future of the meetings industry.

Download the Download the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol 

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Main differences between ISO14001 and BS8901

Environmental Standard ISO14001

Sustainability Standard BS8901


Generic Business

Integral process

Social aspects - not primary focus

Supply chain – not primary focus

Life Cycle and generic impact

Objective auditing (KPI’s)

PDCA (Plan Do Check Act)

Clauses 4.2 – 4.6

Refers to ‘Aspects’ and Impacts



Events Industry Specific

Integral process

Social aspects - primary focus

Supply chain an essential criterion

Life Cycle in terms of the event

Objective auditing (KPI’s)

PDCA (Plan Do Check Act)

Clauses 3.2 – 3.9

Refers to ‘Issues’ and Impacts

There are many commonalities between other management systems such as ISO9001 (Quality), ISO18001 (Health and Safety) and ISO27001 (Information Security Management). There is now an increased focus on Integrated Systems. It is ESSENTIAL to make the standards fit your business and not the business fit the standards, otherwise you will end up with a system that is bureaucratic rather than pragmatic. See What are Management Systems and why do we have them? for more details. 

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Accredited Certification, Non-Accredited Certification and Benchmarking

Disclaimer: the following is for information purposes only and has been written solely to increase readers understanding and support decision making.

Non-accredited Certification (e.g. Green Globe Certification) refers to those Certification Programmes that have been written and developed usually by sector industry organisations and individuals. Although they can assist in improvement performance, non-accredited Certification does not meet conditions of impartiality and will not be recognised by the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) or indeed some clients. Only accredited certification will be recognised and accepted by industry and commerce.

Accredited Certification is where a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited Certification Body has been audited and approved to certificate organisations against certain International and British Standards (e.g. the Certification Body has met IAF requirements for impartiality, governance etc). UKAS accredited Certification has the advantage of being recognised by Governments in the UK and globally in all industry sectors but has the disadvantage of being costly.

ISO1400l and BS8901 are both management system approaches to measuring and monitoring those activities, products and services that can cause impacts. A management system is effectively a means of transferring information within an organisation to that it ends up in the right place and can aid informed and strategic decision making. Non-accredited Certification may or may not be involve a management system approach. All non-accredited certification programmes have different requirements.

Benchmarking (e.g. the Green Globe Index (GGI)) is where the output of your activities is measured in terms of environmental impact with a view to reducing these measurements and therefore reducing impacts. GGI is a benchmarking programme that enables organisations to measure the use of utilities and environmental performance no matter where they are in the world, which is essential to understanding what you manage. It is important to be aware that organisations can only meaningfully benchmark against their own resource use and targets. It is hard to establish industry benchmarks or international benchmarks as every business, company and operation is different and operates from buildings of various designs in countries or regions with different weather conditions and different controls over the use of equipment.

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Download attached files below

  • French Convention Bureau
  • Star Alliance
  • Air Partner
  • Imex
  • Active Events
  • Event Assured