Home

News

Event sustainability management - ISO 20121 passes 2012 Olympic Games test

by Garry Lambert on
ISO News feeds (RSS)
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photo: LOCOG

Rarely has a new ISO management standard been put to such immediate and successful use as ISO 20121:2012, Event sustainability management systems - Requirements with guidance for use. The 2012 Olympic Games in London was the first major test of the new standard.

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. It is applicable to any organization that wishes to establish, implement, maintain and improve an event sustainability management system as a framework for identifying the potentially negative impacts of events, removing or reducing them, and capitalizing on the more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

London 2012 – the catalyst for ISO 20121

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.”

ISO Focus+ asked David Stubbs and other early users of ISO 20121, including Manchester United Ltd., the 2012 Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, and Sustainable Events Ltd., to comment on their experiences in implementing the new standard, and its effectiveness in action.


LOCOG

ISO Focus+ : When did LOCOG begin implementing an event sustainability management system following ISO 20121 requirements and guidance ?

David Stubbs : We identified the need for an effective sustainability management system as part of our bid to host the Olympic Games back in 2004/5. At the time we identified a gap in the market for a sustainability management system that addressed sustainability in the context of events. From the earliest stage of our development as an organizing committee, we started developing our management system, which of course pre-dated the British Standard BS 8901, let alone ISO 20121.

Olympic StadiumFlowers in bloom in the Olympic Park looking towards the Olympic Stadium. Photo: LOCOG

Nevertheless, we were engaged in the development of BS 8901 so there was an element of iteration, and, as our organization matured, we were able to formalize our arrangements in line with the then newly published BS 8901 (2007), and subsequently the 2009 version to which we were independently certified in September 2011. We achieved third-party certification to ISO 20121 in June 2012.

ISO Focus+ : Could you confirm the full scope of application of ISO 20121 ?

David Stubbs : Our management system in conformity with ISO 20121 covers LOCOG. Thus we are certified as the organizing committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games across all our activities and operations. Some of our venues have also implemented ISO 20121, but they have done this in their own right, not as part of London 2012. The Olympic Delivery Authority separately achieved ISO 20121 for its transport operations.

ISO Focus+ : Can you comment on the benefits of running events in conformity with the standard ?

David Stubbs : The benefit of the management system is that it gives you a structured approach to addressing sustainability aspects. This allows you to put together a more effective programme than if you just dabbled in it. Secondly, a management system approach will give you more credibility with stakeholders and regulators - and for any large event these days, it is essential to get this element right. Sustainability can achieve significant cost savings through resource efficiency, but it is hard to realize these without having a proper management system.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe some of the initiatives and measures you have already taken in doing so ?

In response, David Stubbs pointed to LOCOG’s Pre-Games Sustainability Report, Delivering change, for details of initiatives implemented in conformity with ISO 20121. It stated : The London 2012 Sustainability Plan was structured around five sustainability themes - climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living. The priority issues were :

  • Carbon management to deliver a low-carbon Games
  • Delivering a zero-waste Games
  • Providing sustainable and accessible transport solutions
  • Using the Games to showcase the economic benefits of sustainability
  • Promoting sustainable living by making sustainability a visible part of the Games
  • Ensuring the Olympic Park legacy contributes to the regeneration of communities in east London

London 2012 was the first zero-waste-to-landfill Games, achieved by designing out waste, maximizing product lifetime, hiring rather than buying new, refurbishing items for reuse, composting waste, and using incineration with energy recovery. About 99 % of waste created during construction of the Olympic Park was recovered, reused and recycled. Food waste and food and drink packaging was channelled into colour-coded recycling, food and compostable packaging and non-recyclable waste streams.

Existing venues were used wherever practical, and new permanent venues were built only where there was a strong legacy case. Temporary structures were erected for all other needs. A cable-net roof built for the Velodrome instead of the original steel arch design saved about 1 000 tonnes of steel and resulted in embodied carbon savings of over 27 %. Biomass boilers and photovoltaic arrays on buildings were used to generate renewable energy.

After the Games, all homes in the Olympic Village were to be connected to the existing community heating system and be water efficient, achieving a usage intensity of 105 litres per person per day (versus a 144 litre average).

ISO Focus+ : Have you found ISO 20121 easy to implement – or did you meet any challenges en route ?

David Stubbs : I certainly think that if ISO 20121 had existed in 2005 when we started, our work would have been so much easier. The biggest challenge was due to the scale of the project and the constant growth of LOCOG from a micro-enterprise to a major corporation in the space of seven years. Most events are, relatively, much simpler and have clearer boundaries, so ISO 20121 should be a valuable tool for most professional event organizers.

ISO Focus+ : Is there any advice you could give to other organizations contemplating ISO 20121 implementation and certification ?

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 organizations in the event sector, you have to start where you are and build from there.

Some of the key elements to get right early on are (a) establishing leadership commitment and putting sustainability into your governance structure, and (b) identifying your stakeholders and their main issues. For those who delay because of fears about committing resources, it is important to remember that doing this properly is most likely to save you money.

David Stubbs
David Stubbs
David Stubbs
Head, Sustainability
London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Parlympic Games (LOCOG)
London, United Kingdom


Danish Presidency of the EU Council

Sustainability has been an integral part of the Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union during its term of office in 2012. The objective was to promote practical solutions to highlight the benefits of making the Presidency more sustainable. In recognition of this achievement, Denmark has become the first EU Presidency to be awarded ISO 20121 certification.

ISO Focus+ interviewed Andreas Clausen Boor, Head of Section and Sustainability Coordinator for Denmark’s Foreign Ministry, responsible for organizing some 100 events taking place in a sustainable way under the Danish Presidency.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting of the Council of the European UnionDanish Prime Minister and German Chancellor at a meeting of the Council of the European Union, run sustainably under the auspices of the ISO 20121-certified Danish Presidency. Photo: Council of the European Union

ISO Focus+ : When did the Danish Foreign Ministry first implement an event sustainability management system following ISO 20121 requirements and guidance ?

Andreas Clausen Boor : The EU Presidency was the first time. The standard became official in June 2012, so we were the first event to receive it. The Olympics also received it, but in advance as the Games had not yet started.

ISO Focus+ : How many and what type of events have you organized using the standard ?

Andreas Clausen Boor : Around 100 political meetings ranging from large high-level conferences to small workshops (all meetings had more than 60 participants and the largest was attended by 900 people). We also arranged nine Informal Councils (meetings of ministers of finance, foreign secretaries, justice ministers, etc.) and two meetings between the EU-Commission/EU-Parliament and the Danish Government.

ISO Focus+ : Can you comment on the benefits of running events in conformity with the standard ?

Andreas Clausen Boor : Following the standard provides a strategic and coherent approach to working with sustainability. Instead of scattered “green” initiatives, we were able to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the Presidency logistics, and the ISO International Standard helped us implement the necessary systems and procedures.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe some of the initiatives and measures you have already taken in doing so ?

Andreas Clausen Boor : Among the many initiatives were : a ban on bottled water, with only tap water served at meetings (hence our nickname “the Tap Water Presidency”); sustainable food (local, organic, seasonal); eco-certified hotel rooms and conference venues; all electricity from wind turbines; food waste processed into natural gas used to heat Danish households; waste management; use of public transportation and free bicycles for delegates; a smart VIP transport system reducing the need for cars by 75 %; collection and recycling of conference badges and lanyards; CO2-neutral freight and shipping; green flights and CO2-offsetting for EU delegates sponsored by Scandinavian Airlines.

ISO Focus+ : Is there any advice you would give to other organizations contemplating ISO 20121 implementation and certification ?

Andreas Clausen Boor : Start early and use common sense. The standard is fairly easy to implement as long as the systems are set up from the beginning.

Andreas Clausen Boor
Andreas Clausen Boor
Andreas Clausen Boor
Head of Section and Sustainability Coordinator
Danish Foreign Ministry
Denmark


Manchester United Ltd.

ISO Focus + interviewed Keith McIntosh, Health, Safety and Environmental Manager of ISO 20121-certified Manchester United Limited, owner of the famous Manchester United Old Trafford Stadium and home venue of Manchester United, one of the wealthiest and most widely supported football teams in the world. In 2012, Forbes Magazine voted the team No. 1 in its annual ranking of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams, valuing the club at USD 2.23 billion.

Old Trafford StadiumISO 20121-certified Old Trafford Stadium, home of Manchester United and scene of many memorable Premier League and international football matches, conferences, award ceremonies and other events. Photo: Manchester United Ltd.

ISO Focus+ : When did you begin implementing an event sustainability management system following ISO 20121 requirements and guidance ?

Keith McIntosh : Prior to the introduction of ISO 20121, we spent the last two years working towards and implementing BS 8901. When we realized we could go forward with the new ISO sustainability standard as soon as it was confirmed, we decided to implement it prior to the Olympic Games, working closely with a team from Sustainable Events Ltd.

Manchester United Ltd. was awarded ISO 20121 certification of its sustainability management system in July 2012, covering the planning and delivery of sporting activities and events at the Old Trafford Stadium.

ISO Focus+ : What type of events have you organized using the standard ?

Keith McIntosh : We trialled a number of events in preparation for certification, working with two events organizers to trial the system with regard to waste monitoring, management and reporting. Going forward, we are working in partnership with events organizers and their clients to offer our events services in line with ISO 20121 for exhibitions, conferences, award ceremonies, etc. These services include internal facilities such as rooms, suites and lounges, and also encompass all the football matches. During London 2012 we hosted nine men’s and women’s Olympic football matches.

ISO Focus+ : Can you comment on the benefits of running events in conformity with the standard ?

Keith McIntosh : It is early days, we are very much in the process of engaging, liaising and encouraging events organizers who bring their events to Old Trafford to be aware of the standard, to engage with it and work in partnership with us. We see that as one of our responsibilities. We want to encourage members of the events industry to consider a venue that will help make their event more sustainable - and help them meet some of their social responsibility requirements.

Organizations such as Envirolink North West, the Carbon Trust, and WRAP (the Waste Resources Action Programme), are keen to be involved in partnering with us to bring their events to our venue because we are in a position to offer suppliers to the event industry opportunities to learn, educate and progress, particularly in sustainability. In doing so, they get a lot of kudos from their association with Manchester United, and that’s a bonus.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe some of the initiatives and measures you have already taken ?

Keith McIntosh : We are already doing a lot, particularly in environmental best practice. Recently, we achieved the Carbon Trust best-practice standard for the second time, underlining our commitment to energy efficiency and carbon energy reduction. Also, the Manchester United Foundation has been doing fantastic work in its goal of motivating and inspiring future generations to build better communities. It’s a shop window to our sustainability programmes.

ISO Focus+ : Have you found ISO 20121 easy to implement - or have you met any challenges en route ?

Keith McIntosh : It has been challenging, but we have met the challenges such as how to adapt ISO 20121 requirements to our business and operation, how to make it relevant. That’s because of the nature of our business - we have a very broad scope of stakeholder interest, with extensive international business and a very recognizable brand.

But we find the standard very helpful. When this standard was announced our Chief Operating Officer, Michael Bolingbroke - the director responsible for our sustainability initiatives - made it quite clear that we must achieve internationally recognized “five-star gold standards” such as ISO 20121 and ISO 14001. In this respect, the support and leadership from the top makes a big difference.

ISO Focus+ : Is there any advice you would give to organizations contemplating ISO 20121 implementation and certification ?

Keith McIntosh : Yes – make sure you get reputable and credible advice, guidance and support. Be very careful whom you approach. We are very appreciative of mentoring support from organizations such as Sustainable Events. That is key.

Keith McIntosh
Keith McIntosh
Keith McIntosh
Health, Safety and Environmental Manager
Manchester United Limited
Manchester, United Kingdom


Croke Park Sports Stadium

ISO Focus+ interviewed Alan Gallagher, Head of Stadium Operations, and Tracy Bunyan, Sustainability Manager at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, one of the first sports stadiums in the world to achieve ISO 20121 certification. The 82 000 capacity stadium, the fourth largest in Europe, has been at the heart of Irish sporting life for over a hundred years, hosting many notable Gaelic football and hurling matches in addition to rugby, soccer, and athletics events, and concerts.

ISO Focus+ : When did Croke Park begin implementing an event sustainability management system following ISO 20121 requirements and guidance ?

Alan Gallagher : In May 2009, Croke Park gained ISO 14001 certification as one of the first net-carbon-neutral stadiums in the world. We then undertook a holistic, sustainable approach to stadium operations, and in 2010 became the first stadium to achieve the BS 8901 standard, progressing to ISO 20121 certification in June 2012.

Croke Park, DublinA full-capacity crowd awaits the start of an Irish National League football match between Dublin and Tyrone, one of many events run sustainably at Croke Park. Photo: Croke Park

Croke Park’s new sustainability initiative - “Greener. On and off the pitch” - is aimed at building on the sustainability lessons learnt to date and to minimize the environmental impact of events both on and off the pitch, encourage environmentally responsible development and staging of events, and raise awareness among stakeholders, contractors and staff to carry out their work at the stadium in a sustainable manner.

  • “Greener. On and off the pitch” focuses on :
  • Maintaining our position as one of the most sustainable sports venues in the world by a collaborative approach with key stakeholders
  • Increasing recycling at Croke Park with a focus to achieving zero landfill by 2014
  • Reducing electricity, gas and water consumption
  • Developing effective and consistent tools to communicate the sustainability message to staff, stakeholders, patrons and the public

ISO 20121 allows you to standardize initiatives under the three key pillars of sustainability.

ISO Focus+ : Could you confirm the full scope of application of ISO 20121 ?

Alan Gallagher : ISO 20121 is embedded into all stadium operations and is a policy requirement for both internal and external stakeholders associated with events run within Croke Park. We recognize that the stadium and its events and activities have an impact on the environment, the economy and the community, and it is our policy to do all that is reasonable to ensure that key sustainability impacts relating to the life cycle impact of events, procurement, utilities, construction, transport, employees, visitors, customers and the community in general are assessed and reviewed financially, socially and environmentally.

ISO Focus+ : What type of events have you organized using an ISO 20121-based event sustainability management system ?

Tracy Bunyan : Since achieving ISO 20121 certification, approximately 750 000 patrons have attended sporting events, conferences, and concerts at Croke Park, all based on the sustainability management system.

ISO Focus+ : Can you comment on the benefits of running events in conformity with the standard ?

Alan Gallagher : Croke Park takes a partnership approach involving all staff and stakeholders in achieving sustainability objectives and outcomes at the stadium. Involving and communicating with staff and contractors has been key to the strides we have made in increasing recycling rates, reducing utility consumption and developing community initiatives. I have found that ISO 20121 allows you to standardize initiatives under the three key pillars of sustainability : environment, society, and economics, scaled depending on the size of the event being run.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe some of the initiatives and measures you have already taken in doing so ?

Alan Gallagher : Croke Park began its environmental journey in 2008 by retrofitting an energy management system (EMS) and building management system (BMS) as part of a wider state-of-the-art environmental improvement programme covering central management of the stadium’s electricity, waste and water management systems.

Results since initiatives were rolled out :

  • A 31 % reduction in electricity usage by using the BMS to control lighting, electrical heating and air handling units, and Passive Infrared (PIR) lights to detect motion that switch on and off when required
  • A 29 % reduction in gas usage
  • A 28 % reduction in water usage by installing solenoid valves on public levels, saving 370 000 litres of water per day
  • 62 % of stadium waste is now recycled or composted

A number of sports camp and community fund projects, and local contractor recruitment and resident meeting programmes have been implemented with the local community.

ISO Focus+ : Is there any advice you would give to other organizations contemplating ISO 20121 implementation and certification ?

Tracy Bunyan : The key lessons learnt regarding sustainability is that simple initiatives can have really positive results. However, there needs to be a framework that pulls all of these initiatives together. Croke Park has gone down the formal route of ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO 20121 (sustainability) implementation which suits our needs, but the framework can be less formal for smaller organizations. Certainly ISO 14001 is a good stepping stone to ISO 20121 certification.

Alan Gallagher
Alan Gallagher
Alan Gallagher
Head of Stadium Operations
Croke Park Stadium
Dublin, Ireland

Tracy Bunyan
Tracy Bunyan
Tracy Bunyan
Sustainability Manager
Croke Park Stadium
Dublin, Ireland


Sustainable Events Ltd.

ISO Focus+ interviewed Charlie Banks, Business Development Manager for Sustainable Events Ltd., based in Manchester, United Kingdom, providing support, advice and guidance on implementing sustainability to companies within the events industry. Its Managing Director, Fiona Pelham, is Chair of the ISO committee that developed ISO 20121.

ISO Focus+ : When did you begin implementing an event sustainability management system following ISO 20121 requirements and guidance ?

Charlie Banks : We implemented the BS 8901 system when it was launched and made the official transition to ISO 20121 in July 2012, when we were awarded ISO 20121 by third-party certification. Our company culture is sustainability - it’s the way that we work so we were pleased to be certified.

ISO Focus+ : What type of events have you organized using the standard ?

Charlie Banks : We help our clients – from event organizers to venues and destinations - to implement the management system. We also run events through our event company, Organise This. As the management system is our way of working, all the events that we organize are run in conformity with ISO 20121, ranging from business conferences to staff education workshops.

Sustainable eventAt the 2011 Exhibition for the Incentive Business Travel and Meetings industry (EIBTM) in Barcelona, Spain, Positive Impact, a not-for-profit sister company to Sustainable Events, ran a three-day programme on sustainability. The stand and all chairs were constructed with recyclable cardboard. Photo: Sustainable Events Ltd.

ISO Focus+ : Can you comment on the benefits of running events in conformity with the standard ?

Charlie Banks : Implementing ISO 20121 at your event will help you identify ways of becoming more efficient and thereby making cost savings, being more transparent in communicating with your stakeholders, and in aligning with your client’s or sponsor’s values. Also, by engaging with your staff on innovative solutions, you can encourage creativity and motivation.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe some of the initiatives and measures you have already taken in doing so ?

Charlie Banks : We are working with a number of venues and event management companies to help them implement and measure sustainability at their events using the online tool EventSustainability.com.

ISO Focus+ : Do you think the standard is suitable for small businesses ?

Charlie Banks : Absolutely, we are a small company and we have implemented it successfully !

ISO Focus+ : Is there any advice you would give to organizations contemplating ISO 20121 implementation and certification ?

Charlie Banks : Think about your drivers for doing it and then make a start - any small step you take is the right one. You can do it in your own time frame at your own pace, but you must get buy-in from senior management - you will need their support to be able to implement change

Charlie Banks
Charlie Banks
Charlie Banks
Business Development Manager
Sustainable Events Ltd.
Manchester, United Kingdom