Green Event Blog

Musings, questions, observations and considerations across the landscape of sustainable event management.

Sponsors, Brands, Sustainable Events?

I’ve seen some terrifically creative action on sustainability at events. Shining ideas coming out of the hearts and minds of inspired event planners, suppliers and solutions innovators. Solar powered wheelie-bin-holding sound systems; high volume reusable pint mugs, and washing systems to replace disposables; waste ‘eco’ bonds encouraging messy campers to keep clean and recycle; travel carbon bonds; rewards for bags of recycling; armies of volunteers rescuing abandoned tents; creative souls remaking abandoned camping materials into clothes and décor; 100 mile conference menus; awesome recycling installations; on-site worm farms; composting toilets; solar, pedal, kinetic and hydrogen power generators; the list is endless. And we’re not just seeing these practical solutions to production impacts, we’re also seeing some great thinking and action around the role events can play in positively contributing to Sustainable Development. The mega-events are all about Legacy with a capital L. Much of this legacy is to the benefit of local community and economy, and their programmes make some great big social responsibility ticks. Despite all these amazing examples, all this action is sitting atop the proverbial tip of the event industry iceberg. There’s so much more that could happen. Events offer a chance to positively influence sustainability in the supply chain and local industry, and they can also offer a platform to promote positive change amongst event attendees and the local destination.  I’ve been ruminating on how we can get this going on a lot more – and through to think about what’s motivating the events currently  doing a great job. I came up with a few influences I think probably summarise most situations: Events might have... read more

ISO 20121 Procedures, Processes, Policies, Paperwork…

Having implemented ISO 20121 a few times now, and trained and consulted to lots of individuals and events considering implementing a sustainability management system, one of the biggest hurdles for many is the seemingly daunting paperwork side of things. Not only are there lots of procedural requirements that pesky auditors will bother busy event managers for, but you also need to collect your evidence often in paperwork ‘proof’ format. So I decided to go ahead and pull together a series of templates that might make starting the management system formalities a little bit easier. Go ahead and have a look at the page linked, where there’s all sorts of forms and documents for you. There’s more in the pipeline too. If you’re after something specific that’s not there, then please feel free to contact me and I can fast track it’s creation. I’m charging a modest fee for the templates, as I’m trying to make a living and don’t have the benefit of a generous benefactor or any Scandinavian government funding. So if you think you’ll need such a thing, and you want to stop staring at a blank screen wondering what on earth would be in, for example a ‘Procedure for Identifying and Evaluating Issues’, visit the page, shop for the document of your choice and give my back a little pat for my hard work on your behalf in the form of a $20 fee! If you’re actually wondering  what on earth you’re meant to get together in terms of paperwork, then you can download the free  aptly named document ‘ISO 20121 Documentation Requirements’. CLICK HERE TO... read more

1. Measuring Event GHGs

Greenhouse gases occur at every turn during an event’s lifecycle – mains electricity, gas in kitchens, fuel in mobile power generators, site plant and equipment. And of course the big one, air travel. GHG’s are  also hidden in an event’s materials and supplies, in the food served, water used and processing of waste the event creates. Understanding the GHG impacts of your event activities, taking action to reduce them, and measuring and disclosing your performance, is taking a responsible attitude to GHG management. Offsetting the remaining and unavoidable GHG emissions, and encouraging attendees and suppliers to do the same, is the next admirable step for our industry. Why measure GHG’s? By getting the full picture of your event’s GHG impacts, you can set a baseline, and from here you can work out where opportunities are to make reductions. Whether motivated by obligation, expectation or your own conscience and dedication, disclosing your final GHG impacts and reduction achievement is where it’s at. Measurement Challenges Accurate and effective measurement is a complex issue and made more so by the fact there’s no clear directive or industry agreement on how far down the line a GHG emissions calculation should go for events. We don’t have common measurement protocols, or an industry-wide program to accurately and independently assess GHG claims. There’s also no entity that events need to report their GHGs or justify their claims to. Comparing one event’s GHG impacts to another is difficult to do in a way that has meaning. The language used by some events, especially when claiming a ‘carbon footprint’ or that they have achieved ‘carbon neutrality’ is... read more

2. Footprinting Methodology

Many events are using undisclosed methodologies in the assessment of  GHGs to be included in an event’s carbon footprint. This article aims to clarify the steps to identifying, establishing and reporting an event’s ‘carbon footprint’. The underlying premise of any event greenhouse gas emissions claim is that the methodology used should be clear, transparent, scientifically sound, is documented and readily available to those that wish to view it. That means the details should be publicly available, and easy to access – for example hosted on your event’s website under the greening pages. Transparency is Key This transparency is key to underlying any grand claims you make. Your stakeholders are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and skeptical, and so it is a major PR risk if you keep your methodologies and justifications to yourself, or worse still, don’t actually have process around your GHG measurement, let alone have it documented. PAS 2060 calls this disclosure a ‘QES’ – qualifying explanatory statement. Read a copy of one here. Footprinting Steps For many events, calculating a carbon footprint is a step on the journey to carbon neutrality. We will discuss the requirements of proclaiming carbon neutrality in the next article, but the premise of carbon footprint measurement is relevant for all events whether you are headed for offsetting, carbon compensation and neutrality or not. PAS 2060 specifically requires the following steps when calculating a carbon footprint: Identify and define what will be included in a carbon emissions calculation (the event parametres and GHG scope) Define, clearly communicate and adequately justify what is included, the methodologies undertaken and emissions factors used Estimate and disclose what... read more

4. Which GHGs Should be Measured?

The big question is how to decide and justify what you will measure? Linked to this is identifying where reductions could occur, and what you can do to actually achieve those reductions. And finally – is it even practical to try and measure those reductions? Luckily there has been some guidance developed to help you make informed, relevant, possibly effective and definitely transparent decisions on what you should or shouldn’t include in the GHG measurements of your event. I’ve summarised points from PAS 2060 and from the GHG Protocol which both give good guidance on what you should include in your GHG measurement. Rules of Thumb Events should include any greenhouse gas emissions that meet any or all of the following: GHGs created from activities where you have financial or operational control. GHGs which are estimated to make up more than 1% of your event’s total estimated GHG inventory. GHGs from activities that are deemed integral to the intended outcome of that event. GHGs that your stakeholders deem critical to be measured and disclosed. GHGs that the event could take action to reduce or influence potential reductions. Scope 3 GHG emissions that are large or relatively large compared to the estimated Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Exclude GHGs if: evidence can be provided to demonstrate that such quantification would not be technically feasible, practicable or cost effective. they are estimated to make up less than 1% of total GHGs. Assistance in justifying your inclusions and exclusions Transparency and process are key in GHG measurement, carbon footprint determinations and carbon neutrality claims. The first step on the journey is determining... read more

3. What GHGs Could Be Measured?

Greenhouse gas emissions occur at events through the direct operational impacts such as power provision, and through transport of people and equipments. GHGs are also caused upstream and downstream of the event; embedded GHGs in the products used, and through waste disposal and treatment. The event-related GHGs that could be measured are almost endless. Events could measure those GHGs which are either directly created by them or those which are created because of the event’s activities, purchasing and logistics. But just because particular GHG emissions have occurred and theoretically could be measured, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be measured. What should be measured (deemed ‘material’) and how to decide what you scope in or out is the subject of the next article. For now, let’s consider what could be measured. What’s the Scope? You may have heard of Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. GHGs have been categorised as such, as either direct and indirect, by the GHG Protocol (www.ghgprotocol.org). Direct emissions are those that are from sources that are under the direct ownership or control of the event/organisation. Indirect are those that occur as a consequence of the event’s activities. Scope 1 The GHGs that are very likely to be under the direct control or ownership of the event or organisation, when producing an event are listed below. Some of these will be quite straight forward to collect data on, and others could be quite problematic. We’ll discuss how to collect measurement data in future articles. fuel used in mobile power generators bottled and mains gas used by on-site event venue kitchens or temporary on-site... read more

5. GHG Reductions and Carbon Compensation

This of course is the moment – after you’ve made your pre-event GHG assessments and worked out what and how you’ll measure your event’s GHGs, you then need to put a plan in place to do something about all those GHGs to get to Carbon Neutrality. There are several approaches you can take: Take direct action in ‘real time’ during your event’s lifecycle to reduce GHGs from the pre-event predicted ‘business as usual’ status. Taking direct action through internal reinvestment in GHG reducing technologies or techniques, which will achieve ongoing reductions Purchasing carbon offsets (carbon credits) from existing programs. Creating verified carbon reducing projects, which can be specifically aligned to  your event’s GHG inventory Again we can draw on existing standards and protocols, to direct us on the correct approach. Event-Based Reductions Once the boundary of activities and timing is established, and the GHG sources identified, your initial event plan can then be reworked to incorporate actions and decisions which will achieve GHG reductions. This will actually also fulfill a requirement of PAS 2060 – to produce a Carbon Management Plan. This process will allow you to actually put costs against your Carbon Neutral intentions – to determine what the likely residual GHG emissions will be, and what the cost per tonne will be to compensate for them, through either carbon offsetting or investing in GHG reducing legacy projects. Legacy Initiatives It is acceptable for an event to invest in ongoing projects which have ongoing GHG-saving outcomes, and to have these savings prescribed to the event’s carbon neutrality calculations. These projects would be acceptable to include as carbon compensation... read more

6. Achieving Carbon Neutrality

Planning for and claiming that an event is ‘carbon neutral’ is becoming increasingly popular. This section offers guidance on how to authentically claim a Carbon Neutral Event. As discussed earlier, PAS 2060, Specification for demonstration of carbon neutrality offers guidance on how to determine what GHG sources to include in your event’s carbon footprint, and, as the title suggests, specific details on how to claim carbon neutrality and includes guidance on carbon neutral claims for events. If you’re planning to have a Carbon Neutral event, I suggest downloading this standard! Steps to Carbon Neutrality We previously discussed the steps that PAS 2060 specifies for establishing a carbon footprint. Taking the next step of carbon neutrality, requires the following additional steps inserted into the program: Identify and define what will be included in a carbon emissions calculation (the event parametres and GHG scope) Make a declaration of intent to achieve carbon neutrality Define, clearly communicate and adequately justify what is included, the methodologies undertaken and emissions factors used Estimate and disclose what the emissions for an event are anticipated to be Create a carbon footprint management plan Take action to make measurable reductions in carbon emissions Re-quantify the carbon footprint: report/disclose performance indicating what reductions were achieved and how they were achieved Take action to offset or compensate for the residual GHG emissions Make a declaration of achieving carbon neutrality Achieving Neutrality PAS 2060 recognises that achieving carbon neutrality only through direct reductions initiatives by the event is not realistic in most cases. Carbon offsets are acknowledged to play a significant role in achieving carbon neutral status. PAS 2060 does... read more

Credible Conformity Claims to ISO 20121

As if implementing ISO 20121 wasn’t detailed enough, now you have go and get audited, and before that, you have to do your own internal audit … more paperwork ahead! Implementing ISO 20121 is a great way to ensure you have everything in place to facilitate great sustainability management of your events. Events implementing ISO 20121 often use it as a pulpit from which to spruik their sustainability-ability. ISO 20121 implementation offers a good opportunity to communicate to event attendees, sponsors, and the local community, that you have the capability to responsibly produce your events.  Read many news articles by events and organisations on the ISO 20121 media registry here. http://sustainable-event-alliance.org/iso-20121-conformity-news/ With these public claims may also come stakeholder scrutiny. Having external verification is essential to show your stakeholders that you walk the talk, and are not just out blowing hot air in a whoosh of greenwash. If you’re implementing ISO 20121 and hanging your hat on that, consider how you will ‘prove’ yourself, if your conformity claims are questioned. Undergoing an Audit Undergoing an audit by an external and non-conflicted party, and your conformity verified, is the end game … apart of course from having a fully functioning management system and achieving great performance improvements. First Party (Internal) Audit If you plan to be externally assessed and certified, then your journey will include undertaking an internal audit first. In fact the standard itself requires it – have a read of Clause 9.3 Internal Audit. This can then lead to a First Party Audit conformity claim. Undertaking this internal audit is a gap analysis process. Someone from within your organisation... read more

10 Steps on the Sustainable Event Pathway

Like any management or business plan, when managing the sustainability impacts and opportunities related to your event, you’ll need to have a vision and a pathway to action. The following steps will help you to establish a framework to get you where you want to be. 1. Vision At the top is envisioning where you want get. Ask yourself “Imagine if at the completion of the event ……” and fill in the blanks. That is your vision. Establish what it is you wish to achieve for your event in terms of its own sustainability performance and its contribution to sustainable development. 2. Mission Your mission will describe how to get there. Write a description of how you will get to where you want to be. 3. Values Your values will underscore your behaviour and actions. Set down the sustainable development principles by which your organisation stands. 4. Form a Team Engage the boss, your co-workers and critical stakeholders, such as venue and suppliers. 5. Identify Issues Identify the sustainability management issues and opportunities. Evaluate, prioritise and establish management feasibility. 6. Policies Policies help keep you on track. Formalise a policy which will direct what you will and won’t do. Document and communicate the policy to all relevant stakeholders. 7. Goals, Objectives, Targets Your goals will set your key themes or aspects of concern for management, and objectives and targets will give you specific things to action. Set and communicate overarching goals and related objectives and measurable targets against specific issues management or anticipated key performance indicators. Establish systems to collect performance data. 8. Create Initiatives and Implement Your Plan Roll out your plans for managing sustainability related impacts and issues. Document your procedures and processes to ensure seamless planning and management of sustainability aspects at... read more