BS 8901: Credible threat

As part of its commitment to reducing carbon emissions across all of its operations, BT has introduced a Climate Change procurement standard that will apply to all suppliers. This new standard encourages suppliers to use energy efficiently and reduce carbon during the production, delivery, use and disposal of products and services supplied to BT, and all contracted suppliers to the telecoms giant will be expected to adhere to minimum expectations:

Ahead of the introduction of the new Climate Change procurement standard, BT, in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, has been holding free, day long workshops with its suppliers designed to help them with their own carbon reduction policies and share best practice, and it’s this sharing of best practice that is central to the BS 8901 and sustainable events management argument.

Andrew Williams, managing director of Seventeen Events, says that he is whole- heartedly in favour of BS 8901: 2009 Specification for a sustainability management system for events but says that the UK events industry is never going to be in a position where the entire supply chain is operating sustainably. Instead, he wishes to encourage people to make their events more sustainable with the sharing of best practice, encouraging companies to be open and honest about their sustainable policies and procedures rather than be obsessed with achieving BS 8901 certification from an independent third party accreditation body.

“It’s more important for a company to be open and honest with their information rather than have a plaque or certificate
on the wall,” he said. “A certificate doesn’t help me. And I am fighting a constant battle. Complying with the BS 8901 standard is easy, as all it’s asking you to do

is follow a management system and some outlines. The difficult bit is knowing what to do with that information and sharing it. If you don’t share your information then BS 8901 is a pointless exercise.”

Williams argues that he’d rather see organisations make small steps towards sustainability than see companies get hung up on third-party certification, believing that corporates and suppliers are turned off by BS 8901 if they have to spend thousands to have an independent third- party say they’ve successfully implemented the management system. People should be encouraged to implement the system and also declare their own hard-work, also known as “self-certification” or “first party” certification.

But John Pymer, managing director, Certification International, doesn’t agree.

“Imagine stepping onto an aeroplane for a transatlantic flight and hearing the pilot say that you are looking forward to a perfectly safe flight because he decided to issue his own license that morning. An amusing example but no different to first party certification.

“Third-party certification should be the only long-term option for companies wishing to achieve standards of any type. An accredited, third-party certification body (CB) is independently monitored and above all, deemed competent by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS). There is no denying the fact that first and second party certification is a useful part of the process, helping businesses prepare themselves for more rigorous accredited assessments. However, third-party certification is the only viable long-term option.”

Improving efficiency

LOCOG in its Sustainable Sourcing Code Second Edition, published in December 2009, says that it expects all suppliers and licensees, which mainly supply products and services to the events sector, to be taking steps to implement

BS 8901. Logistik achieved BS 8901 certification with accreditation body BSI QA and Smyle is currently working with Sustainable Events to implement the standard, and is on target to achieve third- party certification in the summer.

Rick Stainton, Smyle’s managing director, says: “You have to adopt a default mindset and ask yourself ‘is there a better way of doing this?’. BS8901 really is an invigorating system that has made us think and maximise positivity. Each week we implement a new way of working.

“Long-term, the standard will benefit the business. We’re not doing this for big bucks and green-wash, and we’re not doing this to win more business. We’re doing it to improve efficiency.”

Gaining recognition

Sarah Bassett, director of Wizzdom, suggests that it’s difficult for companies to understand management systems when events professionals are “creative types”.

She continues: “Industry has to get its head out of the sand if it wants to get decent contracts for 2012. It’s a frightening thought for the bottom of the food chain, as they don’t think it applies to them, but it’s not an event that needs to be sustainable, it’s the suppliers supplying that event which makes an event sustainable.”

Wizzdom is a new company offering BS 8901 and ISO 14001 consultancy. Bassett says that companies need to be mindful

that BS 8901 is not an ISO standard, hence suppliers should implement the two, as they are a perfect marriage. But such is BS 8901’s popularity that a new standard is being developed in the form of ISO 20121, taking a management systems approach requiring identification of key sustainability issues like venue selection, operating procedures, supply chain management, procurement, communications, transport and others.

Andrew Walker, managing director of Eco-Efficient Events, is actively involved in the development of ISO20121.

He comments: “As with other ISO management systems standards, credibility within industry is best achieved through independent third-party certification, which enhances legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness of standards.

“In spite of this, I think there is a valid role for first-party (defined in ISO 20121 as self-determination and self-declaration by the organisation seeking compliance) and second-party (again, defined in ISO 20121 as confirmation of conformance by parties having an interest in the organisation, such as clients, or by other persons on their behalf) compliance, BS 8901 as it can be cost prohibitive for smaller organisations to go down the certification route; the counter-argument is the time involved in setting up the management system might be in vain if you don’t receive external recognition.”

Pull your socks up

Walker suggests that companies should be transparent about the degree of BS 8901 compliance achieved. For example, Limelight Sports and Fisher Productions have announced their achieved BS 8901 credentials through the press and Twitter but neither have been clear on whether it’s first, second or third-party certified via a UKAS-accredited certification body. Though we should be mindful not to discourage anyone making concerted efforts to adopt sustainable events management systems, industry needs to question those who award themselves their own “green” and sustainable MOTs. Transparency is essential.

Events crewing firm Gallowglass has achieved third-party accredited certification against ISO14001 and BS8901. Gallowglass worked closely with EcoEvents, which provided the

consultancy and training to enable it to gain certification after six months of reviewing, developing and installing sustainability policies and procedures. The certification was then awarded by AJA Registrars, a UKAS-accredited international certification body.

Gallowglass managing director, Nick Grecian said: “Achieving these certifications provides impartial and independent evidence of our sustainability performance. Many companies are paying lip service to environmental issues, and there are even some that have self-certified or have been awarded a ‘certificate’ by the very consultants that helped them develop and implement their systems. This is not permitted by UKAS and obviously such companies can’t claim with any validity that they have achieved certification.”

Sam Wilson, director of EcoEvents, states that it’s “pull your socks up” time for industry; evidence of performance is needed, as we get step closer to the spotlight of London 2012.

She adds: “It is crucial that suppliers providing these essential services at the ‘front line’ have a pragmatic understanding of legislation and sustainability practices so that associated risks are identified, managed and reduced.

“In my opinion, first and second-party certification is not worth the paper it is written on and I am in no doubt that both leading authorities and high profile event clients are aware of this. Anything other than accredited certification will result

in our industry being de-professionalised and result in a lack of credibility. We have a unique opportunity to lead the way in sustainable development and differentiate ourselves amongst other industries. It would be a shame if we did not take full advantage of this.”