The Greenest Event of Them All Part 9: Sustainability/Environmental Reporting


London 2012 Olympic Organizing Commitee's Sustainability Process

London 2012 Olympic Organizing Commitee's Sustainability Process

l’étape de la planification

The planning phase of your event is where determining the correct criteria in Part 8 becomes essential; in accounting terms, this would be a Gap Analysis – essentially a forward-looking audit. This pre-planning will serve you well; you will know exactly which data you need to track, and the actual gathering of information will look less foreign and become routine.

You will want to track global measures that conform to accepted standards, but make sure you also monitor sustainability issues that may be critical to your local population. Perhaps air quality or aboriginal inclusion are topics that need to be addressed; if you are managing the Vancouver Lantern Festival, you might track the number of CFL lights, or non-chemical dyes used in lantern-making.

The Vancouver Olympics based its sustainability performance objectives on “bid commitments, best management practices of other Organizing Committees, and leading sustainability firms and input from sustainability experts.” These guidelines resulted in 6 broad objectives and an integrated management system that were developed 10 years before the 2010 Games, in what has to be the mother of all advance planning.  But realize that once your event is in the operational phase, changing existing environmental policies will feel like changing the engine of a jet airliner in midflight.

Also integrated into the planning phase should be your protocol; that is, a determination of who tracks each indicator and who will record the progress. A highly effective tactic – and one employed by the Olympics – is simply to make the reporting part of the job description for key employees. Another method is to build financial incentives on the group or individual level from day one. In this way, for example,  individual employees or groups might receive a bonus if they complete 100% of the reporting protocol you established.

Before and after your event all staff volunteers should be informed of their roles and how to address issues that arise. Processes should be in effect for inspections and checks of the sustainability criteria.  For example, this will ensure the waste is really being disposed of as you thought, or that recycled paper is actually being supplied.

Capturing details are absolutely critical for environmental indicators – you will find some employees become actively engaged and will formulate any number of reports; others will need more guidance. For example, you may decide to track GHG emissions embedded in paper consumption, but the person you designate must know to track numbers that can be converted into GHG emissions – such as lbs or sheets used – rather than financial sums which he or she may assume you want!


As your event planning progresses, progress should be recorded to ensure that your team is on track for delivery. The GRI actually specifies formats for the annual sustainability reports – reports that are increasingly becoming as embedded as annual 10-k financial records. An added bonus: These progress reports can be used to develop communication and marketing material to retell your accomplishments later.

Telling environmental stories are more than just “fluff”. Regular communication of sustainability achievements provides a way for the lay audience to engage and understand why you are doing certain things. Like the infamous Caltrans building designed by Morphosis in Los Angeles, which might look like the ugliest and most obscene office tower in the world, the building is actually eminently functional and practical when you understand the huge underlying environmental considerations.

Great communication mediums for your event include: event signage (banners), press releases, famous/prominent spokespersons, facts and figures in presentations, websites, videos, and active signage (signage close to relevant sustainable features such as water fixtures, elevators, light switches, printers, etc).

Measuring Success

Gathering feedback from the communication measures you undertook is an essential part of measuring success. Feedback can be informal or formal, and public or internal. For example, VANOC has engaged local Environmental NGOs (ENGOs) at an early stage to help align the goals of the Olympics with the NGOs, as well as promote greater understanding within the environmental community. Gathering feedback through this process has greatly aided VANOC’s success working towards 2010.

A formal version of feedback will be an auditing and assessment of your protocol. This will give internal confirmation of your “green event” as well as external credibility that you held yourself up to an independent body and standard. In this context, a third-party validation or audit is a process to compare your established process against a standard or protocol; third-party verification or assessment will measure your reported results, to see if they meet minimum criteria. Both auditing and assessment are essential.

So there you have it – sustainability and environmental reporting in a nutshell. Hopefully this outline will provide some guidance to clear the fog of reporting, and get you on a fasttrack to success. Stay tuned next week for the next (and last) chapter in the Green Event series. 


The Greenest Event of Them All, Part 8: External Reporting and Indicators


GHG, GRI, ISO 14000 and 26000…With all the social and environmental reporting going on these days, how can events choose an appropriate tool to track and report results? The easy answer isn’t the way out – yes, all these environmental indicators are currently optional so you don’t NEED to report any – because you are already looking to set a higher standard and hold your event accountable for achieving positive results. And importantly, successfully implementing almost all of these standards now requires independent, third party accreditation, which greatly enhances the validity of your environmental program.

Let’s start with the basics. First you’ll remember the 9000-series quality management (six sigma) standards from the ISO (International Standard Organization) in the 1980s. More recently, the ISO extended its standards to include ENVIRONMENTAL management standards, the ISO 14000-series. Now, coming into effect in 2010, the ISO’s 26000 standards will provide SOCIAL (CSR) reporting standards.

The 14000 series of standards do not dictate what exact environmental indicators you must report but rather states processes you must have in place. For example, ISO 14001 and 14004 ask if there are adequate environmental management systems in place, 14015 governs environmental assessment(s) of the site area, 14040 covers Lifecycle Assessments (LCAs), and 14062, 14063 cover your environmental communication processes. Any one of these can be accredited by a third party.

The future 26000 guidelines will be similar to the 14000 series in that they will not dictate specific measurements or indicators, but rather ensure a system is in place to measure Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, the 26000-series scope is much broader, since it covers not just environmental but equality and economic management, and they WILL NOT be accredited. That is, a company can use 26000 guidelines, but can never say they are “ISO 26000 certified” as they can for other ISO standards. Likely because of the extremely broad scope of the 26000, the ISO decided not to limit their applicability by any means, leaving the implementation entirely voluntary.

The ISO guidelines are inherently compatible with GRI and GHG protocol standards. As mentioned before, ISO provides assurance that the correct SYSTEMS are in place; GRI and GHG specify what exactly should be tracked and monitored.

The GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), developed in the 1990s, provides indicators for “sustainability” reporting, and covers environmental and social guidelines within an “ecological footprint”. The GRI indicators thus have a scope similar to the ISO 26000 guidelines, although the GRI focuses more in specific indicators rather than the reporting and management processes.

Lastly, the GHG Protocol is also compatible with ISO guidelines. Like the GRI, the GHG Protocol provides specific indicators for reporting, although unlike the GRI, the scope is limited to environmental greenhouse gas (GHG) indicators.

Since both GRI and GHG have specific indicators for environmental performance, and some companies use both, here the complication arises. The difficulty is aligning GHG definitions with their GRI equivalents, especially on carbon emissions. This is frustrating since tracking and reporting carbon (here I consider all carbon or carbon equivalents as CO2) has become the “big kahuna” indicator to report in recent years.

While this discussion can proceed much longer, I provided a brief chart (below) to compare the GHG and GRI indicators for carbon and energy emissions. Next week, we’ll cover in more detail how to align these reporting processes internally in your organization.

Eco-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

Show your love for your mother and Mother Earth with these eco-friendly Mother’s Day Gifts:


1) Organic Flowers: Send a traditional Mother’s Day bouquet made with organic and eco-certified flowers. Ask your local florist for organic options, or shop online at places like Organic Bouquet.


2) Charitable Donation: Make a donation in your mother’s name to an environmental NGO or a charity such as “Save the Children”.


3) Origins Gift Set: Pamper Mom with Origins lotion, body scrub, or a gift set. Origins products are made with plants, organic ingredients, and 100% natural essential oils. Origins is committed to environmental practices and uses renewable resources, wind energy and recycled materials as much as possible. Before May 5th, enter “FF” at checkout and receive 25% off .


4) Eco-friendly Jewelry: Give your mother eco-friendly jewelry from the online boutique Jaszy’s Jewelry, which uses Fair Trade and recycled resources and donates a portion of its proceeds to environmental organizations.


5) Adopt-an-Animal: For $25, your kids can “adopt” one of 90 animals in honor of Mom. Proceeds support WWF’s conservation activities around the world.


6) Envirosax: Give your mom Envirosax and make it even easier for her to live green. These stylish, extremely compactable shopping bags can fit into even the tiniest of purses, and are super convenient for last-minute shopping trips. From April 24 – May 5, purchase any pouch (set of 5 bags) and receive a Retro Kitchen pouch ($28.50 value) free.


7) La Chamba Cookware: Support fair-trade practices and give your mother high-quality, all-natural clay cookware handmade in Colombia. To locate a retailer near you, email La Vida Verde Inc.


8) Paddywax Candles: Introduce your candle-loving mother to Paddywax’s Eco Collection. These high-quality soy candles are packaged using soy-based inks, hemp twine, and FSC-certified recycled paper.

Tunes for Trees – Plant Trees with iTunes!


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