The Greenest Event of Them All, Part 10: Challenges and Opportunities

An Eco Village?

This is the final week of the Green Event blog, and I wanted to bring a few issues home. Of all the issues that have been covered, one idea encompasses all of them, and more – event certification. In the marketplace today, we have been flooded with tips (and now twits) on green practices. Still, however, we must carefully differentiate the useful and relevant advice from the mere wives’ tales.

A green standard or certification offers all of this, and takes much of the guesswork out of ‘greening’. Of course, it must be credible, useful and based on sound data, as I discussed under standards and reporting. There is a long way to go in this world, however, and below I will highlight a few resources and discus what the future may hold.

The Potential Market is Large:

All events, no matter how different, share attributes in common. They require temporary resources, involve significant numbers of attendees, and can involve lots of public communication. Thus, the market for a green label, the market I have been implicitly addressing in the past blogs, stretches well beyond an athletic event. They include:

•Junior League Sports

•College Sports Championships

•Professional Sport Championships (PGA, NFL, NHL, FIFA)



•Art Exhibits

•Cultural Events

•Symphonies/Orchestral Performances

•Celebrations (National Day, Religious Holiday, New Year)



Advice Doesn’t Cut It:

Green advice is a dime a dozen. Sure, it may seem easy to have google do the legwork for you, but your gradma’s gardening blog might not offer the most comprehensive thinking on reducing energy for Wrigley Field. Thanks to the internet, there have been hundreds of books published that purport environmental advice. E-books and blogs have changed the landscape in past years, and with negligible or zero online publishing costs, everyone can consider themselves an “informational” source. Thus, it’s a tricky job to publish a definitive guide to “green events”. Some interesting resources that have made it through the online clutter, however, are The Lazy Environmentalist by Josh Dorfman (who includes recent topics such as a Sustainable Music Festival in New Orleans – and The Green Bride Guide by Kate Harrison (

You’ll Pay For Personal Service:

A few companies have used the complicated and cluttered world of green advice to their advantage, and offer personal, best-practice guidance tailored to your event. A consulting service can be the way to go for those events who have money (very few) and a large public audience, where the event’s reputation is at stake if the attendees catch a whiff of greenwash. The rest of us, however, might not find the exorbitant costs palatable. In my work, although I can’t personally attest to the quality of their practices, I have come across two notable event consultancies.

Helios Partners is a sports marketing company that has transitioned into green event management consulting. In July, they announced a sustainable sport partnership service, including “green-in-kind” value sponsorships, carbon management, green venue development, and college and university guidance.

The Green Event Company ( is a consultancy providing green management based in Boulder, Colorado. A unique feature is that The Green Event Co is a registered B-Corporation, itself attesting to the social practices and principles under the B-Corporation brand.

Certifications Are Coming:

The GRI, ISO and GHG-protocol are, of course, incredibly broad and don’t specifically pertain to events themselves. Hitting closer to the spot, the Eco-Logo event certification CCD-095 is the Canadian company’s vision of an international event-specific standard, updated recently in 2009. The British have decided to move in the same direction, and the 2012 Olympics will be working off of BS8901, a new system of sustainable management guidelines that is heavily supported by online training, case studies, and webinars. However trite it may seem though, it’s unlikely that other international events, or those based in the United States, will publicly acknowledge that they have adhered to a British-based standard.

One idea that might bridge the remaining gap is to take a lesson from the Wedding Planning industry, which certifies professionals themselves. A Certified Wedding Planner (designated as such by the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners – AACWP – or institution in another country) can simplify the job. Event organizers hiring a sustainable concert/athletic/festival/younameit event planner can rest assured they are conforming to accepted standards while saving on the costs associated with bringing on an entire consulting team. I believe such a certification, if not already in development, is on the near horizon – and will be an opportunity I’ll be looking at in the future. After all, the AACWP is already working on a certified green wedding planner.

That concludes the Green Event blog, though stay tuned from time to time as updates may appear on the topic. It’s been a great time working at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and I, for one, will be watching to see how this world-wide event will turn out in February!


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.