Sustainability is a quintessential component of an event. We are not talking about sustainability of an event regarding its success or failure, impact or outreach. We are talking about sustainable event management. Sustainable event management is also referred to as event greening. Over the last thirty years, sustainable event management has not only become the widely accepted practice but it has also been standardized in most countries.
Sustainability in the event industry pertains to the social, economic and environmental impact of the event being held at a venue or site, bearing in mind the impact on the immediate ecology and whether or not the event has any adverse effects on the local communities, natural and civic resources. To plan a sustainable event you should know the various metrics that will ensure sustainability.
Let us first broadly discuss the extremes. An event being hosted at an ecologically sensitive area is not permissible. Any event that would involve cutting down of trees and effectively damaging the environment in any way will be unsustainable. Planning an event that would require a lot of water at a site where there has been a drought in recent months is unsustainable. This is not only environmentally but also socially unsustainable. Any event that would affect the local economy in an adverse way will also be deemed unsustainable. For instance, an event that will harm the local resources or amenities which the communities are depended on will not be sustainable.
Event sustainability or sustainable event management is not the exclusive domain of the event planner. Sure, there are sustainable event management companies but the clients, venues, vendors or suppliers and sub-contractors also have an active role to play. The clients cannot engage in any activity at an event that will make it unsustainable. The various vendors, suppliers and subcontractors as well as the venues must not engage in any act or do their job in any way that has an adverse social, economic and environmental effect.
Sustainable event management demands wise selection of the site, eco friendly or sustainable transport of attendees, responsible sourcing of materials, services and supplies, limiting or nullifying impacts on communities, immediate natural environments and local economy.
In the UK, the British Standard (BS 8901) lays out the guidelines of sustainability of events. Across the world, the International Standard (ISO 20121) is now used for sustainability management systems which also include sustainable event management.