From Olympics to World Cups, COP15 to Coachella-- events worldwide are re-examining the role they can play in creating thriving economies, vibrant communities, and healthy environments. The notion of “sustainability” is a newer one in this space, but is gaining traction, especially with larger events.
What can be learned and applied regionally? How can businesses and destinations around APAC stay current in a global context?
Major summits picking up sustainability agenda, gleaning economic value
In 2009, driven by the UN and Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen were mammoth in scale. Bringing together some 34,000 participants from around the globe, there were 2500 official meetings to discuss how to deal with climate change. The Danish Government set out to run the proceedings as sustainably as possible
They focused on providing locally sourced organic meals (75% organic), eco-efficiency measures in hotels (53% hotels certified), getting participants on public transport (93% success rate), and offsetting carbon emissions (100% offset) from the event amongst other initiatives. They achieved British Standard (BS) 8901 certification, and won the IMEX Green Meetings Gold Award 2010. While COP15 cost the Danish government €41.2 million to stage, it resulted in €220 million (est.) in revenue and some positive international credibility for its efforts.
The Business for Environment (B4E) Summit in Seoul, hosted by the Korean Government with the UNEP, UNGC, WWF and Global Initiatives, attracted some 1000 global business and government leaders. The crux of the event raised awareness on issues like biodiversity and climate change, and gave South Korea an international stage to promote its leading green policies. While not as comprehensive as COP15, there were sustainability plans in place, including making the event as paperless as possible, and numerous video tie-ins for overseas speakers.
Green the goal in sporting events: governments and business big winners
In sporting events, the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006 was noteworthy for a number of reasons. With nearly 3.4 million attendees, it was staged at 12 locations across Germany. A variety of environmental initiatives were organized and executed by a wide range of stakeholder groups including the German government, UNEP, FIFA, as well as major corporations like Deutche Telecom.
Organizers met 13 of 16 “Green Goals
” in areas like energy savings and waste management. Overall, they shaved 89,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency measures, purchased 100,000 tonnes of Gold Standard offsets for projects in Africa and India, slashed packaging waste by 15%, and reduced water consumption by 20%. Businesses also helped raise their own profile with a number of interactive initiative including hydrogen powered delivery bikes and buses, reusable/refundable drink containers, and greenhouse gas emissions themed “penalty kick” competitions that equated to purchase of carbon offsets.
Subsequently, FIFA World Cup South Africa, Winter Olympics Vancouver, and 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou have taken action, covering everything from public transport to green buildings.
Organizers for London Olympics 2012 are calling it the “first sustainable Games”. Preparation by UK government agencies in concert with the IOC is aligned to the BS8901 standard. With a view to creating a “One Planet Olympics”, the London Olympics 2012 sustainability
policy covers five major themes: climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion, and healthy living. Updates to the plan are due for release in 2011/2012, and some criteria for inclusion are carbon footprint and reduction strategy, remediation and construction waste targets, waste management strategy, biodiversity strategy and key projects, and sustainable food strategy.
Taking strides beyond the World Cup events, London 2012 will serve as a catalyst for urban renewal, public engagement, enhancement of natural areas
, and to make the Olympic Park a long-standing blueprint for sustainable living. Major parts of economically depressed East-London are undergoing extensive refurbishment. There are strategies being developed to inspire and involve young people in volunteering, cultural and physical activities. The event will rejuvenate a number of rivers and wetlands, creating a “green corridor” from Lea Valley to River Thames. The upshot: rather than have outcomes of fringe spaces that become disused after the games, the area and its infrastructure, economy, environment, and culture will be greatly improved.
Arts and culture: engaging and educating for behavior change
Shifting into cultural festivals, in Singapore the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Smartlight Singapore (SLS) recently took a similar approach with 2010’s iLight Marina Bay Festival[full disclosure: the editor served a sustainability advisory role for this event]
. Similar to what London is planning for its 2012 festivities, the URA and SLS sought to activate the newly completed Marina Bay development with a light art festival, coined “Asia’s First Sustainable Light Art Festival”. The idea: get people out to explore the urban landscape of Marina Bay, draw attention to sustainability issues, and use of light in the urban environment.
Efforts included the majority of pieces used energy efficient LED technology, the largest art piece on the powered by locally sourced and processed biofuel, boat tours powered by renewable energy, an energy efficiency campaign with local property owners which saved 15 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and many points for public education—from event markers, website, and even an iPhone app. Utilizing the advanced urban planning and transport of Singapore, visitors could arrive at points around Marina Bay by bus or train. Key sustainability criteria were carefully planned, monitored, and reported on at the conclusion of the event. Beyond the successful environmental thrust, the event drew approximately 500,000 visitors and had an estimated economic value of some SG$22 million.
Like iLight Marina Bay Festival, the annual Coachella music festival in the U.S. has also taken many steps to engage attendees. The most recent event in 2010 had some 225,000 people attend. In partnership with an NGO called Global Inheritance, the event sustainability initiatives included
carpooling, recycling, and powering of numerous art pieces with renewable energy sources. There was also a “DJ at Coachella with Kinetic Energy” set, where 18 friends could power a sound system and DJ gear using exercise bikes.
Benefits for better events
Whether your destination is bidding for a major sporting event, host a major summit, or appealing to the ever growing breed of hip, socially conscious traveler, there are many benefits for bring sustainability into your event planning. Positive publicity, economic return, urban renewal, engaging stakeholders and participants, enhancing biodiversity, efficient/cost effective use of resources, and award opportunities are there for Asian Tigers to pounce on. Businesses likewise can capitalize in many of the same ways, and use sustainable event planning to reinforce their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and commitments to tackling global issues like climate change. The benchmark to go for is BS8901 certification for sustainable event management until the new ISO 20121 comes online in 2012.
(this article previously appeared on Ecopoint)