Fiona Pelham, chair of the ISO20121 committee, considers the long-term sustainability legacy of the London 2012 Games.
“So what will be the main legacies of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games? This question has been asked constantly since 2005, and now, as the time for ‘legacy’ gets closer, the interest in it is growing.
There’s certainly clear evidence of the physical legacy – the Olympic Park with its restored natural environment – and growing signs that it has already inspired behaviour change, with sports clubs around the UK talking about unprecedented levels of interest.
But for me there’s one key legacy that will change how event organisers around the world look at environmental and sustainability issues in future. It’s a new international standard for event management called ‘ISO 20121’.
This new standard, inspired by London 2012, provides a framework for anyone putting on events (of any kind or size), so that at every decision point the economic, environmental and social impacts are considered.
I know standards aren’t glamorous, and they’re not visible to the spectator – it’s only after the event that most users truly understand their benefit. So what do I think is special about ISO20121, and why is it seen as one of the main legacies of London 2012? One of the vital points for me was the way it was created – by the events industry, for the events industry.
Since 2010, event experts from over 30 countries – including a member of the London 2012 sustainability team – gave their time and passion to help create the new standard. As voluntary chair of ISO20121 (and proudly the youngest female ISO chair!), I found the input and dedication from these volunteers inspirational.
Launched on 15 June 2012 – just in time to be used at the Games – ISO20121 is a framework suitable for all types, sizes and locations of events, and for all members of the event supply chain, so its potential use is vast.
There are no prerequisites or cost implications, so no barriers to use. An ISO standard is an internationally recognised framework, so as sustainability grows in importance for global brands, ISO20121 could be used by sponsors and event organisers as a condition for funding.
For example, Coca-Cola have used the ISO20121 framework for their London 2012 work. And their leadership with this standard has the potential to grow to cover all of their global activities.
The International Olympic Committee has also closely followed the development of ISO20121, and in its post Rio+20 sustainability publications it described it as “a standard with the potential to create a sustainable event industry – a significant legacy from the Olympic movement and Olympic host cities”.
For me it’s obvious that ISO20121 is a key piece of the sustainability legacy that London 2012 is leaving for the international event industry.
A lot of event organisers are not sure where to start when it comes to sustainability, and ISO20121 provides a practical, relevant guide. Using this framework, suppliers to the global event industry will identify their social, economic and environmental issues, set objectives and action plans to address them and review their progress regularly.
Being inspired to change is important, but practical support is vital too. ISO20121 helps ensure that the London 2012 commitment for sustainability lives on in all types of events around the world for many years to come.