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January 26, 2012
GRI Publishes Sustainability Guidance for Event Organizers
    by Robert Kropp

Site selection and community impact are among the key issues for which reporting can enhance the accountability of event organizers, the Global Reporting Initiative says.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) added to its series of sector-specific guidance this week, when it announced the publication of guidance for the event organizers industry.

In a 251-page report, GRI listed risk avoidance, increased understanding of environmental and social impacts, and the ability to benchmark and compare data as some of the reasons for the industry to meet stakeholders' expectations for sustainability disclosure.

"Over the last ten years there has been a growing interest in the greening of events, with more and more organizations considering the sustainability performance of their activities," said Maaike Fleur, Senior Manager Reporting Framework at GRI. "Events are a significant business investment so it is vital that we start measuring and reporting sustainability impacts if we are to move to a sustainable global economy."

Accountability for decisions specific to the event sector investigated in the supplement includes:
• Site selection
• Recruiting and training of the event workforce, participants and volunteers
• Sourcing of materials, supplies and services
• Managing impacts on communities, natural environments, and local and global economies associated with the event
• Planning and managing potential legacies
• Accessibility

Two sector-specific sustainability categories—sourcing and legacy—were developed for the supplement, as were 13 new key performance indicators (KPIs).

"The event organizers sector has considerable sustainability impacts, but also offers significant opportunities to influence society and generate long term legacies," GRI concluded in a summary guide. "The Supplement seeks to establish a framework for reporters to manage these impacts and opportunities, disclose them to interested stakeholders, and to be accountable."

The all-too-frequent gap that persists between sustainability claims and actual performance was revealed this week, when the UK-based Independent reported that an appointee to the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 quit over sponsorship of the Olympic Games by the US-based Dow Chemical.

The Commission "is the official watchdog set up to ensure London 2012 meets its commitment of being the most sustainable Games ever," the Independent reported.

Dow is the owner of Union Carbide, whose factory in Bhopal, India, leaked poisonous gas in 1984, killing 15,000 people.

"Campaigners say the continuing water contamination is responsible for high rates of congenital deformities and cancers among communities living around the old factory site," the Independent reported.

Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001, and disavows any legal responsibility for liabilities relating to the Bhopal disaster. "Dow's corporate social responsibility policies are in part why it was awarded the contract over five other bidders, according to Olympic organizers," the Independent stated.

Phil Cumming, Corporate Sustainability Manager of London 2012 and a member of the GRI working group, said at the launch of GRI's guidance for event organizers, "Sustainability is an integral consideration in planning and delivering the London 2012 Games. Our vision is to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change."


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