G4S, O2, M4 – feeling confident about 2012?

Posted by andrew on Monday, July 16th, 2012

For anyone who missed my blog on www.eventmagazine.co.uk – here’s another chance to read it…

You would be forgiven for having one or two nerves about the upcoming London Olympics. It has not exactly been plain sailing over the past four weeks as we are getting closer and closer to the games. The list is long and if I mention G4S, O2 phone signals, the M4, rooftop surface to air missiles and chips, you’ll probably get the idea – and they’re all just from the past few days. Even electronic cigarettes seem capable of bringing the country to the point of armageddon.

From my point of view, as a sustainability volunteer at the games, I have nothing but praise for the process so far. Picking up my uniform and accreditation was quick and easy, and I was struck by how friendly all of the other volunteers were. I’m confident London will be presenting a friendly, welcoming face to the world.

In sustainability terms it has not all been plain sailing however. LOCOG has just published its response to allegations made earlier in the year around conditions in factories manufacturing plush toys for the games. The report – which you can read here – is something of a masterclass in the pros and cons of standards such as BS8901 and ISO20121. It is detailed, thorough, and follows a transparent process, but you can’t help but wonder why the checks are occurring now – after the allegations have been made – rather than as part of the initial procurement process. If the checks did take place at an earlier stage, then a fine or penalty for the company involved would seem more appropriate than “corrective measures” at this stage. There’s a lesson here that you can follow standards and procedures to the letter and still not get the results you wanted. I’ve always believed it’s more important for event organisations to pursue sustainable policies as a way of improving their business rather than simply to get a nice new certificate to hang on the wall.

Standards like ISO20121 should be welcomed though, as a great tool for us to use as an industry and as an important legacy of the 2012 games. I am a natural optimist and I am confident that we will see greater uptake of these standards in the years to come. It was a pleasure to be at the recent launch of ISO20121, particularly to hear from Coca Cola who have really embraced the new standard and are using it to make their Olympic activity better. But in 2012, as we await the arrival of the greenest games ever, after 7 years of well deserved hype – should we feel jubilant that a major brand like Coke is taking this forward? Or disappointed that out of all the top tier sponsors, only Coke has risen to the challenge? As always, my glass is half full, but it would have been encouraging to see some of the sustainability partners for the games step up to the plate. The question may be: if organisations like BMW, BP, BT et al aren’t using sustainability standards for their events now, what is it going to take to persuade them to do so?

My official duties start on the 27th, as London welcomes the world to see the greatest show on earth. Let’s focus on the positives rather than the doom and gloom, but let’s not be complacent about the road we still have ahead of us.

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