Events Sustainability: the GSC partners with TÜV Thüringen Italia

The Global Solo Challenge has decided to address the sustainability implications of running a global event by partnering with TÜV Thüringen Italia, which will validate the organisation’s compliance with the ISO 20121 Standard and issue the certification following its review.

Sporting events can have a very positive impact on the local communities that host them. Within the sailing world, many notable offshore yacht races have developed over the years and become opportunities for businesses, the tourism and hospitality industry and brands looking for global exposure.

However, an event’s positive economic and social impact goes hand in hand with the consumption of resources and the direct or indirect production of waste and carbon emissions. It’s been nearly two decades since practitioners within the events industry have become aware of the need for more sustainable practices.

Notably, the Head of Sustainability at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, David Stubbs, looked for a way to make good on the sustainability promises made in the London Games bid that led to the creation of the “2007 Specification for a sustainable event management system with guidance for use”. The definition of the ISO 20121 Standard soon followed.

The sustainability considerations relating to the Global Solo Challenge have been paramount since its launch. However, we focused on actual practical and immediate implications rather than future potential achievements. We were wary of making any social or environmental sustainability claims that we could not easily prove. When TÜV Thüringen Italia contacted us and offered to review our organisation and issue ISO 20121 certification, we were pleased and immediately interested“, commented event organiser Marco Nannini.

We contacted the Global Solo Challenge because we could see the sustainability of its format that distinguishes it from other events. It was no surprise to find out that it was not a coincidence. We look forward to verifying the choices and processes of the management and, hopefully, we will be in a position to certify the sustainability efforts put in place by this event“, commented Giovanni Marmini, Business Development Manager at TÜV Thüringen Italia.

ISO 20121 (full name: ISO 20121:2013, Event sustainability management systems –- Requirements with guidance for use) is a voluntary international standard for sustainable event management, created by the International Organisation for Standardisation. The standard aims to help organisations improve sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle.

ISO 20121 is suitable for all sizes and types of events. Organisations can demonstrate voluntary conformity with ISO 20121 by either first-party self-declaration, second-party confirmation of conformance or, better still, by certification by an independent third party, e.g. a certification body.

The development of the ISO 20121 standard led to a management systems approach to running more sustainable events. The specification provides a framework to help identify potentially negative social, economic and environmental impacts of events. Organisers can then remove or reduce these elements through improved planning and processes. The changes lead to improvements in key sustainability issues such as venue selection, transport, recycling or reusing demolition waste, creating a sustainable food strategy, promoting healthy living and skills creation, employment and business legacies.

Every event has economic, social and environmental impacts. Hence sustainability considerations are relevant to all members of the event industry supply chain: organisers, event managers, stand builders, caterers and logistics suppliers.

The ISO 20121 standard can reduce costs, carbon emissions and waste. Help better manage the biodiversity of venues and achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce. The specifications also include requirements on communications, operational planning and control, stakeholder identification and engagement, supply chain management and procurement.

Additional considerations for yachting events

When it comes to yachting events, a strictly related concern is the sustainability of the boat building industry. Even though (race) organisers are not directly responsible for the environmental impact of building a new yacht, each race’s format directly affects whether to commission a new racing boat to gain a competitive advantage.

Many industry participants make claims as to the progress towards the sustainability of boat building materials. Some focus on using natural fibres. However, this does not necessarily address the end-of-life recyclability issue of resin-reinforced composites. New generation bio epoxies have opened up the possibility to dissolve resins and extract the fibres at the end of a boat’s service life. However, carbon or glass fibres can’t typically be recycled but down-cycled, only delaying the ultimate problem of landfill waste. Some alternative fibres could lead to a fully circular economy of boat building materials. Their financial viability still needs proving.

The Global Solo Challenge organisers have taken a more fundamental approach to their role in the issue. The event’s innovative format with staggered starts creates an implicit disincentive to participation with new boats. The age allowance of the performance assessment formula used to determine starting groups makes signing up with older boats an attractive option. Extending the service life of the existing sailboats is undoubtedly the number one option for reducing environmental impact.

The format also significantly reduces the budget needed to participate and addresses the long term financial sustainability. Some races have seen costs skyrocket over time, decreasing inclusion and inevitably creating elitarian professionals-only events.

In the Global Solo Challenge, participants can choose according to their preferences within a framework that allows a wide range of yachts to enter without creating a distortion whereby only specific designs can participate or the incentive to build new. The flexible format does not imply a reverse preclusion for those owners who already own a sailboat built or bought for unrelated circumstances.

Additionally, event rules include a cap on the use of fossil fuels. Skippers need to identify renewable energy sources which work in a range of weather conditions, such as wind, solar, hydro generators and bio-ethanol fuel cells.

Skippers entered into the Global Solo Challenge are all owners of their boats. Self-sufficiency is essential. All entrants will deliver their yachts to the start port in A Coruña themselves by sea.

The organisation is committed to creating inclusive work opportunities and reducing its carbon footprint by opting for a global management team working, whenever possible, remotely, decreasing the impact of logistics.

The implications of the choice of the event format are many and far-reaching, giving rise to a sustainable framework, financially, socially and environmentally.