Can community running events be low-impact and high value?
The simple answer is yes, they can!
In Australia, we are seeing an exponential increase in community participation in local running events, often by sustainability minded individuals who love the out doors - so why aren't we seeing more organisations bring these two concepts together?
Sustainable event management is the practice of integrating environmental and social responsibility issues into your event planning process. Often this requires organisations to consider the needs and values of different stakeholders that are impacted by your event and take steps to reduce negative impacts such as waste or emissions. While also seeking out opportunities for you to leave a positive legacy that benefits your community.
When working with Australian events and event managers on how to make their projects more sustainable, a common question The Glacier Group is often asked ‘where do we start?’. At The Glacier Group we have deep experience with these types of projects, particularly with running events, so we have provided below a snap shot of how your organisation might go about building a more sustainable collection of events. Note, although we have focused this blog on running events these principles are easily transferable to other community events.
While every solution and framework should be unique and reflective of your organisations vision and goals for a sustainability program, the following three-step approach is a good place to get you started:
Measure impacts and establish improvement goals.
Enact sustainable procurement plans and sustainable event policies.
Communicate plan, tracking annual performance against your goals.
1. Measuring impact
The old adage goes if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. This rings as true in sustainability as any other area of business. Measuring impact is often a two-fold exercise, as highlighted below:
Capturing or quantifying your footprint and impact, and then establishing improvement goals or targets. ie how many water bottles are disposed of at the event, how much waste the event generates, energy use etc. Understanding your impact will allow you to understand where you are now so you can focus initiatives to best reduce that footprint.
With this foot-printing work done, your organsiation can manage its impacts, and then easily quantify and demonstrate the positive impact of these initiatives through comparing performance against your baseline impact.
2. Sustainable procurement and sustainability policy or strategy
It is essential that your organisation understands its event’s supply chain to manage what and how you purchase good and services. This stage is key to the success of an event’s sustainability program.
Big ticket items may include merchandise partnering to offer recycled polyester event wear, or locally sourcing your food to reduce the emissions associated with getting that food to your event. A strong and targeted sustainable procurement strategy or policy which aligns with the goals you have established in the first phase is fundamental to achieving a truly sustainable event (particularly running events). Once you have the foundational understanding of what you are looking to achieve, you can start identifying specific initiatives to meet your goals and improve the footprint and sustainability credentials of your events.
3. Communications plan
Finally, developing a clear communication plan that ensures information about your efforts is easily accessed by your stakeholders is essential. If your participants and the public don’t know about the good work you are doing, your organisation loses much of the reputational uplift and differentiation from other running events that you have worked hard to achieve.
Clear communication about sustainability programs and the initiatives organisations have implemented is where most events fall down - ENGAGEMENT! This may be because the event manager doesn’t make their sustainability goals and achievements easily accessible to the public, or it could be because this information is not conveyed or communicated effectively.
Following up on a program is also very important; event managers undertaking a sustainability program should always provide annual updates on progress, tracking and reporting on impact to demonstrate your positive impact.
How Can The Glacier Group Help You?
Our team has a depth of experience across each aspect of the approach beginning with measuring impact. We can work with your organisation to understand the story you would like to tell, and the data required to do so. Once you have decided why and what you would like to achieve, we can help you baseline that concept and align it to your procurement and operational policies to achieve your aims. Finally, we can help you tell the story of your success in the most effective way. If you have an existing communications strategy, The Glacier Group can feed into this process by provide engaging sustainability highlights such as avoided emissions and trees saved, as well as key performance figures. Alternatively we can build tailored communications packs based on your needs.
If you would like to learn more about how to make your running event more sustainable, get in touch at email@example.com. We have a passion for running, and love supporting organisations with overlapping areas of passion!