BS8901: not what you think

Unless, that is, you already knew that it’s a package of time honored, business management processes which can apply to almost any business.   There are many things the  standard is not:

  • it’s not a checklist to create a ‘green meeting’
  • it’s not a stamp of approval for your event
  • not just about environmental stewardship (‘green’)
  • it’s not just for event planners
  • it’s not something you ‘phone in’ or enter into half heartedly
  • it’s not perfect

What it is:  BS8901 is all about practical systems for effective business outcomes.  It’s for the owner of the business, not the junior member of the green team.  It’s for committed business professionals who aspiblog2re to realize triple bottom line (economic viability, social justice, environmental stewardship) benefits.  BS8901 is for businesses who want to minimize risk and position for growth over the long term.

The benefit of the standard is not in the marketing value of saying you’re compliant, or in the thinking that it makes you more ‘green’.  The value of integrating a proven business system is what’s on the other side of the challenging process of asking the tough questions about creating a sustainable business model (what is our purpose?  What are our values and why? What is our measure of success?).

This process, both time consuming and difficult for most of us, is not what you thought it was, but it could be the key to your sustainable future.

Check out the updated version of the standard here


  1. Guy Bigwood says:

    Michael – it would be interesting to know of your experience implementing BS8901 in COP15?

  2. Michael Luehrs says:

    The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) event secretariat has, by any measure, outperformed and ‘out innovated’ most any organization who has pursued effort to create a sustainable event.
    That said, the BS8901 standard has very specific criteria for very specific documentation of event planning processes. It could be said that COP15 is among the most difficult events on which to test the BS8901 system. Not only for it’s large size and diverse politics, but also for it’s being a single event organized by this particular group of people (the standard works best for organizations who will use their system to plan lots of events).

    Our efforts to help guide the process, both to coordinate training on BS8901 for Danish Standards and to guide the documentation process for the COP15 secretariat team, is both challenging and exciting.
    No matter the result of the upcoming audit of the event planning process, the experience and education we’ll be able to share with the meetings industry will be invaluable. Many of the findings will be captured in the ‘Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol’ document which should be published by late February, 2010.
    The pre-audit of their planning system happens Friday November 6. Stay tuned!

  3. Hi Michael,
    I think you might enjoy my recent column on steering away from “green” to developing systems and processes that will result in long-term profit and well-being for business and the environment. It was a result of my initial foray into BS8901 for my own company.
    You can read it here:
    I’d love to hear your thoughts!
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
    Pulse Staging and Events, Inc.

    • Michael says:

      You should know, Midori, that I’m a long time fan of you/Pulse Staging and have forwarded a number of your articles so I’m honored you took time to comment. Your article is exactly aligned with our own thoughts that it’s time to move beyond green. Businesses should not be shy about the need to protect their viability with smart, balanced approaches. Profit is ok, and it’s ok to include this as an important goal but alongside social responsibility/human rights/community enrichment and, yes, environmental stewardship. The way to get there is exactly as you’ve written in your article and it’s fair to say that it’s no easy process. By turns tedious, bewildering, exasperating the process of reviewing–with honesty and candor– why your goals are your goals, what your stakeholders really think, what your priorities ought to be… this is the stuff of which strong businesses are made. I’ll be following you on twitter and looking for your future posts which document your 8901 progress. With your commitment and your understanding of the value, I think you’ve already succeeded. See you in Denver at the GMIC Sustainability Summit!

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