CSR Report: MS Society attains BS8901

The charity put access and sustainability at the heart of its AGM

FACTFILE
Organisation: The MS Society
Agency: Seventeen Events
Event: AGM
Dates: 13-14 September, 2008
Group size: 300
Venue: London Sofitel Heathrow Hotel

Sustainability partners

The MS Society is the largest charity in the UK, supporting 85,000 people with the neurological condition. Increasingly, the Society has sought to promote sustainability within its events and, to that end, started working with agency Seventeen Events in 2007.

Implementing BS8901

One of the objectives for its 2008 AGM was to ensure the event was run in compliance with the sustainable events standard BS8901. The Society enlisted Seventeen Events' management tool Eventberry (www.eventberry.com) to ensure all planning and implementation took sustainability into account.

Seventeen Events managing director Andrew Williams says: "The MS Society has been developing a more sustainable approach to its events over the past year and the natural progression was to begin implementing BS8901."

MS Society conference organiser Lucy Boyle says: "Our AGM is one of our most important events and it was vital to us that, as well as being sustainable, it also worked as a practical event. It would have been a problem for us if the sustainable elements or the implementation of BS8901 got in the way of the content."

The information chain

The system also had to enable the events team to inform all stakeholders, internally and externally, of sustainability objectives. This included keeping venues and suppliers informed and updated throughout the planning process.

As many people with MS are wheelchair users, accessibility had to be balanced with other aspects of providing a sustainable event.

Communicating across channels

All the organisation of the event was carried out with sustainability in mind, including access. Rather than being an extra level of administration, the system actually acted as a safety net ensuring that all aspects of the planning process had been carried out correctly, according to Williams.

"Clear chains of communication are one of the key components of the standard," he says. "It's important to show not just what you're doing, but also who you're communicating it to."

Stakeholders were informed of the sustainability plan via confirmation letters and the website, and compliance was recorded. Questionnaires were sent to venues and suppliers to benchmark 'where they were now' and these were followed up with face-to-face discussions to ensure they understood what the event was trying to achieve.

Accept no compromises

The AGM took place on the weekend of 13-14 September at London Sofitel Heathrow. Williams says that accessibility was the overriding consideration, and that although there are venues that are more 'sustainable', Sofitel was the best fit for delegates' travel arrangements.

Although many sustainable elements were introduced to the event, from providing tap rather than bottled water, through to benchmarking delegate travel, the quality of delivery of the AGM was never compromised.

Future focus

The content of the AGM wasn't focused on sustainability, demonstrating that even straightforward events without a green spin can still be compliant to BS8901. The MS Society is now rolling out the use of Eventberry across more of its events to ensure they can be BS8901-compliant.

The events team has been pleased with the way the management system has integrated with existing systems, says Boyle. "Our green agenda has been picked up by other teams within the charity and the MS Society is now looking at sustainability at every level of its operation."

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