ISO Standards at 2012 Olympics

10/09/2012

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Whilst in the business world many have heard of the likes of ISO 9001, many don’t realise there are in fact over 19,000 ISO standards. They affect every aspect of our lives, from the windows we look out of to the credit cards we use for shopping. Standards are there to ensure products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.

A great example of how standards touch every day life is the world’s biggest event: the Olympics. In this feature, we take a look at how ISO standards helped to achieve London 2012’s sustainability goals.


The Aim

From the outset, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) set the objective of the London 2012 games being the greenest ever. To deliver on such a grand ideal, the ODA went well beyond what is expected of a typical event. It wasn’t simply a case of building infrastructure, the London 2012 Olympics has been a show case of environmental management, sustainability and corporate responsibility. From using 2,600 tonnes of surplus gas pipes for the Olympic stadium’s roof truss to reduce carbon, to reusing or recycling 425,000 tonnes of demolition material to avoid landfill, to establishing over 5 hectares of brownfield habitats for local wildlife, no stone was left unturned.

With so much organisation required, established processes were required to help develop and plan and provide a base to measure results so that the ODA knew they were heading in the right direction.

The Solution

An event so large, with so much publicity, can offer a wide range of benefits to the community. It has been touted the London 2012 games will contribute £13bn to the UK’s economy, for example. Of course though, there is the potential for negative impacts with 4 billion people viewing and 200 countries involved; financial, environmental, social, consumption being a few.

It was the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) who stepped in, bringing together 30 countries in creating a new standard called ISO 20121:2012 for event sustainability management systems. The aim was to produce a new global standard that would be relevant to all members of the events industry supply chain, not just huge events such as the Olympic Games. The standard would be applicable to all involved, from football stadia, to event managers, to an on-site caterer.

Like many ISO standards, ISO 20121 started life as a British Standard (BS 8901). The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) became the first to become certified to this in 2011, two years after achieving certification to the well established ISO 14001 environmental management standard. Arguably, London 2012 has been the biggest and most complex site to ever achieve this.

With previous achievements under their belt, LOCOG was therefore keen to become directly involved with the development of the ISO 20121 standard, joining other members of the event industry with experience of event management and sustainability initiatives. The standard has a similar approach to established management standards such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). It provides a framework for identifying the potentially negative social, economic and environmental impacts of events by either removing or reducing them, and capitalising on more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

What is ISO 14001?

First published in 1996, the environmental management standard helps organisations of any size or industry manage and reduce their environmental impacts.

With previous achievements under their belt, LOCOG was therefore keen to become directly involved with the development of the ISO 20121 standard, joining other members of the event industry with experience of event management and sustainability initiatives. The standard has a similar approach to established management standards such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). It provides a framework for identifying the potentially negative social, economic and environmental impacts of events by either removing or reducing them, and capitalising on more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

ISO 20121 presents the idea that using an internationally recognised framework enables events to demonstrate their actions in a transparent, credible and ethical way. By taking a process approach to management shows that what gets monitored and measured gets reduced. This isn’t just great news for the environment, but it can also massively reduce costs.

As well as London 2012 using the standard, sponsors Coca-Cola was also an early adopter, together with the outer London venues. In fact, it was a requirement for all sponsors to adopt London 2012’s sustainability-driven ethos, with even the much maligned McDonalds investing in ‘closed loop’ recyclable uniforms for their staff.

Coca-Cola turned all plastic bottles discarded at the Olympic sites into 80 million new drinks bottles.

The Results

It’s all very well implementing various standards, but did they help deliver? The Olympic park’s targets were based on industry standard baselines. Once such target was reducing water consumption by 40% and carbon by 50%. They duly delivered at 58% and 60% respectively.

The 80,000 seat stadium was constructed with less than half the steel used in comparably sized stadia, making it the lightest Olympic Stadium to date.

However, London 2012 did fail to meet their use of renewable energy targets by 9%, which was put down to deciding not to build a 2MW wind turbine (although smaller ones were installed after criticism in 2012). To make up for their shortfall, the ODA invested in efficiency measures in 2,800 local homes and 12 schools, thereby demonstrating far reaching Corporate Social Responsibility.

530m of rainwater harvested from the velodrome roof will be used each year to flush toilets and for irrigation.

To help water efficiency targets, the ODA invested in modern technologies such as low-flush toilets and aerating flow restrictor taps with automatic shut-off and leak-detection systems. You can find more water saving ideas in our dedicated guide. The velodrome was the big winner, with a 75% reduction in water use. It was also the most energy efficient venue, beating the 15% energy reduction target with an impressive 32%.

170,000 tonnes of recycled and secondary aggregate were used in concrete mixes, saving 30,000 tonnes of embodied carbon and avoiding 70,000 lorry trips.

From way back at the bidding stage, London 2012 was all about creating a sustainable legacy. Whilst the visual transformation of East London is obvious, the new initiatives and programmes to create sustainable social, economic and sporting legacies at home in the UK and around the world have been the unseen triumph for LOCOG. From encouraging local businesses to introduce working from home, to the building of new recycling facilities which has gone on to stimulate growth in the green industry, London 2012 has delivered much more than the Games. Whilst the economic benefits may have been overestimated, undoubtedly London 2012’s main goal of being the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games has been met, leaving a legacy far beyond the departure of the Olympic Flame.