How can the global event sector #buildbackbetter?

How can the global event sector #buildbackbetter?

Covid-19 has been the world experiencing shared crises of, health, economy, equality and climate. Being sustainable is how we solve these challenges. The phrase #buildbackbetter is being used by global businesses and governments and the global event sector has an opportunity to demonstrate this.

There are 4 actions that could be taken to deliver a global event sector #builtbackbetter. These actions are not a checklist, but are strategic actions which will enable culture change.

Create a new narrative for the sector 

SDG 16 has an indicator for enabling inclusive and participatory decision making. In collaboration with UN SDG Action and in line with existing UN Acceleration Action frameworks, the global event sector could communicate its narrative as being an enabler for SDG 16. This could create new opportunities with the world’s businesses and governments who have committed to the SDGs.

For example, Unicef UK are creating guidelines on the consideration for human and child rights when planning an event and this could be a resource for event professionals to #buildbackbetter.

Build Capacity

In March 2020, not-for-profit Positive Impact began an ‘upskilling programme’ which reached over 1,200 global event professionals. As part of this initiative and in collaboration with the British Embassy Helsinki, over 60 British Embassies received capacity building on how to use ISO 20121, the ISO standard for event sustainability.

Human connection and collaboration are at the heart of the work of British Embassies around the world, including in Helsinki. Sustainability is our priority and it is critical that we build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic. This sustainable event management workstream provides a means by which event professionals can connect, collaborate and communicate while meeting some of the urgent environmental challenges we face.” 

Mr. Tom Dodd, British Ambassador to Finland.

Enable Innovation

The market for new technologies to enable human interaction, participation and inclusion is significant. The potential advantage the global event sector could have is to develop these technologies within a #buildbackbetter framework, in line with global standards and ISO 20121, a UNFCCC events framework, Unicef UK guidelines and more.

Sustainability is part of BSI’s purpose. We are the worlds first national standards body, and proud to support the events industry through best practice standards. Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, BSI developed the first sustainable event management system standard (ISO 20121) which is part of a suite of standards that can build capacity and drive more sustainable performance. BSI remains ready to help the industry build back betterfrom the pandemic through greater application of standards.

David Fatscher, Head of Sector British Standards Institute 

Demonstrate Leadership

In the lead up to COP26 global sectors are announcing carbon reduction targets. In collaboration with UNFCCC (the UN Climate Change Secretariat) and in line with action being taken by the fashion and sport sectors, the global event sector could create a framework and trial UNFCCC measurement systems.

The opportunity for leadership is clear as stated by Miguel Naranjo, Programme Officer at the UNFCCC secretariat,

We are witnessing many industry sectors mobilizing to transform their narrative and actions. Public pressure for action is growing though. Those that do not start implementing serious action right now will be left behind. We encourage the events industry to use all opportunities to look at sustainability, skills and jobs under the same strategy for positive change, and to act with utmost urgency.”

There are already existing frameworks (for example ISO 20121 and the Unicef UK Guidelines for human and child rights) developed which are either already in use globally or have significant potential. The immediate and straightforward opportunity is to boost the amount of action, its impact and profile the leadership of the global event sector to the world’s governments and businesses.

It might seem very overwhelming to start these 4 actions at a strategic level. So here are 4 basic actions that any event professional can take immediately:

  1. Download the Unicef UK resources to plan an event with the consideration of human rights and child rights
  2. Use the free ISO 20121 resources created in collaboration with British Embassy Helsinki to implement ISO 20121
  3. Join an exclusive 24-hour exploration into the future of how human interaction happens
  4. Become a Positive Impact ambassador to receive free, regular resources to empower your network to take action on sustainability

With COP26 happening in November 2021 on the horizon, potentially the world’s biggest event, there is an unmissable opportunity for the global event sector to #buildbackbetter.


Fiona Pelham, CEO of Positive Impact Events, will be speaking at IBTM World Virtual this year as part of our IBTM Inspire Masterclasses. Her session is on: How to succeed in the future of the event industry.

Find out more here.

Also, if you want to join us at IBTM World Virtual and attend her session and many more, register to attend here.

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