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Improving the environmental impact of major events

Our interdisciplinary team of researchers developed an evaluative toolkit to make sporting and cultural events more sustainable.

Principality Stadium

Sporting and cultural events have historically been evaluated more on their economic outcomes.

As a result, the environmental consequences of such events have been overlooked.

In response, a team of researchers from Cardiff Business School and Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning combined their expertise to assess both the environmental and economic impacts of major events.

The team’s interdisciplinary focus saw them deploy economic approaches to analyse spending at events together with methods used to assess the environmental effects linked to this spending.

A combined approach

In 2004, the Cardiff team became the first to use two existing event assessment tools in combination when they evaluated the FA Cup Final at the (then named) Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

As well as demonstrating that the tools could be used together, the team:

  • showed that emissions could be estimated by assessing the spending linked to events
  • identified the types of spending which generated the greatest environmental impacts
  • and highlighted how reducing air and car travel could significantly reduce the environmental impacts of events

A 2006 Six Nations rugby fixture in Cardiff, the 2007 Tour de France Grand Départ in London, and cultural events, including the 2012 Hay Festival, enabled the research team to further assess and compare the economic and environmental impacts of major events.

The researchers recommended this combined approach should be used in event impact evaluation as standard as it enables event organisers, policy makers and consultants to consider environmental impacts alongside economic impacts.

Adoption of this approach nationally and internationally has changed how policymakers, event organisers and consultants understand and evaluate the adverse environmental impacts of their events.

Staging more sustainable events

In 2016, the Cardiff research team was invited to revise the environmental section of UK Sport’s eventIMPACTS toolkit.

Introduced in 2008 to standardise event impact methodologies, the toolkit is run on a collaborative basis between UK Sport and partners including the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Discover Northern Ireland, Event Scotland and the Welsh Government.

Since its redevelopment by the Cardiff team in 2017, around 3,000 individuals and organisations in the UK and across five continents have registered to use the transformed toolkit, resulting in more sustainable events in the UK and internationally.

That same year, Dr Collins and Professor Munday collaborated with UK Sport to undertake a survey of registered toolkit users. The responses showed that eventIMPACTS had been used to assess the economic and environmental impacts of sporting and cultural events by a wide range of organisations across 13 countries worldwide.

Respondents reported how the toolkit helped inform planning decisions, policies and actions, and led to the staging of more sustainable events.

Cardiff Half Marathon  - Starting line

The survey showed how:

  • 47% of organisations strongly agreed it had enhanced their understanding of event environmental impacts and their evaluation
  • 31% of organisations strongly agreed it had advanced their thinking about how to reduce environmental impacts
  • 22 organisations had directly used resources from the environmental section of eventIMPACTS to inform event planning and operation decisions
  • 27% had reduced the negative environmental impact of their events as a result of using the toolkit