The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is set to be a landmark event; not just for the city itself, but for its influence on the sustainability of large scale event management and the importance of supply chain sustainability going forwards.

Since the UK last hosted the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, sustainability has moved up the agenda to take centre stage in the Birmingham 2022 strategy.

Efforts to improve sustainability are not new to the Commonwealth Games: in 2014, the Glasgow Games were awarded ISO 20121, the international standard for sustainable event management. This was achieved through policies and practice codes that introduced fully compostable dining utensils, recyclable bottles, and 12 waste streams to help recycle 49% of all waste generated.

The Birmingham Games promise to be even more ambitious.

Birmingham 2022 aims to be the ‘most sustainable Commonwealth Games since the event began nearly a century ago’, and to create a legacy for how future iterations are organised. Initiatives like free public transport access for ticket holders, pledges to plant 2022 acres of forest, and clearing 22 miles of canals demonstrate how the event is working to deliver a positive outcome for the community.

To help Birmingham 2022 achieve its goals, those businesses contracted to supply the Birmingham Games must abide by the its Sustainable Sourcing Code. The code sets out the minimum standards required of suppliers in seven key areas including carbon air quality, circular economy to minimise waste, and conservation.

In short, the standards include requirements to ‘consider rental equipment before purchasing’ and ‘adopt an approach to preserving biodiversity and net zero reforestation’. Compliance with the code will be monitored by a system of audit checks and evaluations and if the guidelines are breached the supplier will be expected to implement a corrective action plan.

Some of the requirements may appear vague and may be largely unenforceable. However, for suppliers, the focus should not be on short term compliance but on the bigger picture: the future of large scale event procurement. If suppliers want to win public contracts for large events and other public sector contracts in the future, this code is the perfect blueprint.

Mandating sustainable practices in supply chains will soon become the norm for large scale events, and sustainability scores in tenders will no doubt play a large role in facilitating this. This has resulted in environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations moving up the agenda for many large corporations, as ESG focused initiatives help to win tenders and are attractive to investors and the public.

For a business looking to win public sector contracts, including for large events, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games should serve as a motivator to reconsider the sustainability of operations. Identifying where practices in a supply chain could be made more sustainable can help you gain an early advantage before sustainability is mandated for all public sector contracts. Contracting with suppliers that are certified with the Forest Stewardship Council, optimising transport mediums to reduce fuel consumption, and amending terms and conditions in new contracts to adhere to sustainability goals are all ways to instil sustainable practices at every level.

As with any change, there will be an upfront cost. But investment in change will reward you with a competitive advantage in public procurement contracts where scores for sustainability are growing in importance.

The legal sector is working to give companies the tools to negotiate climate friendly practices. The Chancery Lane Project is an example of practitioners coming together to devise standard clauses that align contract drafting with net zero targets. This movement towards encouraging climate friendly practices cannot be ignored and getting involved early will offer a significant advantage for future contracts.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will leave a legacy. Suppliers must get ahead in adopting more sustainable practices, or risk losing future contracts and falling behind the competition.