It can be quite the challenge to figure out where to start with sustainable initiatives when facing a ten-day equestrian event with over 1,000 horses from 70 countries. Organisers of the Equestrian World Championships 2022 in Herning got help developing ideas, building knowledge, and identifying specific areas for working with sustainability after contacting Bæredygtig Herning.
Malou Trabjerg and Sofie Loft are the Head of Office and Head of Side Events at the organisation tasked with bringing the 2022 FEI World Championships to Herning in August 2022. Their job is to orchestrate the needs and logistics of the 200,000 guests, 700 athletes from 70 countries, 100 horses, 1,100 journalists and 1,000 volunteers that will flock to Herning beginning August 6th. And they know the world will be watching. Over 200 million viewers will be tuned in from the over 150 countries that have already purchased TV rights.
“It is a huge undertaking to get all the practicalities in place for an event of this size,” Malou says. “But one of the reasons Herning got the honour of hosting the championship is that we included sustainability as a focus area in our bid. And it is just as big a challenge to think that into everything we do. How do we do things best? And how far can we go? It can be daunting until you get started – in this regard, Bæredygtig Herning has been an invaluable sparring partner.
"How do we do things best? And how far can we go? It can be daunting until you get started – in this regard, Bæredygtig Herning has been an invaluable sparring partner."
Malou Trabjerg | Head of Office, VM i Ridesport 2022
Sofie adds, “This event is a unique opportunity to show some of things that Denmark can do when it comes to sustainability and how we include sustainable ideas in all the details. This isn’t a football match that lasts 90 minutes – it is ten days from 8am to midnight. That means we have our guests’ attention for a long time. And we must take advantage of that.”
Through 2021, Bæredygtig Herning has been an advisor and sparring partner for VM i Ridesport 2022 and has opened the Bæredygtig Herning expert network for the event organisers.
“Bæredygtig Herning has been great at making sustainability operational for us,” says Malou. “They’ve shown us that there is a business case in sustainable initiatives, and they have taken everything we have thrown at them and come back with viable solutions. Not least, they have activated and opened up their network for us, which has also been a huge help.”
“Bæredygtig Herning has been great at making sustainability operational for us. They’ve shown us that there is a business case in sustainable initiatives, and they have taken everything we have thrown at them and come back with viable solutions. Not least, they have activated and opened up their network for us, which has also been a huge help.”
Malou Trabjerg, Head of office, VM i Ridesport 2022
Sustainability strategy with three parts
The organisation behind the world championship has a three-pronged sustainability strategy: First, think sustainability in everything that is produced at the event and remember to give everything an afterlife. The judging towers are a good example. They will be produced from recycled wood or FSC-certified wood by students at the Herningsholm vocational school. After the championships, the towers will be sent to equestrian clubs around Denmark. “In this way we have incorporated sustainability and circular thinking,” Sofie says. “In fact, we are always on the lookout for the places we can create positive momentum. We push our suppliers and get solutions from them that they can use again after the championships are finished. With an event of this size there are a lot of places to start a ripple effect.”
The second part of the strategy is to show what Denmark can do within sustainability. The organisers will establish what they call a “world stage”, which will function as a kind of display window to tell stories of sustainability to the world. “Here we would have never had access to the people needed to pull it off had it not been for Bæredygtig Herning’s network.”
The third part of the strategy is to create a legacy in Herning once the championship is over. To accomplish this, a championship forest will be planted. “We call it a growing legacy,” Sofie says. “It is a way to give something back to the local community and it fits naturally with equestrian sport, which is closely tied to nature. At the same time, the forest will provide some climate compensation for the CO2 produced in connection with the event.”
Steep learning curve
The philosophy behind the organisation’s sustainable initiatives is that if everyone does something, we can accomplish much together. “We’ve learned that we can’t let our desire to do things perfectly get in the way of doing them well,” says Malou. “We are proud of the all the things we have brought to our sustainability plan – from rejecting single-use water bottles for employees, volunteers, and the media to our focus on waste sorting, food waste, and reasonable reuse of horse droppings. I believe there is a big need in the event industry to make an inspiration catalogue with the entire palette of ideas and lists with reliable suppliers. That is definitely on our to-do list after the event.”
Sofie and Malou agree that Bæredygtig Herning is an important player for the municipality’s sustainable development, too. As Malou says, “In the end, it could be Bæredygtig Herning that makes all the difference in terms of how well the city of Herning does with sustainability longer term. The association are doing things that will really benefit the city. They transform thoughts to action and ensure sustainability is something you do not just something you talk about. They’ve really opened our eyes and created a business case we could relate to.”
Bæredygtig Herning’s role: Consulting, inspiration and facilitating contacts