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Aiding Leading Experiential Agency Obtain Sustainability Certification

January 19, 2021
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Ignition is a multi-award-winning, strategic creative agency with offices in Bristol, UK and Indianapolis, USA. It specializes in the design and production of exceptional exhibitions, events and experiences around the world - whether in person, virtual or a hybrid combination of both.

The company has 17 employees and also works with partners and contractor companies to deliver specialist services. Ignition forms part of the Istoria Group, a collective of collaborative creative agencies whose additional specialisms include retail and hospitality design, strategic communications and innovation management.


Last year, Ignition delivered 344 projects in 20 different countries across 4 continents with a 100% success rate, for clients across multiple industry sectors, including defense, aerospace, technology, pharmaceutical, health and education.


The company was founded in 2007 on the principle of creating a different kind of company that balances people and planet with profit whilst delivering great work to clients. Ignition has won many coveted awards including Sustainable Organisation of the Year, Best Employer, Creative Agency of the Year and The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.




Istoria Group’s Chairwoman and Founder Claire Menzies is passionate about sustainability and sustainable thinking is embedded in the culture of the Group and its constituent companies. Claire Menzies was one of the first members of the British Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) and helped pioneer the first Sustainable Exhibitions Industry Report in 2002. She is a Non- Executive Director of International Synergies, leaders in circular economy development, which led to a seat on the Temporary Materials Forum for the London Olympics 2012 Steering Committee. Here, she helped to create the world’s first ever zero waste to landfill Games.


Unsurprisingly, Claire Menzies also wanted her own company to gain the ISO 20121 certification for event sustainability management, becoming the first exhibitions, events and experiential agency to do so.


Istoria Group Business Manager Hannah Jardine says: “We’ve always been against ‘build and burn’ in the industry, and the culture of automatic landfill waste. As an example, our exhibition kits are re-usable and recyclable, often lasting for ten years or more. Our ethos of sustainability extends to all employees as well as our clients and partners.


“Retaining our certification to ISO 20121 would effectively ‘rubber stamp’ our ethos and credentials.”




Istoria Group had previously worked with SGS United Kingdom Ltd to gain certification for the ISO 9001 and 14001 standards and had found the company to be highly professional and supportive.  


Such were the culture and existing processes within the group, that according to Hannah Jardine, the process was straightforward. “The standard fitted what we were already doing,” she noted.


The fact that SGS was already familiar with the group’s business and how it worked was beneficial in the audit process – from the initial gap analysis through to the final audit six months later, in which no issues were highlighted. Universal buy-in within the company also aided the certification process for both Ignition and the SGS auditor.


In common with other ISO standards, full re-certification is carried out every three years, a process which lasts two days. Surveillance audits take place annually. At the time of writing this case study, these annual, two-day audits are conducted virtually, owing to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 


With sustainability now so high on the global business agenda, certification to the standard has paid considerable dividends for both Ignition and its customers.


It has measurably helped to gain new business, and everybody in the business is justifiably proud of having achieved and maintained certification.


The standard also encompasses wellbeing and so the company’s already advanced policies around mental health and flexibility have been formally recognized. This element of the standard also acknowledges the charity work carried out by the company in developing countries.


Ignition is also very keen to pass its ethos on, up and down the supply chain. Suppliers are reviewed for sustainability and our policies are shared with them annually. This helps these businesses, in turn, achieve their own sustainability goals and supports their own new business activity.


Customers also benefit financially from the cost savings resulting from Ignition’s and their own improved sustainability performance.


Hannah Jardine says: “The ISO 20121 standard makes us think about our processes. It makes us a better company.”


At the time of writing, Ignition has achieved carbon neutrality in Tiers 1 and 2 and is working towards becoming carbon negative. Certification for the wider Istoria Group is also under consideration. On working with SGS, Jardine comments: “I took over managing our ISO certification several years ago, and in my experience, SGS has always been great to work with. I feel that they’re there to help us, and not trip us up.


“In working with SGS, we also enjoy consistency, so we don’t have to go over the same thing repeatedly. They really know our business.” 


SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company with more than 89,000 employees operating in a network of 2,600 offices and laboratories around the world.


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