Guest blog: The event industry gets serious about sustainability

By Chris Farrell, MD, Impact Reporting

Social value is an umbrella term used to describe any initiative that makes a positive contribution to society and the environment such as smart resource usage, working with suppliers that are social enterprises, providing good working conditions and environmental sustainability.

Demonstrating a commitment to social value, welfare and sustainability is now an integral part of succeeding in the UK event sector. The industry is all too aware of the environmental damage caused by everything from plastic and non-recyclable branded materials, food wastage, excessive travel, generators, transporting goods, long hours on-site or in the office to ‘get the job done’ and sleepless nights and stress. 

Some would say it’s the nature of the industry, however, building in practical initiatives for staff and guests at events is key and aligns with ISO 20121 guidance to limit social, economic and environmental impact. 

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Chris Farrell, managing director of Impact Reporting, a bespoke CSR and sustainability reporting tool, shares 10 top tips for event managers, agencies and industry suppliers to become more sustainable:

  1. Start with the basics –
    It’s OK to start small and scale up. Get rid of plastics, put recycling bins in place, ditch cars where possible and instead use public transport and encourage your delegates to do the same

  2. Develop employee initiatives to improve welfare and mental health –
    Organise lunchtime cycling, volunteering with local charities and recycling projects to offer a refreshing change of scenery to boost mental health

  3. Build social value into supplier contracts –
    Insist that partners, venues and suppliers prioritise social value and sustainable initatives. Make sure they have sustainability management processes and systems in place certified to national or international standards

  4. Lead from the top –
    A top down approach is critical to champion sustainable business practices. Consider creating a sustainable mission statement involving everyone from across the organisation to get buy-in from all departments

  5. Gamify the creation of social value –
    Inspire employees to do more and get competitive about it. For example, set up a leader board, create teams and offer prizes as incentives for those that achieve the most

  6. Adopt a framework –
    Set real objectives with fixed timeframes and work towards these. The UN SDG’s are an easy way to assess your progress 

  7. Align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) –
    Benchmark achievements against the 17 global goals set by the UN in 2015. These global challenges relate to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice 

  8. Listen to stakeholders –
    Align to your client’s mission, vision or values relating it to CSR and sustainability. They provide a good starting point for you to develop your own set of principles and can increase future business wins

  9. Let employees choose charities –
    When it comes to giving back to the community, ask staff to vote from a list chosen as a group to engage with

  10. Identify areas for change – 
    Altering your mindset so you’re focused on sustainability doesn’t mean radically changing the way you currently operate. Anything from switching to more sustainably sourced food and beverages and using energy efficient LED lighting will help increase the positive contributions you’re making. 

The event industry needs to move away from the old-fashioned view that sustainability is ‘low priority’ and can’t be measured. Being more sustainable helps event companies become more efficient and leads to higher engagement amongst employees and more client wins that can easily offset additional time and the monetary expense. 

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: molly@eventindustrynews.com