Should Events Cost The Earth?
5th November 2018
Environmental sustainability is a current hot topic, encouraging event managers to change their plans and adapt to greener events. The United Nations defines sustainable development as one which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 2018, para 4).
Whilst there is legislation related to protecting the environment, there is none directly aimed at the events industry with regards to environmental sustainability. There are principles, policies and procedures which are viewed as best practice, such as ISO 20121, however due to different event priorities and resources, not everyone is adhering to the same extent.
Furthermore, frameworks such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) are vital to the future of events, as they pressure both potential sponsors and event managers to act responsibly and consider the interest of all stakeholders, including the Earth.
How much will environmental sustainability cost event managers?
Event managers can achieve many economic benefits from being more environmentally sustainable. For example, companies that go ‘green’ can apply for different funding schemes, as well as receive tax deductions, by demonstrating a more efficient and less waste producing approach which will be less damaging to the environment. This will also avoid the risks of financial penalties, as seen in Glastonbury Festival which was fined after polluting the White Lake River in 2010.
In addition, being sustainable can increase event sales as some attendees are more likely to attend if they know an event is successfully practising sustainability and being cautious of their actions on the environment.
On the other hand, planning a more environmentally sustainable event can be a lengthy process and sourcing eco-friendly products can take longer to source – they are also more expensive. Would this be worth it in the long run?
How much will environmental sustainability cost the event?
As times are changing, there are increasing pressures arising for event managers, from a more environmentally literate audience. Using more environmentally friendly methods, can improve a company’s image and reputation. It will set the event apart, giving it a competitive advantage, attracting new customers sharing the same values, and sponsors who are looking to meet their CSR objectives.
In addition, reducing the environmental impact of an event, will also improve its longevity. This is because it will become less dependent on natural resources, meaning the event will be one step ahead of its competitors and will have a greater chance at long-term success. This however, isn’t always the case, as seen with Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts and Music Festival in New South Wales which went bankrupt in 2013.
How much will it cost the Earth?
Frequently used practices to decrease the impact of an event on the environment include waste management, recycling, going paperless and alternative energies amongst others. However, modern technology can fail at the worst of times and recycling can often be unsuccessful if it’s not completed accurately.
On the other hand, a less adopted practice is the reduction of animal products used and offered onsite. A report released earlier this year in the Science journal states that the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the environment is by avoiding meat and dairy products, this has been backed by the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, highlighting the urgent need to act now. WeWork for instance, has already made the change and banned meat from all of their staff events, which in turn means they are reducing the use of water and the production of carbon dioxide as well as saving the lives of animals.
Furthermore, by encouraging the use of local transport and car sharing or offering remote access via virtual tickets, for example, event managers can help reduce the carbon footprint of the event. This on the other hand is subject to attendees’ preference and cannot be fully controlled by event managers, which impacts the success of this initiative.
Last but not least, the ground also suffers from exhaustion from events, due to its overuse, pollution and toxic waste. For instance every 3 years Glastonbury festival has a fallow year in which they don’t host the event to allow the ground to recover and avoid irreversible damage.
The power is in your hands
Overall, “no one is going to change the world by banning plastic straws.” Many event managers like to believe that by making a small change like banning plastic straws, they are running an environmentally friendly event and green-wash attendees to believe so. However, this is a very minor element of the costs that events have on the Earth.
How far do you go to make your event environmentally sustainable?
What actions do you take/have you seen being taken, and what effect has this had on the event?