We can be the industry to make a sustainable difference!

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Autumn 2019

Sustainability is a growing issue within the Event industry. In recent years, festivals have received backlash for not being sustainable or considering their lasting negative impact upon the environment.

Sustainability is divided into 3 categories, environmental, social and economic. Sustainability is not just about ‘saving the environment’.

In the UK, Shambala is a leading example of a festival which is effectively strategising to be sustainable. Their website details the changes which they have implemented in recycling, food and drink, energy usage, carbon footprint, and provide low-carbon travel plans for festival attendees. These changes have allowed them to win the Greener Festival Award 5 times.

There are always ways for every festival to improve, but it is important for us as event managers to make a start somewhere.

The UN’s Sustainable Goals 

One way the industry can tackle its sustainability issues is by understanding and supporting The Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to create a sustainable future for all. Although there are 17 UN Goals, event managers can begin by focusing on a select few, understand them, make the necessary changes, and then begin work on the remaining goals.

Source: UN Sustainable Development Goals, (2019)

Our industry needs to act and make a difference! We are going to highlight 3 goals that we believe connect directly to the festivals industry. 

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

“To ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”

UN Sustainable Development Goals (2019)

Why is this important for event managers?

Over the last century, global economic and social progress has been coincided with environmental degradation. If organisations don’t act to change their consumption and production patterns, they will cause irreversible damage to our environment.

How you can make a difference?

By continuing to use sustainable materials, recycle waste, use renewable energy, local and organic food and cutting out unnecessary consumption of resources where possible, a difference can be made.

The animal rights organisation PETA, discuss how the United Nations believe a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. Events don’t have to be 100% meat free, it is about reducing the livestock consumption in order to achieve food security and sustainability.

Festivals being responsible in their consumption and production:

  • Shambala Festival
  • NOS Alive Festival
  • Glastonbury Festival
  • The Welsh Vegan WinterFest

Certain festivals have taken full advantage of being sustainable and there are now festivals completely dedicated to Veganism.

Shambala Festival
Source: The Guardian (2016)

Shambala, a festival in the Northamptonshire countryside, was the UK’s first greenfield festival to go meat- and fish-free. Making this decision has allowed the festival to reduce the negative impacts which livestock farming have on the global greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s not about festivals achieving 100% Veganism, it’s about implementing being meat-free in order to cut down on unnecessary consumption to gradually make a change.

Goal 5: Gender equality

“To achieve gender equality and empower all women & girls”

UN Sustainable Development Goals (2019)

Why is this important for event managers to consider?

Over recent years, many festivals have been mainly male dominated, leaving women not getting an equal opportunity. It has been proven by the BBC, that in 2017, 80% of festival headliners were focused heavily on male such as Wireless, Green Man and Slam Dunk and in 2018, 8 out of 10 positions were occupied by all male acts when looking at 600 headliners (Sherlock and Bradshaw, 2017).

It is time for you, as event managers, to make a difference within your industry…

The UK’s PRS Foundation – the UK’s leading funder announced that by 2022 the music industry will pledge a 50/50 gender equality balance split. An additional 60 organisations have now signed up to this pledge some of which include the BBC National Orchestra, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Brighton’s Great Escape.

Cheltenham Festival
Source: Visit Cheltenham (2019)

Cheltenham Festivals such as the Literature, Jazz, Science and music events have joined the pledge of 50/50 gender equality and are looking to introduce a platform of local talent by increasing to 20% across all 4 of their festivals. As local festivals are starting to introduce this into their practice, is this something you should be considering?

The graph below from 2018 shows an example of some of the UK’s most popular festivals and the significant difference between genders involved. For example, Wireless shows that under 10% of acts are female and the rest being male.

It is not about changing the whole structure, it is about taking small steps that can create a difference.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

“End Hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

UN Sustainable Development Goals (2019)

Why is this an important factor for event managers?      

Food waste is an ecological, economic and social problem. In the UK alone, 7 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away every year, with the majority of this waste being unnecessary (Wrap, n.d).

In 2012, The Edinburgh Mela had a 36% reduction in waste compared to the previous year. They achieved this reduction by mainly composting and recycling in both the front and back of house (Wrap, n.d).

Edinburgh Mela
Source: Itison (N.D)

Arcadia London, had teamed up with “Eighth Plate” – an organisation which works with events to reduce food waste. The organisation had managed to salvage a total of 70 kilos of food from the event. This food was then donated to food banks and soup kitchens throughout South West England.

Additionally, if you want to take action in helping to end food waste at your event, then please contact ‘Eighth Plate’ via their website: http://www.eighthplate.org.uk

If you are interested in the above contemporary issues and you want to help make a change with your festival, then what is stopping you from signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals today?

Please use the link below to begin your journey to sustainable change:


We hope that this blog can help you to change your views on sustainability and to help produce events that contribute towards the UNs sustainability goals. Please leave your views in the comment box below.

It’s now over to YOU!

Has this blog inspired you to be more sustainable?
Created with Quiz Maker Online


Aaron grove says:

Thought this was grest! Full of info and got me inspired to be more sustainable!

s1602787 says:

Thank you Aaron for taking the time to read our blog. We are glad to hear that you are inspired to be more sustainable.

Sharmaine Roch says:

Lovely little blog read, I must say. The info provided is clear and concise with a good use of images to break up text dialogue. It’s interesting to see that shabala festival has won the sustainability award 5 years in a row considering the only form of a ‘sustainable’ festival I had heard of was Glastonbury 2019. It’s important to highlight the changes being made by the festival industry to implement sustainable changes to their operation considering the growing influence it now has on society and culture.

That said, I think this post could have added one or two more of the sustainability goals that the festival industry should work more towards and why, OR, what they planned to implement next.

Nonetheless, an informative and easy-read blog that everyone should consider the next time they attend a festival.

s1602787 says:

Thank you Sharmaine for your feedback, we are glad you enjoyed the blog! Ensuring our events are sustainable is such a big issue, it is important these goals are implemented in to festivals to provide a more sustainable future.

Heather Campbell says:

This is a really interesting read and it’s highlighted many of the issues we all face in the 21st century. It has made me more aware of what it means to be more sustainable.

s1602787 says:

Thank you Heather for your comment, it is much appreciated! Sustainability is a growing issue particularly in the events industry, it is important we all consider following these goals to achieve a more sustainable future!

Pipa says:

Wow, really interesting blog! Full of great information and has definitely inspired me to think mire sustainably.

s1602787 says:

Hi Pipa, thank you for your comment! We are glad you are inspired to be more sustainable!

Amy Clynes says:

Such a great blog post on an ever increasing issue that faces all sectors, but especially events! As you highlighted in your post, I think it is important for event managers to begin to focus on a smaller number of the UN’s sustainability goals. This helps to create maximum impact and consider their current practices in more detail, rather than a broad generic change.

I work for an event technology company and due to the nature of our work, our business has implemented strong environmentally conscious strategies to combat the unavoidable negative impacts of our work in events (running of electrical items, travel to and from shows, etc). Our business has focused first on how we as employees can help to combat climate change in our everyday actions (recycling all waste from our office where possible, offering incentives for sharing transport when travelling etc). This is in the hope that by changing the everyday habits and mindset of employees in the events sector, that these considerations will begin to show in their work. Do you think that event management businesses should/ have the right to encourage their employees to consider the UN’s sustainability goals in their personal lives or only in their work?

s1602787 says:

Hi Amy, thank you for taking the time to read our blog and pose a great question! From our research, and the current state of the climate which we are facing, we do believe that it is the right choice to motivate staff to be conscious of their sustainability choices in and out of the office.
An effective method is to show employees how their choices outside the office can positively or negatively affect the company’s sustainability goals. Additionally, it is beneficial for employees to be notified if their efforts have resulted in goals being met. This will allow then to see how small collective changes can make a big impact.

Drew says:

A very well constructed article containing some interesting statics. It would be interesting to see how adopting sustainable attitudes translates into financial viability. The way to change business methods is to demonstrate cost efficiencies leading to increased profits. Do this and the sales pitch for sustainability will be easy!

Waste = Cost!
Greater equality = increased footfall = profit opportunities!

s1602787 says:

Thank you Drew for you comment! It is really interesting to see how you have analysed the blog and discussed how adopting the sustainable goals can financially benefit companies. This is definitely something all event managers should consider.

Sofia says:

A well written and informative blog post on sustainable events. I think as you mentioned we are definitely seeing this being showcased in festivals and the wider event community which is really great to see. Also you have appreciated the sustainability isn’t just about being greener, but other long term goals which is great. However given the current environmental crisis when you really consider all the waste and resources that come out of putting on such a huge event it does counter the argument as to whether the events industry really can be the one to make a difference?

s1602787 says:

Thank you Sofia for your comment! Absolutely, it is so important to remember that sustainability doesn’t just mean saving the environment, following the UN Sustainability Goals paints a clearer picture and ensures all aspects of sustainability are covered. In response to your question, we agree to some extent, however if everyone starts to follow the goals or start taking smaller steps by implanting aspects of the goal, it will definitely make a sustainable difference!

Joseff says:

This was a very engaging blog right from the start! I had no idea about the ways in which the events industry could be more sustainable. I shall be looking to implement these ‘to do lists’ when organising future events, brilliant idea!

s1602787 says:

Thank you Joseff for your comment! We are glad to hear you have more of an understanding on sustainability within events! Implementing these goals in to your events will make changes and ensure a sustainable future.

Holly says:

Really interesting piece, it has opened my eyes to all the different factors related to sustainability in events planning. Well done!

s1602787 says:

Hi Holly, thank you for your comment on the blog! We are glad it has opened your eyes to the Sustainability Goals!

Rhiannon Miskin says:

Fantastic read and extremely informative. Really like how key messages are highlights and SMART goals are used to address practical solutions using the ‘To Do List’.

Potentially Goal 2 could include ideas/signposts to charities where ‘last hour of service’ is used (typically where prices are cut and/or food given free to those in need. Festival food can because extortionate in pricing and therefore lead to far more unhealthy choices like living of chips for the weekends. If healthy alternative we’re offered at a more reasonable price the issues with food security and health might be able to be addressed a little more at events.

Excellent read, well done!

s1602787 says:

Hi Rhiannon, thank you for your comment and feedback. It is interesting to see your suggestion for Goal 2, we agree that festivals need to do more to prevent food waste, cutting the prices in the last hour of service would definitely prevent this and make a change. We would be interested to know if you think actually signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals makes a difference?

Thanks again for the feedback!

Miguel Llama says:

I found this blog to be insightful as many taking part in such festivals rarely think about the environmental impact they have (unless they’re paying a £10 litter fee) which shouldn’t be the case. Sustainable living doesn’t have to come at such great costs, and I think making people aware of the little changes they can make to their festival experience is a great way to get the ball rolling to a hopefully more sustainable future! Great blog, would love to see these changes implemented in the new festival seasons to come.

s1602787 says:

Hi Miguel, thank you for your comment! We agree, saving the environment doesn’t have to come at a cost, it is about making small changes to gradually make a difference! Once festivals start to implement some changes it will definitely lead to a more sustainable future. Thank you again for your feedback, we too are excited to see a change happening!

Kristina says:

Great blog, makes me really think about sustainability.
Interesting how bands like Coldplay are now announcing that they won’t tour until their events are sustainable.
Do you think actively advertising the changes made for sustainability within an event are important?
If the people attending the event are made more aware of these changes surely it would have have a larger impact by educating and influencing them.

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank you for your comment Kristina. It is just as important for festival acts to understand the importance of sustainability also so we can all work together as a team to make a difference!
We think that it is important for event managers to market how they are being sustainable in order to gain support from other festivals and get other event managers on board. Signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals helps even more to promote sustainability. Education is key for making a difference!

Georgina says:

A very interesting read – you raise some keen points and issues within the industry.

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank you for your comment Georgina, we are glad you found it interesting!

Stephen Avery says:

A very interesting read, and while i think it is great these festivals are getting on board, i guess the question is will they maintain it, or will it just be a phase and next year back to old ways?

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank you Stephen for your comment. It is important for festivals to maintain these goals otherwise there will be no impact achieved by 2030. Sustainability, particularly in events is a contemporary issue so there is the chance of it being just a ‘phase’, however we hope that our blog inspires event managers long term to make a difference!

Helena Willis says:

Great easy and informative blog enhanced by the images used. It highlights that if everyone thought about sustainability at home it would be easier to bring it to the workplace. Blogs like this help to inform companies that every small change makes a difference in keeping this planet alive for the future. Well done.

UN SDG's Blog says:

Hi Helen, thank you for your comment. Every small change really does make a difference, it is important for event managers to start implementing these changes in to their events! Thanks again for the informative feedback.

Matt millner says:

Some amazing points of view about sustainability, you’ve changed my mind on some things! It had never occurred to me that waste equals cost and so this events can sometimes be counterproductive.

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank you for your comment on our blog Matt! We are glad your mind has been changed. We would love to hear your opinion on the Sustainable Development Goals, do you think it is beneficial for event managers to implement and sign up to the goals?

Harry says:

Really interesting read providing some important insight into the current state of sustainability at events in the UK and how it directly impacts the ongoing degradation of our environment – one of the hot topics in contemporary news. All information is backed up well with information which really makes it difficult to argue against. Great idea as well to put it into a simple ‘to-do’ list which makes it accessible to all Event Managers.

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank you for your comment and detailed feedback Harry! This is definitely a hot topic within the events industry, it is extremely important for event managers to follow, or at least implement the goals in to their events in order to make a difference by 2030 as planned by the UN. Is the UN Sustainable Development Goals something you would consider looking in to if you were planning an event?

Andy says:

Great blog, nice and clear. There is a fourth element to event sustainability which is legacy – what are the opportunities you are leaving behind after the event is over. The 2020 Olympics did a lot of work on this and other event sustainability issues – they have a lot of information on their website – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/london-2012-legacy-sustainable-procurement-for-construction-projects
Andy Fryers – Sustainability Director Hay Festival

UN SDG's Blog says:

Thank for your comment Andy, we really appreciate it! Thanks also for sharing this information with us, it is interesting to hear about the fourth element of sustainability as this is something we were previously unaware of. In regards to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, how beneficial do you think it is for festival and event managers to sign up to these goals? And is this something you would consider doing for the Hay Festival as the Sustainability Director?

Comments are closed.