On Wednesday 17th June, Hire Space hosted 'Business And Events In A Post-Pandemic World - Part 3' in partnership with Swapcard and London Filmed. This event asked a key question: Could this global crisis be the ideal opportunity for our organisations to scale up our commitments to environmental sustainability?
The first session of the morning was titled 'New World, New Strategies. The Opportunity To Nail Your Sustainability Objectives?'. Discussing this was Raquel Noboa, Founder and CEO of Fifty Shades Greener, Selina Donald, Director & Founder of The Bulb, and Anna Abdelnoor, Sustainability Champion of ILON Ltd.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session.
Table of Contents
Selina notes that there are opportunities now to come out of COVID-19 with a 'green recovery', which must extend to the events industry. Raquel agrees that it's crucial to think about how our businesses are affecting the environment. We need to look at our strategies and objectives and consider how we can improve efficiency in the way we work: reducing running costs and energy expenditure will aid our recovery from the pandemic but will also minimise our impact on the environment. This is why sustainability is a particularly important part of the agenda for the rest of this year and going into next year.
Break it down
For Raquel, the ultimate goal is to run a zero carbon footprint event. This is an ambitious goal that requires a very in-depth plan, and won't be achieved overnight. To help make good headway, she advises planners to break down overall goals into small achievable actions that you can implement over a period of time.
For example, calculate and measure what your current carbon footprint is, and then start reducing that by engaging with green energy suppliers and replacing single use items with reusable items. She adds that it is hard, but breaking it down into smaller steps helps hugely - every little step you take gets you one step closer to carbon neutrality.
Selina recommends to find out what your clients are doing, and to think about how you can align your strategy to suit theirs. Look at their goals and objectives, and find smart ways to provide a service that helps them achieve their goals. You could focus on areas such as transport, energy, catering and social impacts, as well as materials and production - a hugely wasteful area in the events industry. She recommends breaking it down to areas where you waste the most, and then set goals to reduce this and track your progress.
So how can we convince stakeholders?
Sustainability is an essential part of any business moving forward. We need to make better decisions on suppliers and processes and build that into the planning process. Sustainability is ultimately about efficient use of resources and smart, intelligent behaviour; the pressure is on and as a company you need to be showing that you're coming on that journey too.
Raquel adds that sustainability is the only way to go - it's sad that we're having to convince some stakeholders that this is important. She recommends that there is two lines of argument to help with buy-ins: the undeniable cost savings of running more sustainable events, and the fact that the 'green traveller' market is rapidly growing, especially among the millennial generation who will be the customers of tomorrow. We need one industry-standard benchmark to make buy-ins easier and to be able to demonstrate the small actionable things we can do to make events more sustainable.
It's a team effort
When it comes to running a sustainable event, the messaging and objectives need to be communicated across all stakeholders, whether that's the venue, suppliers, clients or partners. For example, it's important to be selecting greener venues over ones who aren't recognised for their sustainability efforts - choosing an accredited Green Mark Venue is a great place to start.
In terms of suppliers, it's important to know where the products are coming from, how many air miles are they using, are they local etc. Raquel adds that the partners you choose also need to be aligned with your sustainability objectives and reflect the message you're trying to communicate to your audience. Sustainability needs to be an ethos that's embedded across all the stakeholders.
Should the onus be put onto clients in terms of a government levy for non-sustainable events to help force the issue?
Selina believes that it is important that brands make headway in their own messaging and sustainability objectives, but if we're creating an event for those brands it's also important that the organisers are demonstrating that they're taking those actions too, seeing as events are essentially an opportunity for brands to show their strategies in practice.
It's a collaboration - it is the organiser's responsibility as well, to represent their client's values and produce the event that aligns with those values.
Are you concerned sustainability in events has been re-prioritised by event planners, considering that safety & hygiene will be a big focus going forward?
Raquel informs us that she is concerned by this possibility. In Ireland, the government has released reopening guidelines for hotels, conference venues, restaurants, etc, which include favouritism for single-use items. What is important for organisers to remember is that they are just guidelines, not laws. Single-use items will still be 'touched' by staff, when serving a customer; it is no different than serving a glass of wine at a restaurant that will be then washed and re-used by a different customer.
Hygiene needs to fall under the responsibility of one's self. If society washed their hands as advised by our health organisations, there is as much risk of contagion from a reusable item, than from a single use item.
The most devastating issue facing humanity in the medium term is climate change, and while our short term worries are of course the spread of Coronavirus, the death toll from this virus will not compare to the possible death toll originated by climate change in the next few decades.
Selina adds that a lot of work needs to be done on ensuring that sustainability goes hand in hand with COVID-19 regulations and guidelines. For her, the measure of success for an event is now going to be about responsibility for keeping people safe, and the Planet, and moving forward with climate solutions. If we lose the focus on sustainability, we risk even bigger pandemics in the near future so it's in the interest of every industry to build back with environmental and social solutions at the heart.
Raquel Noboa, Founder and CEO, Fifty Shades Greener
Raquel Noboa is founder and CEO of Fifty Shades Greener, a training and consultancy agency helping hospitality businesses around the world to reduce their carbon footprint. Raquel has worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and in 2017 she decided to create training courses, with simple actionable steps that will teach managers and employees how to control, manage and reduce their waste, water and energy use, reducing not only their business carbon footprint, but also their utilities cost.
Selina Donald, Director & Founder, The Bulb
Selina’s epiphany moment came while working on the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which served as memorable bookends for the most sustainable Games to-date. As well as the Games, Selina has been part of high profile projects including England 2018 World Cup Bid, the Rio Olympics 2016 and as part of the senior management team for the ITV events team. Recognising the antiquated and wasteful approach to events, Selina founded The Bulb in 2015 to champion sustainability and legacy in the industry. Fusing her expertise in event production with sustainability, Selina provides consultancy to event organisers, brands and NGO’s to transform their approach and implement strategies that work in practice, enabling them to create events with environmental and social causes at the heart.
Anna Abdelnoor, Sustainability Champion, ILON Ltd.
Anna has worked as an event producer with some of the UK's biggest agencies on large scale events for global companies. She has recently transitioned into sustainability and has developed a number of resources to support the standardisation of event sustainability measurement and methodology across the sector. She is currently working on launching a nationwide project to support the event industry transition to the future normal by prioritising sustainability in the recovery.
You can watch all sessions from Part 1, 2 and 3 here.
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