In the leadup to International Women’s Day, WomenRising2030 released a report on women’s role in building a sustainable economy. We’re celebrating by meeting some of the incredible women who are pioneering sustainability in the events industry.
Today, we’re talking to Selina Donald, who co-founded the first environmentally and socially conscious event production agency, The Bulb. Selina now shares her knowledge and experience through independent sustainability consultancy and event management. In fact, she’s currently working on CARE International’s #March4Women event, being held in London on International Women's Day Itself (8th March)!
Here, Selina shares some of her experiences and tips on creating sustainable events.
You launched The Bulb, the UK's first sustainable creative events agency. Where did the idea for that come from?
Sustainability has been talked about a lot in the last few years, and many businesses have committed to becoming more sustainable. But the events industry has been notoriously slow to catch on. In 2016, C&IT released a report showing that only 45% of corporates had a CSR policy in place for events, and many agencies claimed it wasn’t a priority for their clients.
I launched The Bulb because I was frustrated by the lack of creative, socially responsible options out there. I had a lot of experience organising socially responsible events – I’d even been part of the team producing the Olympic and Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, where I had to ensure the most sustainable events in the organisation’s history. I thought that if an event of that size could be environmentally sustainable, there was no reason why the same principles couldn’t be applied to smaller events!
What advice do you have for events professionals looking to make their events more sustainable?
Don't be overwhelmed! I think the most important thing is to look at key areas of your business and create a metric system – you can make changes, but without measuring how well you’re doing event to event, you won't be able to show improvements and return on investment for you or your clients.
Get a baseline measurement and then track how you do on each event, looking at areas such as transport, carbon and food waste. It's a great way to engage your client and your team, encouraging them to use more sustainable suppliers and ways of working.
Where do you see the world of events and sustainability going over the next 5 to 10 years?
I see sustainability becoming an ingrained part of daily life – not just an add-on or a separate project. Across the globe, people are making massive changes to their personal and work lives to become more environmentally responsible. They’re also taking active roles in bringing governments and corporations to account for their negative impacts and decisions on climate change.
Events need to change drastically. They need to re-evaluate what materials are being used and think about how we could reuse the single-use materials already out there.
There are people who are doing exciting things – look at Ecobooth for a revolutionary way of building event spaces, and companies such as Ecovative who are using mushrooms to build with. Then, there’s the use of hydro and solar energy and there are food companies who use waste to create cocktails and mango seeds to make straws (these are much better than paper).
There’s a whole host of companies leading the way with innovations that will soon become the norm. I think that whilst it's a challenging time, it's also an exciting time to make changes and think about how your company can be a force for good for people and the planet.
If you’re passionate about environmentally and socially conscious events, why not attend Selina’s next event, CARE International’s #March4Women? The march will take place in London and will culminate in a Grand Finale event in Parliament Square, with Emeli Sandé, Lapsley, Bianca Jagger, Helen Pankhurst, Nikita Gill, George MacKay and more!
Check back tomorrow to hear about more wonderful women leading the way in creating a sustainable events industry.