In February I attended an Event Marketing Association (EMA) event about sustainability at the Royal Society of Chemistry. EMA is a not-for-profit industry association for in-house corporate event planners and hosts monthly educational events for its members and it’s the only association I’m a member of.
Sustainability is high on the corporate agenda but are we, event planners, doing enough to drive change and run more sustainable events?
Two fantastic speakers Anna Loveridge, Creative Content Co-ordinator at Positive Impact Events and Sam Wilson, Director and Founder at EcoEvents joined to share their experience and expertise with us.
Anna opened the discussion and said it’s not a one size fits all and it’s very important to look at what you are doing now before you do more, e.g. – do the delegates need a transport to and from the venue, do they use plastic or glass bottles, do they have notepads that are wasted in the end of the event etc.
She added that planners have to be creative and innovative with sustainability, an example is to choose food based on what the venue has to offer for the week rather than asking for particular items.
Good practice is to start by doing the small and “obvious” things, ones that look easy, and with the money saved do things for the long term.
Then we discussed the ISO 20121 accreditation which is an international standard used by 30 countries that specifies the requirements for organisations in the events industry to improve their sustainability practices across different areas, e.g. – waste, legacy, food etc., not all need to be tackled at once.
Sam said it’s important for planners to get to know their corporate policy and request suppliers on key event deliverables. Also it’s important to have this agreement in writing.
Sustainability is not “either or” phenomenon. There is no such thing as a sustainable or green event and this thinking is a barrier to change. It’s about making measurable progress, incorporating the three pillars – social, economic and environmental, including them in the decision making process and making it a process of continual improvement cycle: plan, do, check and act.
Sam presented the event sustainability policy which event planners can follow to be able to prioritise their actions. Start by defining who the key parties are and what matters to them (Internal teams, sponsors, community, participants). Then put plans, programmes and legislations in place and train people in what they need to know about them. Lastly, check what you’re doing, what goes well and what doesn’t and enhance the plan for the next event cycle. By following this process you can prioritise what to focus on first and you don’t need to focus on all at once.
This presentation was followed by an interesting Q & A before further drinks, food and networking.
The catering was served by Harbour & Jones, my favourite caterer in the UK. We had canapés to start with, followed by bowl food.