Despite an increased focus on sustainability in the corporate world, and brands wanting to project a sustainable image, this is not translating to their events programmes.
Cost and time
Kim Myhre, SVP and managing director of FreemanXP EMEA, said the reasons for the lack of sustainable activity in the events industry comes down to time and cost.
"To the industry’s credit, lots of people who are developing events understand the issue and do what they can where they can," he explained. "But when it comes down to costing more money or time constraints, I think it falls by the wayside. It’s not the fault of the events industry, but there is a gap when it comes to sustainability."
Jason Sullivan, employee engagement manager at Colt Technology, acknowledges that sustainability is an issue that can get ‘left behind’ at corporate events. "Sustainability and CSR is very important for our company and it’s something we incorporate into all our recognition events. Every trip we organise has a big CSR element." However, he admitted that while CSR and sustainability activities were incorporated into incentive and teambuilding activities, it could be harder to integrate them into large conferences.
"The key things for us when picking a venue and organising large conferences are cost and size. That said, it is part of our agenda to ensure our large events become more sustainable. For example, this year we’re trialling the use of event apps, which will reduce paper wastage traditionally associated with events. We’re conscious about trying to work with sustainable venues and we always try to recycle as much as possible."
Myhre pointed out that sustainability was likely to become more integrated into events in the years to come. "I think this is something that’s going to have to progress because the next generation are much more focussed on sustainability and hate to see wastage. Brands overall need to see it as a priority and start associating it with their events and every other element of their business."
Selina Donald, who launched sustainable agency The Bulb earlier this year, said Brexit will affect the way people view sustainability at events. "The quest for sustainability had already started to transform the competitive landscape but following the decision to leave the EU, I think companies will now be forced to look even closer at efficient and streamlined ways of working, maintaining team morale and looking at suppliers they use."
Donald said that while an increasing number of clients are asking questions about sustainability, it’s also up to agencies to bring up the topic. "Whilst we don't force sustainability on our clients, we do want to wake their interest. We continue to deliver the event responsibly and by our company values and finish the project with a report to illustrate how being sustainable has saved the company money, as well as the social and environmental benefits."
However, while Myhre agreed that it was important for agencies to raise the issue, it only becomes a priority for most agencies if the client wants it: "We do get requests from procurement departments about our sustainability process, but when it comes down to organising the event, sometimes those priorities aren’t as high as cost management or efficiency."
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