Earth Day 2020: 'A moment to pause'

Legacy's CEO Abena Poku-Awuah looks towards more sustainable events in a post-coronavirus world.

Abena Poku-Awuah is CEO of Legacy, a sustainable events agency.

Earth Day is an annual celebration that honours the achievements of the environmental movement and raises awareness of the need to protect Earth's natural resources for future generations.

This year, for the 50th anniversary, the day is perhaps even more poignant as a third of the global population is on lockdown and unable to meet face-to-face. It is tempting to think that many sectors, including the event sector, will never recover.

Last month marked the 20th anniversary of the dotcom crash, when the internet boom came to a screeching halt. It seems almost unimaginable to imagine that 20 years ago, the tech world was in meltdown and experts were predicting the end of the internet. A small company called Amazon lost 90% of its share value.

Two months ago, an unknown disease called COVID-19 started to wreak havoc on the world’s systems and showed us once again, how interconnected we are. Within a few short weeks, we have completely changed our behaviours and our expectations. 

We have researched how to shop more locally. We are more mindful about where our materials are shipped from. We have accepted that when online shopping, there may be a delay before receiving our items and have planned accordingly.

As event professionals, we are often too busy running around to stop and think about whether we are planning in the best way that we can. Perhaps this is a moment to pause, reassess and rethink the way we design and run events.

Like the tech sector in the early 2000s, the events sector will come back, albeit with some changes. Many companies will sadly disappear, we may see a period of mergers and acquisitions as the sector adjusts. Attendees may need some reassurance to feel comfortable at live events with social distancing in place. Virtual events and hybrid events are probably here to stay.

A more sustainable industry

Sustainable events are designed, organised and carried out with the main goal being to minimise harm to the environment. A range of issues should be considered for an event to be truly sustainable, from the transport emissions of the attendees, sourcing of food and beverages, the materials used in fabrication, design, staging, power usage, waste management and the impact of the event on local communities. 

This is the first time that global institutions and academics have been able to truly measure the effects of human behaviour on climate and that will affect all sectors, including the events sector. We hope that it will lead to sustainable events becoming the norm rather than being seen as a trend.

Earth Day 2020 represents the ideal opportunity for event professionals to start incorporating sustainability into their event planning tools and processes. There are no more excuses. We know now that change is possible. The only question now should be how soon.

This article was written by Abena Poku-Awuah at Legacy. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of C&IT Magazine.


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