After events turned virtual due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, Legacy events, supported by the Sustainable Event Alliance, created the Green Room. A place for event planners to chat about sustainable events, a chance to share information, ask questions and enable a community of event professionals to come together and support each other by sharing knowledge and experience.
In 2020 Alex, a Head of Events who has organised a variety of events including: roundtables, awards evenings, networking events and conferences joined us in the greenroom to discuss how to make corporate events more sustainable. Alex recently undertook the project of shaping up the sustainability of her company’s events which proved to be an area of great interest and she realised there is so much to explore and learn.
Below are the answers to some of the key questions that event organisers had for Alex.
How can you get your team on board?
Choose a couple of team members to help assist on the project so they in turn can spread the good word about how important the new sustainability drive is to the company and to the events. A presentation tailored to your audience so it appeals is also impactful. For example, a lot of young people are already more interested in environmental impacts than some of the older generation so ensuring the content is tailored to everyday life and not just events will appeal a lot more. Another way is to write a pledge and ask all team members to sign which helps create a sense of togetherness.
How can you overcome the red tape and negative opinions you find in a corporate world?
A lot of the time companies are also under pressure to become or appear more sustainable to appeal to their clients, so as part of the sales patter use your good work to explain to them the benefits. As well as this, making sure the team is aware that the journey is not a short one and that all you can do at the beginning is to try your best is important to keep morale high.You may find that some venues will be a struggle to work with but making a library with all the information of each venue you use with the view of only using the ones with a good standard of sustainability and who are willing to work with you help make the process easier. The long term view is that if enough event planners incorporate sustainability into their events then the venues will have to adapt to this.
What if the team isn’t bothered about sustainability?
Find out if and what they are bothered about and try and find a way to link that to sustainability. E.g. a sales person in a company who isn’t bothered as they do not see how it can benefit them, then you could explain to them that sustainability is such a hot topic at the moment and most businesses are keen to pursue this so your efforts will enhance your brands reputation therefore hopefully increasing sales and profits.
How can you balance a love for travel and events overseas with sustainability, what initiatives can you put in place to help reduce the impact of event travel?
This is a tricky one and something Alex hadn’t touched on in her previous role. The company she worked with used to fly a team of approximately 4-9 people out to the destination of each conference. Many of the events were for locals but a few were built so that attendees were flying in from all over Europe. This was something that could not be helped with the model of their events as the networking and face to face interaction time were the key ingredients, plus one of the biggest selling points for the events was that the sponsors had undisturbed access to the delegates in one place without having to visit them all in their home cities. Instead, they implemented as many changes as they could to other areas of the conferences instead of trying to climb the mountain that was changing the whole concept. Examples of initiatives they used include: organising shuttle buses instead of picking individuals up at the airport, making sure each delegate was aware of the public transport options available in the city and they also looked very carefully at how they could make changes regarding F&B and materials waste from the event.
Do you think that corporations are open to change when it comes to sustainability or is there still some way to go?
There is still a very long way to go. From experience, there are many people inside a company that would like the benefits that come from having a recognised sustainability standard but the problem lies when it comes to getting the funding, time and manpower to take the task on. One of the fundamentals about trying to achieve the ISO 20121 is firstly getting stakeholders on board. This is definitely easier said than done and unless you have someone at the helm of the business who is willing to back the project both with money and time then there is only so much you will be able to achieve.
Are there any particular stand out moments / recent events that you are most proud of?
Alex is most proud of the all round changes she has made to the events portfolio across the board. She created a checklist for the event managers to fill out for each of their events (which evolved over the year) and this was how they could benchmark. They started by concentrating heavily on a couple of areas and tried to make as many changes as they could to F&B and materials waste. The team were good at pushing the suppliers for answers and holding them to account. Looking back at the improvements they had made over the year they were really pleased e.g. for all of our events we managed to eradicate the use of PVC banners and instead use either cardboard to a material that was biodegradable.
Thanks to Alex for giving up her free time to join us in The Green Room, it was an insightful discussion on making corporate events more sustainable and hopefully will provide inspiration to event organisers wanting to make their team more sustainable.