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What role do we play as Corporate Event Planners in Event Sustainability?

Date: Thursday 17th March 2016

EMA held their February 2016 event at Royal Society of Chemistry, the key topic being sustainability in events and the role and responsibilities of corporate event planners in driving this in line with their company policies.

We were joined by expert speakers Sam Wilson, Managing Director of Eco-Events and Anna Loveridge, Creative Content Co-ordinator of Positive Impact.

Sustainability is a passion, there's so much more we can do to save the planet and through taking some very simple steps and reviewing “what do I do”, “what does my company do” and “what can I do with my clients and suppliers”.

As corporate event planners we all have strategies for sustainability, however, the question is what do we do as an event professionals to support those policies? 

In terms of business it’s about creating a sustainable way of working for a prosperous future and leaving a positive impact, balancing social impact, economic growth as well as environmental.  It really is about all three as well as giving opportunity to the area or region that we are holding our events.

There is no one size fits all and positive change can happen by taking tiny steps. It’s about looking at the smaller items and making the changes that can have a bigger impact. Look at recycling, look at food waste, talk about power, look at the simple and obvious things now that seem easy and then look to the longer term.

One thing to consider is ISO20121, the international environmental standard that was set up at the time of Olympics 2012 and is one of the main legacies from the London games, with countries around the world now using the measurement tool. The beauty with ISO20121 is that you can do as much or as little as you want to.

We are probably all guilty, as corporate event planners, of not fully understanding or being aware of our own organisation’s policy on sustainability, so one thing we need to do right now is get to know that policy!

Take the time to find out what is it our companies are working towards and then review what we can do as event professionals to support them in achieving this. Find out who are the key teams and team members and do what we can to support them. 

This will all be about making measurable progress in regards environment, economic and social areas and making this part of our decision making. It cannot be an add on and can be followed in four simple steps, plan, do, check and act - following the ISO12021 standards, and the same decision making process we use for all elements of our event planning.

Once you have a plan train people to use it, which can be as simple as a pre event team briefing. Then review afterwards in terms of the what went right, what went well and not so well.

Take time to look at what you need to focus on, decide whether or not you have control and will it have an impact, if yes then make a plan to manage it, if not then don’t. It’s all about fine tuning and prioritising where you are going to take action rather than trying to do it all at once.

Important to remember legislation, particularly when it comes to branded waste which if dumped could lead to heavy fines and brand damage. Is it someone else’s responsibility? Absolutely not, as corporate event planners we have a duty of care as custodians of our organisation’s brand to look after that brand, it is all of our responsibilities.

By speaking up about it, by being the person that turns around and says “actually this is really important” we can all blow away ignorance and make a difference.

So what are the simple things that corporate event planners can do?

• Start with a checklist and select venues and suppliers that are doing 8 out of 10 things on your list

• Start reviewing your event budget and asking the questions as to whether you can get more to do more

• Start shouting about it and asking to do more

• Question your suppliers about food and water waste, waste disposal, recycling and power

The supply chain will not start making changes until customers start to ask the questions and we have a huge responsibility to ask these questions, If you start to ask the questions you will affect change.

Thanks go to our speakers Sam and Anna and our venue The Royal Society of Chemistry.