I’ve seen some terrifically creative action on sustainability at events. Shining ideas coming out of the hearts and minds of inspired event planners, suppliers and solutions innovators.

Solar powered wheelie-bin-holding sound systems; high volume reusable pint mugs, and washing systems to replace disposables; waste ‘eco’ bonds encouraging messy campers to keep clean and recycle; travel carbon bonds; rewards for bags of recycling; armies of volunteers rescuing abandoned tents; creative souls remaking abandoned camping materials into clothes and décor; 100 mile conference menus; awesome recycling installations; on-site worm farms; composting toilets; solar, pedal, kinetic and hydrogen power generators; the list is endless.

And we're not just seeing these practical solutions to production impacts, we’re also seeing some great thinking and action around the role events can play in positively contributing to Sustainable Development. The mega-events are all about Legacy with a capital L. Much of this legacy is to the benefit of local community and economy, and their programmes make some great big social responsibility ticks.

Despite all these amazing examples, all this action is sitting atop the proverbial tip of the event industry iceberg. There's so much more that could happen.

Events offer a chance to positively influence sustainability in the supply chain and local industry, and they can also offer a platform to promote positive change amongst event attendees and the local destination. 

I’ve been ruminating on how we can get this going on a lot more - and through to think about what’s motivating the events currently  doing a great job. I came up with a few influences I think probably summarise most situations:

  • Events might have a personally interested team, boss, or client.
  • Events may have local government requirements put on them.
  • Events could be happening in the greenest of green venues or destinations.
  • Organisers might have to meet event owner policies and directives.
  • Attendees could be demanding the event to be produced responsibly.

But for an event producer who never finds themselves in any of these circumstances, what can we come up with to try and get them to make the leap?

What about this?  Sponsors and Brands.

Sponsors providing the money to events, or in some cases outright owning the event, can put pressure (or requirements) on organisers to do the right thing.

So What Exactly Could Brands Do?

I’d like to think that brands who have their own sustainability mission would have an eye on the sustainability performance of the events they align their name to or produce themselves. That’s straightforward thinking isn’t it?

A brand that's shouting far and wide of its great-green-progress may be at risk if an event’s sustainability impacts are not being responsibly managed.

An often missed opportunity to socialize brands, is to align with the sustainability messaging of the event, and to offer up solutions to practical production problems, while offering a chance to positively interact with event attendees. Think about beverage companies and recycling programs, organic food brands and food composting programs, travel companies and event shuttle buses, health funds and event cycle programs. The ideas go on and on.

So brands and sponsors have three options to positively influence the sustainability performance of events…and I challenge brands to step up:

  1. Require aligned events to have responsible and sustainable event management practices in place.
  2. Devise event activations to creatively support or offer a solution to the event’s sustainability impacts.
  3. Align event activations with relevant sustainable development issues, adding to the brand’s social capital while adding to the event’s sustainability messaging.

So Nestle, Pespico, Unilever, Kellogs, Danone, Mars, Associated British Foods, Mondelez, Coca Cola, General Mills, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, General Motors, Toyota, Hilton, HSBC, Virgin, 3M, Motorola, and on and on and on and on.... what you got to say? Can you give it a go?


* Brand graphic taken from this article