Workshop 4 – Issues and Stakeholder Engagement

Conduct a workshop which aims to engage stakeholders to find out how important specific sustainability issues are to them. The insights gained can then be used to guide strategy, communication and help you tell a more meaningful sustainability story.

Workshop Objective:

The aim of this workshop is to go deeper into issues identification and actions to take. You will draw on the output from the previous workshops, particularly Workshop 2.

This workshop also serves as a stakeholder engagement process, as it is many of the stakeholders are critical to delivering the action you need to produce your event more sustainably. Engaging them in the issues identification and planning process is critical.

Workshop Outcomes:

  • A list of issues for action, prioritised
  • The thematic framework for your sustainability approach.
  • Engaged, involved and committed stakeholders who now understand and want to go on this journey with you!

Get prepared for the workshop:

Slides and handouts:

  • A drawing, chart, table or other visual tool, the key components or functional areas of the event. 
  • Principles/Values defined in workshop session 1
  • Sustainability framework including pillars, themes and key topics, defined in workshop session 2.

Workshop tools:

  • Provide Post It notes to your participants, (or use the virtual option Mural).
  • You may also wish to have large sheets of paper or notepads.
  • Coloured markers and highlighters will be useful.
  • A projector and wall to project onto.
  • Other useful tools include tape, Blu Tack, flipboard and easel, a large vertical or horizontal surface to work with, whiteboards.
  • Have any videos cued and ready to show.


Step 1: Introduction and context

Introduce the context of your event and organisation, why you are addressing sustainability, and what it means to your organisation or event.

Review the context of your event and organisation, why you are addressing sustainability, and what it means to your organisation or event.

  1. Let workshop participants know that the intention for this workshop is to identify the most important sustainability issues for the organisation, event or project, given the principles and values which define it, and the global and local context and sustainability issues identified.
  2. Show a slide on the principles and values of the organisation (remember from Workshop 1).
  3. Review the bold vision that has been previously conceived for the event. This will be the bedrock from which you build out the rest of the issues prioritisation in this workshop.
  4. Refer back to the workshop outcomes from developing the sustainability strategy and the strategic framework. This includes:

    the strategic pillars, themes and topics you decided would form the basis of your sustainability strategy

    any campaigns, initiatives, missions or other programmes you wish to support or create.
  5. Show a slide on the critical sustainability issues identified globally and locally (remember from Workshop 3).
  6. Show a slide on any existing protocols, commitments, policies, frameworks or similar, that are already in place for the event, organisation or project.

Step 2: What does ‘sustainability’ mean to everyone in the room?

Discuss with the group what sustainability means in the context of the event, the destination, event setting, event purpose and from their unique point of interest.

  • Start to form up any concepts or words that may reflect a definition of sustainability as it applies to the event.
  • Write this up and put it up on the wall/board/screen too.

Step 3: Review the event

The event is your ‘playing field’ and from this you can identify and build your approach to managing the sustainability issues, risks and opportunities. Before you do that you need to have a good schematic of what the component parts of the event are. 

  1. Show a slide which shows the scope and scale of your event, organisation or project. This should include dates, locations, core programming elements or activities.
  2. Show a slide which shows the functional areas of the event, organisation or project. This would be similar to an organisation chart but include critical stakeholders such as delivery partners, sponsors, host cities, venues, federations etc.

    Examples could be venue locations, event periods, event activity types, major and distinct operations or logistical aspects, programming elements, precincts onsite, satellite locations, functional areas, etc.
  3. Show a slide which shows the stakeholders, either named or by group identity.


Step 4: Sustainability risks and opportunities

Discussing the sustainability risks and opportunities with fresh eyes and a diverse room of workshop participants, may reveal some surprising points of view. 

For example for events using public money, or for events given funding through other means, ‘trust’ may be an important issue – that the money is being spent on the event responsibly, and that purchasing and event operations are as sustainable as possible. 

Depending on the group, you may wish to repeat the exercise on issues identification from Workshop 2 session. Alternatively bring up the work previously done. 

  1. Ask workshop participants to spend several minutes writing on post-its, what they believe are the critical sustainability-related issues for the event, project or organisation. These will likely primarily be operational-, communications-, or business-based.

    Hint: Do this by functional area of the event/organisation. Display the functional areas on a screen, board or worksheet to remind everyone.

    They should consider these aspects revealed in previous workshops and discussions:

    – the principles and values identified;
    – the SDGs reviewed; and  
    – the global and local sustainability issues.
  2. Ask them to mark-up or colour-code their post-its as a risk or an opportunity. Remember we are looking for both.

    Note: this will not be your only issues identification process. We have more detailed approaches to this in the upcoming module.

Event sustainability issues typically include:



Step 5: Discussion and categorisation

Discuss what the workshop participants believe are the most pressing sustainability-related risks and opportunities, globally, locally and for the event or organisation.

  1. Go through a categorisation process.

    On a wall, window or a big table, get everyone to cluster their post-its into similar categories.
  2. Sort through the clusters and see what themes naturally arise.

    Refer to the strategic framework blueprint example (at the bottom of the page) for inspiration – it is the main themes and sub-topics that you are hoping to identify through this process.

    For example ‘energy’ could be a theme but the topics underneath could be ‘renewable energy supply’, ‘energy-efficient AV’, ‘energy-efficient operations’, ‘catering equipment’. 

Step 6: Expand issues identification, review via event landscape

Assign a topic or theme each to a separate group of workshop participants, or if you’re a smaller group, go through each main theme one at a time.

  1. Each group should gather the previously created post-its for the issues identification process under the theme allocated to them.
  2. Using the event landscape as a guide, go through a deeper issues identification process for each ‘component’ of the event.
  3. Remember to look at risks to managed as well as opportunities to be exploited.

​Step 7: Materiality – working out what’s important

With the themes written on butcher’s paper and all the post-its underneath containing each agreed topic, now we get to work out what’s most important.

Remind everyone what was discussed earlier – the features of the event, the risks and opportunities, the definition of what sustainability means to them for the event, and the bold vision.

Remind them of the ‘decision filters‘. 

Now give everyone ten votes! Using sticky dots or just coloured pens, get everyone to indicate next to the issues/topics (the post it notes) what their top ten issues of concern are. They can put more than one vote on one topic if they think it is really important. 

The results of this vote may not end up being the final ruling on how you prioritise your issues – but it gives a really good indicator of the weighting.

Step 8: Review and feedback

Review the results of the previous process. Does your prioritisation make sense?

If you were to put your efforts in event sustainability management, does the way you have prioritised them make sense, now you’re looking with fresh eyes?

Refer across to your parking lot and see if there are any SDGs, values, key sustainability issues etc that have not been addressed.

Discuss and react if this is needed.


Step 9: Finalising Themes and Topics

  1. Looking at the priority issues and themes or clusters of issues, discuss ideas for the themes for your strategic pillars. 

    For ideas, you can refer to strategic frameworks presented in this deep dive for examples of how others have categorised and themed-up their approach.

    An option to come up with themes could also be to put a sustainable development principle lens over the issues (See workshop one). 
  2. Identify any natural groupings that arise. (e.g SDG alignment, core principles or other patterns?)
  3. Review the blueprint below for inspiration.

    In this case the three pillars chosen for themes are ‘Tread lightly’, ‘Inspire Action’ and ‘Lasting Good’.

    They could otherwise be referred to as ‘footprint’ (the operational component), ‘impact’ (the communications and engagement component), and ‘legacy’ (the enduring result of your efforts). 

    Remember, this is just an idea, and is not something that you should automatically consider placing onto your context. You need to develop something that truly speaks to your event and situation.


Take all the information collected in the workshop and produce a final matrix of issues, clustered by theme. (Use a spreadsheet).

Have a column to rate each by the decision filters you used. 

This final matrix will then form the basis of your sustainability action plan. In that plan you will delegate task management.