How to be sustainable and impactful when organising events

Sustainability and ‘events’ is the current hot topic. With figures such as, 23% of all giveaway products being thrown away post-event, it was  time for the events industry to step-up. There is a lot of discussion regarding how to plan a sustainable event, but I get it, sustainability can be a scary term. Scared of being branded by ‘greenwashing’ and the feeling of ‘where do I start?’, thats natural. Event planners have an excellent opportunity, having influence and visibility right from the beginning of the event process right through to the end – this means we can implement change. But that sounds pretty daunting, right?

I find that goal setting is the way to get over the hurdle of where and how do I start? It’s about looking at areas you feel comfortable with and starting there – no matter how big or small. 

Whether you’re working with a client or producing your own event, it is crucial to establish what you want to achieve. Even that can be pretty daunting, sustainability is a large complex field, and sometimes you’ll want to do it all. 

I suggest starting by looking at your CSR or ESG goals; remember, sustainability is more than just the environment. 

For example, we recently worked with a client whose main CSR goal was Goal 12 from the SDG’s*: ‘responsible consumption and production’. We prioritised waste reduction at the event. Now waste is still pretty broad, which is why we break it down into a more granular detail, and into ‘basic, better, best’ practices.

Please see the table below for a couple of examples.

The table shows three of the ways we focus on waste reduction. At the start of this sustainability journey, we implemented steps to reach the ‘basic’ goals, and we didn’t beat ourselves up for not hitting the ‘better’ or ‘best’ targets. With the next year’s event, we looked at steps to achieve the next level of goals. You don’t have to look at the ‘basic, better, best’ model as year planning – this is your sustainability journey, and every progression (however small) at any point in your journey is a step in the right direction.  The ‘basic, better, best’ model allows you to keep striving for the next goal to keep your sustainability journey going. It is essential for the planet and your business to keep striving to implement sustainable practices and not stop after a few strategic changes. 

As I mentioned, sustainability is comprehensive, and knowing where to start can be daunting. Goal setting allows you to set realistic targets and removes the thought of having to do it all at once. Strip it back to what you can achieve, and event by event, you will be able to build from the basics and achieve more. 
*SDGs stands for the Sustainable Development Goals.