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EventLAB 2020 Online

How To Develop A Strategy For Event Sustainability Into 2021

On Wednesday 28th October, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of EventLAB 2020 Online. This year marked the first time this event was held virtually and focused on Sustainability, Workplace Culture & Leadership. We welcomed some incredible speakers from across the industry to share their expert knowledge and advice across a range of discussions.

Amongst the line-up of content was the workshop ‘Your Toolkit for Developing a Measurable Event Sustainability Strategy,’ led by Anna Abdelnoor and Ben Quarrell, co-founders of isla. Read our key takeaways below.

Key Takeaways

The climate

Ben started the session off by explaining the impact of human activity on the climate.

He shared some worrying figures with participants: human activity is estimated to have caused 1°C of global warming in the last 200 years, while 1.5°C is the threshold at which we can avoid catastrophic impact on societies across the world. Unfortunately, modelling shows that on our current trajectory, the globe will continue warming to around 3-4°C in the next 80 years. So, we have a lot of work to do!

Ben then went on to tell us that the lockdown reduced emissions by an estimated 4-7%. While this isn’t as big a reduction as what we ultimately need, it does show what a big difference the reduction of air travel, road travel, manufacturing and production can make, which should give us hope and inspiration that our behaviour can cause change.

We also generate over 2 billion tonnes of waste annually, with at least 33% of that not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Just as we’re a big part of the problem, we can become a big part of the solution.

The state of the industry

Bearing in mind the worrying figures above, Anna believes that we have shockingly little data on the impact of the event sector.

International exhibitions and music festivals report that 70-80% of global emissions come from audience transport. But often, large-scale festivals aren’t capturing any data for areas such as food or production footprint. So, we have very little to go on.

Not only is our understanding very low, but we don’t have any standardised way of measuring impact, or any obligation to report it. As Anna points out, we can’t manage what we don’t measure.

rubbish pile

Measuring as a tool for project management

In Anna’s view, we need to be asking ourselves three key questions when it comes to event project management.

1. What do we want to measure?

Anna believes that the three key things we should be measuring are:

  • Our emissions
  • Our waste
  • Our volume (do we need to be producing as much as we are?)

2. Where should we be measuring?

According to Anna, the four key aspects that will be relevant to almost all events are:

  • Production
  • Energy
  • Catering
  • Travel and transportation footprint

3. How should we measure?

Ben recommends this process for measuring the impact of your events:

  • Reduction - set yourself objectives and a plan to reduce emissions and waste.
  • Measurement - work out what data you need to collect to build against those objectives.
  • Report -  record your performance and create plans for how to improve further.

Control and influence

When you’re looking to create more sustainable events, Ben suggests that you should first prioritise areas that you have control over and that you can change quickly and easily. That way, you can make the biggest impact possible in the shortest amount of time.

  • Just a few things that are usually in your direct control are the suppliers that you work with and the options that you put in front of your clients and stakeholders to review.
  • But it’s not just about those aspects that you have direct control over. Ben also suggests thinking about how you can use your influence to guide the decision-making process and encourage the most sustainable decisions from clients and stakeholders. This could involve recommending certain venues and menus. Or, it might include making sure that there are sustainability propositions in the budget for consideration.

About The Speakers

Anna Abdelnoor, Co-Founder, isla

Anna worked as an event producer with some of the UKs biggest agencies on large scale events for global companies, before launching isla in September 2020 with 12 founding agency members. She has developed a number of resources to support the standardisation of event sustainability measurement and methodology across the sector, with a key focus on collaboration across sector to tackle our biggest challenges.

anna abdelnoor

Ben Quarrell, Co-Founder, isla

Ben has worked in the events industry for over 15 years, giving him a wealth of experience in both operations and production. As a co-founder of isla, Ben has been able to bring his experience to driving the non-profit’s operations and financial strategy, while allowing isla’s core aims to shape the organisation’s approach and direction.

ben quarrell

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Author Imogen Beech profile image

Imogen Beech

With a love of interior design, Imogen’s writing experience has taken her from the mansions of the rich and famous to the capital’s most unique events spaces on Hire Space.

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