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Sustainable Events: Why organisations should be reducing the carbon footprint of the events they stage

We live in a world where, quite rightly, organisations are looking for every opportunity to improve their sustainability practices and credentials, but in an environment on improving efficiency and reducing absolute cost. Opportunities to achieve corporate aims at the same or lower cost, with better people utilisation, AND reducing carbon footprint are therefore very attractive. We believe - and have proved - that “sustainable events” present one such win-win-win opportunity, and set out in this Paper how it can be achieved.

WCL and the Live Group
WCL are experts in change management, helping our clients to develop and sustain higher performance and efficiency, make the most of their partnerships, improve customer experience, and implement complex transformation programmes. We are passionate about engaging customers, staff and stakeholders more effectively and efficiently, and help our clients with strategies and plans that deliver impactful, memorable experiences. The Live Group has been a catalyst for change, providing pioneering live events and inspiring effective communication for over three decades. From conferences and roadshows to product launches, awards and multi-venue linked events, we pride ourselves in our innovative approach to delivering events that surpass our clients’ expectations. Our mission is to provide creative and innovative solutions, offering flexibility and value for money without sacrificing our quality or customer focus. Our streamlined services, resourced in house, provide everything you need to meet your communication objectives. Both WCL and the Live Group have achieved ISO 14001 certification (the environmental management standard). The Live Group have also adopted BS8901, the sustainable event management system and work hard to achieve and exceed the requirements embedded in these standards.

What do we mean by “sustainable events”?
The digital revolution has enabled real-time interactions for one-to-one meetings (e.g. Skype), seminars/presentations (webinars), and small group meetings (e.g. Cisco virtual meeting rooms). These, however, do not provide the social environment, inspiration, product demonstration and networking opportunities that live events deliver. This means that almost all organisations still have conferences, exhibitions, roadshows and seminars in their internal and external communications plans. This makes some CO2 emissions unavoidable, but we contest that these can be minimised with a thoughtful and thorough approach to event staging that delivers the required live experiences at ever-reducing environmental impact – “sustainable events”. You can’t improve things, however, without knowing where you’re starting from. All Live Group events have the carbon emissions resulting from travel and energy use calculated. The resulting amounts provide a benchmark against which to measure future steps towards sustainability and can also be used in offsetting emissions.

Key components of sustainable events
1. Enabling local “linked” events
Aim to reduce travel demand by enabling linked events. These can be held in the regions rather than at a national or supra regional hub. Using the latest approached to interactivity along with expert facilitation means that national communication strategies can be delivered locally through these simultaneously linked events. Local events maximise options for travel by public transport and minimise the need to travel by car and/or stay overnight. The Live Group calculate that a typical national organisation can deliver a 80% saving in carbon emissions by switching from a national event in London to a regional event. Similarly, shifting from a supra-regional event to regional events is likely to deliver a 50% saving in carbon emissions.

2. Green venues
Surprising environmental benefits can be achieved just by sourcing sustainable and accessible venues. Your measure of venue sustainability should weigh up the venue’s environmental policies on efficiency and procurement, options for the minimisation of food miles and most importantly ease of access to the venue by public transport, on foot and bicycle.

3. Delegate options
Your online delegate registration system should include details for travelling to the event. By publishing all the sustainability arrangements on the event website, delegates are made aware early on of the event objectives and the desired outcomes. As standard we would recommend the inclusion of full directions to the venue by public transport, on foot and cycling and links to local journey planning websites. Carbon emission comparisons for the different modes of transport should also be used to encourage the delegates to make sustainable travel plans. Where appropriate you could also promote a car sharing scheme where those still required to drive can offer a lift to those in their locality, which reduces the carbon emissions g/km for every additional passenger. This could be enhanced with tips for eco driving which reduces emissions a further 15 – 20%. Those with Class A energy efficiency vehicles can also be rewarded with free parking. Data on travel methods must be collected at the point of registration. Confirmation of travel specific arrangements such as car sharing can then be included in the joining instruction correspondence. Climate Care currently maintains that the industry standard for event attendance is a 50/50 mix of people travelling by public and private transport. We anticipate that the measures specified above will result in less than 10% of people travelling by private transport.

For those delegates only interested in or able to attend a small part of the event - it might be a better use of resources to vi view live and stored video feeds from the event on their PCs and access post event materials published online. Those viewing video live online should be able to submit emails which can be fed into the audience response sections of the event and participate in live voting involving these delegates fully into the interactive elements of the event.

4. Pre and Post-event Resources event
Video conference capabilities, email and client portals should be used as much as possible at the pre pre-event planning stages to reduce the number of face to face planning meetings. Where large files such as videos need to be viewed FTP sites here viewed, should be employed rather than courier over DVDs. free We also recommend paper-free events as much as is practicable, reducing or eliminating the need for pre-event deliveries of printed materials. These practices can reduce the pre pre-event meetings required five-fold (i.e. by 80%) with the rest to fold 80%), be either VC or teleconference. You should also aim for no couriers or deliveries to be used throughout.

5. Green Production
Some ways that will enable you minimise the environmental impact: Demand your suppliers to adhere to sustainable policies, measure their environmental impacts and strive towards continuous improvement; Encourage venues to recycle unavoidable waste particularly paper, cardboard, plastic and recycle glass, and that natural lighting and ventilation are maximised wherever possible; Work with the venue to maximise their use of fairly traded products, locally produced, seasonal and certified products products; Request venues to provide jugs of tap water, rather than bottled water; Use at least 50% FSC approved recycled paper for printed delegate literature and information - on both sides where appropriate appropriate; Try and use reusable/biodegradable delegate merchandise such as satchels and wooden merchandise and paper pens, rather than plastic items; Provide recycling bins on site, clearly marked for delegate use; Construct all of stage sets and panels from sustainable materials, including wood which has Forest Management Certification. The reuse at least five times; Then Have all of graphics comprised of 95% recycled plastics send any old graphics back to the plastics; original supplier for recycling; Putting table plans on the main screen for people to see when they enter, rather th printing than them off and displaying on boards; Display delegate lists outside the main meeting room and in the reception/refreshment area, rather than printing them off and giving to each delegate; Use LED lighting, and encourag exhibitors to use the same low energy lighting encourage Use generic signage and stage graphics wherever possible so that these can be stored and se reused at future events, representing not only a sustainable option but a cost saving one too.

Roadshows Ensure that mobile materials are optimally designed for durability AND light weight, and carefully packaged and transported for multiple re-use. This is an instance where spending a bit more is a good investment all-round. Good design should also enable non-specialist construction and setup, reducing the number of people required for roadshow attendance.

6. Onsite Resources
In order for savings in delegate travel from local events not to be negated by increased movement of event resources, you should seek to minimise the transport required for each and every event. Event Managers should ensure that disruption as a result of deliveries and event resources are kept to a minimum. Technical staff, AV and event support staff should be sourced locally wherever possible. Check that your contractors have a policy for proactive management of company vehicles to maximise fuel economy and encourage eco driving among their people.

More information
WCL can help you with your strategies and plans to deliver sustainable events and the Live Group have an unmatched capability to deliver them in conjunction with your communications teams. If you would like to know more, please contact: Peter Lavers, Managing Consultant, WCL T 020 3008 5820 E Ross Easterbrook, Head of Corporate, The Live Group plc T 020 8481 2012 E