I was inspired to write this post during a tutorial of our events management module, Trends and Developments in Planned Events. We were examining environmental forces and their impact on events and how they were becoming stronger as the world faces the climate change, which, in my opinion, in itself is open for discussion. However, how does being green and sustainable and events management fit together, as most events are a one off thing consuming lots of energy and directly and indirectly producing CO2 en masse?
Without any further scientific evidence one can say that there probably is no and in the near future will not be any event that has not even the slightest negative environmental impact. Taking into consideration that attendees will have to travel to the event sight, that suppliers have to deliver and produce goods and that the event will most likely consume energy of some sort.
Now, there are three options here to reduce that negative impact on our environment:
- Promote your event as an activity trying to engage your audience in something ‘green’ instead of doing something else, which would be bad for the environment. E.g. in my hometown Hamburg we have an annual bike rally involving thousands of cyclists riding their bikes on streets blocked for cars into the city centre. Here the travel to the event is the main part of the event itself. Very green, promoting healthy and sustainable transport but still producing a carbon footprint.
- Secondly, and probably most obvious, imply sustainability as your overall theme only working with stakeholders who also practice a sustainable strategy. This approach is becoming more and more common; governmental guidelines are being formulated regulating and restricting the use of resources etc.
- Finally, and to me most interesting, the creation of a green legacy.
Especially with mega and hallmark events legacy planning has become inevitable. Tighter budgets and increased professionalism in the field of events management led to the assumption that events cannot exist for the sake of it but should have lasting significance beyond the duration of the actual event (Matheson 2010). Olympic and Commonwealth Games, European Capitals of Culture, Football World Cups and events of similar scale are now used to initiate change, socially include lower classes and regenerate post-industrial quarters while promoting sustainability. This development constitutes quite a big challenge for event organisers, as the subject has not only a great environmental but political, economic, social and technological significance.
In 2000 Goldblatt wrote in an article for the Australian Centre for Event Management about the ecological trends the events industry would experience. He states that the Sydney Olympic where the first Games which formulated a ‘green’ legacy plan, although they did not succeed, it was a start. There is rumour that London 2012 will actually be the first truly ‘green’ Games. Whether or not Olympic Games have a true legacy depends on the organisers and is strongly determent by the availability of sustainable technologies and processes. Critics argue that all the hype about ‘greener’ practices would be a waste of money, because our industry and technology is simply not ready to relinquish fossil energy sources, yet.
Until we are able to drive our cars on water and light our venues with sunlight we will have to be creative and make the best of it. Acknowledging that one’s event will have a negative impact of some kind is the first step that has to be taken in order to find a way to fill the gap before our independency from oil.
Having done that, you can start thinking about the difference you could make. Legacy planning takes event management to the next level, as it requires planning beyond the limited duration and space of the event. But careful, legacy can be positive as well as negative. Some make the Olympic Games in Athens jointly responsible for Greece’s struggling economy. The same is true for the desire to appear as ‘green’ as Bruce MacMillan, CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) warns us, quoted in Goldblatt (2010). The line between a reputation as being truly sustainable and being a green washer is small. Therefor, it is important not to leave your event’s legacy to chance.
Sustainability can be passed on to your audience and guests, the infrastructure required for your event can be ecological and the content of the message you are delivering through your event is up to you. So, try to find a way to make a difference creating lasing memories and knowledge among your attendees in order to break even with your carbon footprint taking into account the difference your event’s legacy makes for the host destination and its visitors.
So if you want people to remember you, plan for an event legacy and make it green, a green that doesn’t scratch off when examined more carefully.
Goldblatt, S. 2012. The Complete Guide to Greener Meetings and Events. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Goldblatt, J. 2000. A Future for Event Management: The Analysis of Major Trends Impacting the Emerging Profession. Events beyond 2000:Setting the Agenda. Sydney: Austration Centre for Event Management.
Matheson, C. 2010. Legacy Planning, Regeneration and Events: The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Local Economy, 25 (1), pp. 10-23.