Entrepreneurship for Creatives | Events & Sustainability

A concept which is unfortunately often overlooked in the events production industry is Sustainability. Sustainability is defined as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To discuss the relations between Events and Sustainability, Annalisa Schembri, our speak for the session, walks us through the practice of sustainability itself as well as on the delivery of an event in making it sustainable. Annalisa Schembri is a freelance professional in the creative, entertainment and education industry, working across Europe.

For the creative industry, sustainability is often understood as the ability to make an event a success financially. However, there is more to sustainable events than economic prosperity. In fact, the main pillars for sustainability are: Economic Prosperity, Social/Cultural Vibrancy and Environmental Integrity, each connected to one another in its own way. For this, it is important for a holistic approach to be applied.

A holistic approach is about how you approach events management. Start by analysing the reasoning behind the concept of your event. Ask yourself: “Why is this event taking place?” Remember the aims and value of your event, then attach your answers to the relevance of your event. It is also important in assessing the impact of your event from an economic, socio-cultural and environmental perspective, and eventually prevent any potential challenges. In link with this is another important concept to keep in mind: Adaptation and Mitigation. Events managements is about adapting and mitigating to a particular event without compromising the experience of the audience. It is about finding ways of enhancing the audiences’ experience.

Furthermore, achieving sustainability is a question of leadership and commitment. As a leader, identify your set of principles and values which you stand for and stick with them. For this, it is essential that at the initial stage of an event, you discuss, negotiation and compromise with the team the ideal approach which best represents your values and principles as well as your vision and commitment. On the other hand, do have a realistic vision. There is a usually gap between expectations and reality.

Further on into the session, Annalisa provides her recommendations and top tips in order to help you deliver a sustainable event, some of which they follow.

Two factors you should always keep in mind are the Timing and the Location of the event. When planning for the event, consider the timing of it all, from the season to the weekday. This will help you adopt the type and number of resources you need for the event, including the use of energy. Make sure you are able to make an effective use of your space and layout. Additionally, “reduce creating what’s already indoors outdoors.” This will not only be cost-effective but also environmentally effective. Additionally, make sure the location is easily reachable including with alternative means of transport.

Think of all the people involved in the event, from its production and artistic team to its audience and attendees. Are the employees treated with respect and dignity? Do they have good working conditions? Is there a way of how volunteers’ work can also be recognised? Perhaps through a participation certificate. How about your audience? Is the event inclusive towards everyone’s needs, from gender-balancing to physical disability? Does the catering offered at the event altered to the needs of individuals? Reference is made to ethically sourced options, vegan and vegetarian options and to gluten and lactose-free products.

Another tip is to use today’s advancement to your benefit. Make the most of today’s technologies. The use of technology has provided an opportunity to be able to reach out to a wider audience and team. Minimise the need to print several strategy-plans and changes. Advertise the event on different platforms rather than having to print physical flyers. Create an easily accessible website to buy and download tickets, rather than having to distribute tickets in different purchasing establishments. All in all, from production strategies, to advertising and marketing, to ticketing and purchasing power, technology has also provided a chance to reduce carbon footprint and the use of resources.

Marketing strategies and e-platforms can also be used to promote and encourage sustainable practices. Promote sustainable ways on engagement including with the event’s team such as during rehearsal time by bringing glass/metal bottles, personal cups and utensils. As Annalisa says, “the use of plastic and paper is something of the past”. This also includes the provision of gadgets and ‘freebies’ during events. Should freebies be necessary, make sure they are both useful and reusable.

Budgeting is also interlinked with these recommendations. By implementing different sustainable practices, an event can also be budget friendly. This is also applicable where an event’s budget is quite limited or small. It is often a misconception to think that for an event to be sustainable, a ‘big’ budget is required. On the contrary, a limited budget can actually direct the event into becoming more sustainable in practice. How? Limited budgets focus on the truly essential necessities of the events. Therefore, sustainability can prevent spending money in an ineffective way on unnecessary things.

To sum up, sustainability is more than just making an event financially a success. It is about using a holistic approach and adapting to the needs of our surroundings, economically, socially, culturally and environment. With the right practices, leadership and commitment, together with the diverse yet useful recommendations Annalisa has provided, any event could become sustainable and a success.