Sustainability 'rising up the agenda' for events industry

28th May 2009

Sustainability remains a key issue across all industries and the government continues to stress the importance of the country becoming more eco-friendly, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2015.

The events industry has also been quick to engage with the question of sustainability, particularly professionals from the venues branch of the sector, who have been active in areas such as waste reduction for a long time now.

Tom Treverton, director of the Association of Event Venues (AEV) explains: "Issues of sustainability became very important early on for venues because they were having to shift waste, deal with things like landfill tax, disposal, recycling, all things like that, and of course venues have a social responsibility to the environment they operate within."

However, the industry as a whole is currently working very hard to raise awareness about sustainability, he says.

The AEV and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) have sustainability working groups, while it is on the agenda for the Association of Event Organisers.

As a group, the Events Industry Alliance has been instrumental in developing the British Standards Institute's BS 8901 certification for events sustainability, with representatives sitting on the panel from conception through consultation periods and at its implementation stage.

Earls Court and Olympia Venues became one of the first organisations to achieve the standard last month and ExCel London is a significant way towards achieving the accreditation as well.

"Sustainability, over the last few years, has been rising dramatically up their agenda," says Mr Treverton.

He reveals that many venues are looking to comply with the BS 8901 standard and the working groups are aiming to convey to businesses the processes they must go through to become accredited.

"It's seen as a very 'in' thing to be doing, for a number of reasons," he asserts.

"One of the other things that venues are focused on doing is communicating about things like waste to the rest of the industry through the working group," Mr Treverton explains.

Many venues have put together lists of top tips for how venues and suppliers can reduce their waste, lowering energy consumption to help other members.

The EIA is now aiming to compile information from its venues, suppliers and organisers to devote a section of its website to sustainability, featuring advice and tips.

In terms of using eco-friendly credentials as a commercial and promotional tool, Mr Treverton says he believes that this is an "untapped" area that events industry professionals will look to leverage in the future.

"I think that it's inevitable that more and more of either corporate clients or exhibitors are going to request some sort of green credential from the organiser, from the venue, from the supplier, and that's going to become more and more important."

Mr Treverton explains that many suppliers are already focusing on this, with one ESSA member producing recyclable carpet for exhibitions and another providing advice and consultancy services on reducing carbon footprints.

"There's definitely a potential there for organisers particularly to be able to market their events as being BS 8901 compliant and sustainable.

"I think there's a very long way to go before we're fully utilising sustainability as a commercial tool. However, at the same time, regardless of its commercial value in a marketing and sales sense, there are commercial benefits in terms of reducing costs," he concludes.