Sustainability Summit 2010 Notes

The Sustainable Events Summit 2010 was held in London on Monday (19 April 2010). It’s an industry event “for industry professionals to discuss and debate the current state of play in sustainable events”.

There were about 100 delegates; 57% event organisers, 14% event industry suppliers, 10% venue managers and 19% Other (e.g. student, academic). I know this thanks to their use of an interactive delegate-response/voting system in the venue, which was used a number of times during the event.

[An aside relevant to the Greening Events project and JISC in general is that I’m so used to going to events attended by very tech savvy people with laptops and smartphones in use all the time, at this event not a single person seemed to be using a laptop or similar to take notes; lots of pen and paper no IT that I could see. There was no WiFi networking for delegate in the venue so that might have put people off a bit.]

The main session presentations were streamed live over the web and will be available online some time next week (I’ll link from comments below when they are).

Ed Gillespie (Futerra communications agency) chaired the event (very well I thought) and got the event off to a positive start with a presentation that was very up-beat making the key points that positive messages work better than negative.

Jonathan Porritt was the Key Note speaker who talked a little about the role of events, history of guidance on ‘sustainable events’. One of the first guidance docs was from the Government Office of the South West some years ago to which he was a signatory. Amongst his many other points he noted that we shouldn’t over obsess about climate change at the expense of other  social-economic issues (such as working conditions, living wages, etc. especially where events are held in developing economies).

The basic format for the sessions was short presentations 5-15 mins depending on the session and then discussion between speakers and Q&A with the audience, which worked well.

Session 1. Energy Management

Julie Davenport (Founder of Good Energy) and Jacquie Rogers (General Manager, ACC Liverpool) who gave insights into the renewable energy market, events and venues that make use of it and the realities of running a large venue. One of the key points from Jacquie’s  presentation is that even with a new and high tech venue it takes time and experimenting to get to know it and so how to manage it for energy efficiency effectively. Another from the session is that retrofitting can be very effective.

Session 2. Social Responsibility.

The first presentation was by  Stephen Greene of RockCorp who use events as a means to engage people in social action programmes and volunteering – in the UK they partner with Orange to organise concerts that people who have volunteered on social projects get ‘free’ tickets to attend. It’s an interesting extension of the principle ‘leave a positive legacy’ for events. In this case the positive legacy is the motivation behind organising the event. The benefits of engagement in social action by volunteers also feels very positive.  Stephen reported that their follow up surveys indicated higher rates of subsequent volunteering on the part of participants than otherwise.

Allison Ogden-Newton of Social Enterprise London talked about the role of enterprise, entrepreneurs and socially motivated companies. One question was about issues of working with companies that have a negative sustainability record… which lead to Ed Gillespie (I think) remembering the quote that “We all sup with the devil, it’s just some of us use a very very long spoon”.

Session 3. Sustainable Procurement in 2012.

Phil Cumming, Corporate Sustainability Manager, LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) spoke about the sustainable procurement standards and systems that have been devised and are being implemented as part of the 2012 London Olympics. From the presentation these looked very impressive. A key document he pointed to was their ‘Sustainable Sourcing Code’ other reports at <>

One slide he used illustrated a procurement hierarchy, basically an extension of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ to ‘Re-think (i.e. do you need this? Is there another way of doing it?), Reduce, Replace, Return, Recycle’ (with end of life management in mind from the start).

Session 4. Parallel Sessions

1. Use of virtual environments/video conferencing
2. BS8901 (the new British Standard – developing to wards ISO standard – on Sustainable Events Management)
3. Transport

I choose the first on virtual enviroments/ video conferencing: ‘stay grounded or stay face to face?’.

Speakers: James Alexander, (CEO, Green Thing), Paul Dickinson, (CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project) and Izania Downie (CEO of  Eventia)

Highlights from the session:

Parallel Session on BS8901 – I didn’t go to that one and it’s not been recorded by I’d strongly recommend following up on that, many organisations were using it and/or planning to.

Session 5. Inspiration – Quick Fire Success Stories:

A series of very short presentations (5mins) talking about successful examples of aspects of sustainable event innovation.

Graham Keene, (Group Executive Chairman, World Events) talked about how they had changed the way they run an annual internal business event that promotes sustainably with staff. One especially interesting idea was to make one of the activities for the event (team building king of thing) into one that produces something useful e.g. for the local community or a charity.

Charlie Dorman, (Operations Director, Connection Crew) described the work as a ‘community interest company’. 25% of employees are homeless as part of their employment support programme.

Iqbal Latif, (CEO, Hotel Rafayel) explained how they became an ‘eco-friendly hotel’ some of the technologies (e.g. very low energy light bulbs) and processes. Their goal being to ‘live at peace with nature’.

Dale Hudson, (Head of Project Development, IMEX). IMEX is a major ‘events’ conference held in Frankfurt, Germany. Dale talked about both their activities at the event itself, for example reduce waste, use of corn starch badge holders, no idle policy for coaches, etc. and the ‘green awards’ given as part of IMEX, run jointly with GMIC (Green Meeting Industry Council).

Louise Kjaertinge, (General Manager, Pines Calyx Conference Centre). Louise described the development of their new conference centre behind the white cliffs of Dover. It is owned by a local environmental charitable trust, however is a commercial building. She described the development process (e.g. largely build from ‘waste’ materials), the design of the building itself is focused on inspiring, informing and educating. They work with and source extensively from local companies and community. The issue of design e.g. use of natural light, use of space, etc. were raised a few times in other sessions.

Session 6, Waste Management:

James Mark (Services & 2012 Director, ExCeL London) James gave an overview of how ExCeL had changed its practices to improve sustainability performance, giving lots of practical examples, e.g. using paint not carpets on hall floors, where carpets used use recyclable (polypropylene), making ‘waste management everyone’s responsibility’, onsite recycling facilities, better signage, changing recycling contractors which reduced transport emissions, increased charging to exhibitors for non-recyclable waste management, the largest commercial wormery in the UK,  onsite bailer (reducing volume and thus transport by up to 1:30 example from this years boat show), …

Amanda Kiely (Sustainability Project Manager, LOCOG) Amanda actually talked about a wider range of issues than waste – esp. accessibility and visitor experience. talked more (see session 3 above) about the sustainability policies and practices behind the 2012 London Olympics. See their ‘Event’ document for details. They are taking a BS8901 compliant approach. As part of the process, plan-do-check-act means that they update their policies, etc. as they learn lessons. Examples of key lessons so far included, the need to verify claims e.g. of venue accessibility, making sure suppliers understood their sustainability goals, location is important for enabling use of sustainable transport. Lessons on waste included, high recycling rates were got where someone was nr. the recycling points to advice people where to put what, making sure litter pickers really understand, include public announcements and messages as notices so that the sustainability message is more pervasive, etc. planning is key. One point in the discussion was that they will be using biodegradable plates and cutlery in catering.

There was mention in a prior session (can’t remember which) about the potential for zero-waste-to-landfill currently that might mean waste that can’t be recycled going to incineration or it might mean making sure that everything that’s used go in to a recycling stream at end of life, certainly for smaller self organised events the latter seems feasible.

Session 7. Carbon Measurement and Reduction:

Catherine Langabeer and Helen Heathfield (Julie’s Bicycle) Catherine explained that Julie’s Bicycle works with the music and performance industry (events and venues) on sustainability issues and especially carbon. They are working with a number of festivals as part of their 10:10, assisting with monitoring of emissions. The climate change bill and Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) forms some of the context for carbon assessment and even though smaller organisations not yet covered by CRC good to ‘get your house in order’. Other motivations too from range of stakeholders. The 10:10 project aims to encourage organisations of all kinds to commit to reducing their emissions by 10% in 2010, substantial support from for example local authorities, schools and universities.

Helen started by saying that 10:10 is not only about making reductions but ‘making a song and dance’ about it, promoting it more widely. Because in part Climate Change is difficult for people to ‘see’. 10:10 shows that a 10% reduction is achievable and knowing you can do something is ‘happy making’, it also saves money. Impacts beyond CO2 emissions include examples of waste and water use.

Donna Cullen (Executive Director, Tottenham Hotspur): Football is not normally associated with ‘green’, climate change is a critical CSR issue. In their new stadium they wanted to ‘future proof’ it using technologies to reduced their carbon impact in the design phase, aiming for 40% reductions over their old building. Examples inc. A thermal seasonal aquifer store for heating and cooling, led perimeter (display) boards. They are signed up to 10:10 and match day needed focusing on inc. travel plans, food/cafeteria, programme printing, locally sourcing. 10:10 has also been a chance to raise awareness amongst both staff (inc. players) and fans. The point was made during questions that emissions are highly variable depending on how the club’s fortunes go, e.g. didn’t make European Cup this year so much fewer emissions due to travel (esp.air travel) to those fixtures, etc.

Also in questions the point was made by Helen that for GHG emissions calculations ‘average’ figures used in standard calculations e.g. average loading for trains can cause poor estimates and so decision making, e.g. trains to major festivals are often very crowded so will have a much lower emissions factor than average making it lower than even a car with 4 people in. They use NECI emissions factors not the standard Defra figures in those cases.

Other interesting stuff in questions was ‘Brain Print’ and ‘Footprint’ are important. Brain print being the raised awareness and influence that festivals and organisations e.g. if a footballer takes it seriously that can have a big influence. 16% of waste at some festivals is tents left behind. Need to make carbon visible in order for people to have an awareness…

Session 8, Inspiration:

Gerry Hopkinson (Co-Founder, Unity) and Andrew Williams (Managing Director, Seventeen Events)

Gerry talked mostly about Unity’s involvement in the launch of ‘the age of stupid’. That had about a tenth of the normal budget and 3 months from start to launch. They (obviously) wanted to be as low negative sustainability impact as possible. It was in Leicester Sq. They used a marquee, reusable, astroturf for the ‘green carpet’, fences made from old cafe direct sacks, Goldsmiths students designed chairs made from old news papers, basically blagged lots of stuff and had lots of volunteers. Those attending used various kinds low emissions of transport. They tracked their footprint it was 1% of a more usual event 47 Tonnes rather than 490 Tonnes.

In Q&A Gerry said their main lesson was ‘be poor’, i.e. have a low budget (cut it by 90%) and that forces be ‘green’. It is also fun. He gave the example of in the past going to a ‘cost containment conference’ in Hawaii.

Andrew (seventeen events organised the this event) noted that a key issue in learning is transparency, openly flagging up what’s gone wrong and sharing lessons learned otherwise the learning doesn’t get shared. BS8901 certification and the process is very useful for that. He gave examples from this event of lower impact choices, e.g. no delegate packs, signage and branding designed to be reusable, sustainable catering options.

Examples of mistakes from last year was that they had lanyards with the date of the event on, realised before the event, they did think of re-making them (it would be a public mistake) but decided to use them anyway as it was the right thing to do, but learned the lesson and now they use blank ones. They didn’t capture travel of delegates well – it was hard for reception staff to get it all – this year the interactive handsets made it possible very easily.

Other interesting points. The venue bottle their own carbonated water, in glass bottles, on site from tap water. They could have used more large plasma displays rather than display boards, but the extra transport would have tipped the balance to make them less carbon efficient.

Ed. threw in the quote from Edmund Burke ‘Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little’. The point was made that one reason for lack of taking small steps might be that companies/organisations who take small steps can tend to attract more criticism than those who take none.

Can’t remember who said it but there seemed to be general agreement that in the future there should be no ‘sustainable events’ but simply ‘good events’ and those would be sustainable.

Session 9. In practice: Panel Session

Patrick Loy (Head of Events, GLA), Meegan Jones (Sustainable Event Alliance), Graham Keene (Group Executive Chairman World Events) and Yasmin Arrigo (Editor, C&IT)

Session of Q&A:

Question about usefulness of standards:

Question wait for people to desire to be sustainable or need to speed it up with regulation?

Session 9, Summing up by Ed Gillespie:

Four key points

He reiterated earlier quote: “If you want to subvert a paradigm you have to have more fun than they are and let them know while we’re doing it.”