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Worlds Better at the Conference News Sustainability Summit: everything we learned.

On 7 September, Worlds Better attended the second annual Conference News Sustainability Summit. An event that brings together event organisers, suppliers, venues, caterers, DMC’s and consultants to discuss sustainability best practice and share challenges to work together to overcome them. We learnt a lot throughout the day, so here is a glimpse at our key takeaways.

We cannot start without mentioning the importance of data. We use it at the start of our sustainability journey to set a baseline and targets, and we rely on it throughout our journey for regular benchmarking, designing improvements, and using it to share our sustainability stories in a way that makes the data feel tangible to stakeholders.

On the topic of travel, we were introduced to the idea of ‘nudging’ behaviours. Through repetitive messaging, event organisers have found success in influencing behaviour change of attendees to make more sustainable travel choices over time. Event organisers could look to collaborate with travel providers to offer discounts to attendees or design the journey to be part of the event experience. Incentivised choices would make the selection of a more sustainable travel option more attractive for attendees and kickstart behaviour change.

Another element to highlight is suppliers being trusted as experts in their own field. An example of this is with AV teams, who are often brought into conversations further down in the event design process. If these teams are briefed earlier, or provided with a flexible brief, they can make better recommendations and support in programme design. Venue representatives were also bringing great insights to conversations; though many do not automatically offer carbon measurement for all events, if you ask in advance, they can usually provide it.

When it comes to catering, food can provide an emotive experience and it should be built into the event design through intentional storytelling. Plant-based menus would be an easier sell to clients and attendees if the menus took guests on a culinary journey. This could be educating attendees about where the food has been sourced from, or the history of the region that the event is being hosted in. Chefs are always the best ambassadors for their menus, so they need to be included.

In the effort to reduce overall footprint, the concept of a carbon budget was shared with the audience. This concept is based on a maximum ‘spend’ of carbon emissions per person per year. Here, data collection is key to monitor the spend of this carbon budget to ensure that this target is not being exceeded and requires event organisers to think smartly about efficiencies they can make in their event plans to deliver as many events as they can within that budget.

The final part of the day was an interactive workshop led by Identity, all about sustainable storytelling. Storytelling was a common thread running throughout the sessions, and this workshop brought the idea home. We all wrote down a story we wanted to tell based on where we are at with our sustainability goals and what needs to come next. We then passed round these goals around our tables to produce action plans and blue-sky ideas to make someone else’s story tangible and impactful.

Throughout the day, some great quick wins were shared, including:

  • Only allow expense claims for public transportation costs, no more mileage claims.

  • Forget the past event, focus on your event objectives and strip back your design to the core elements, before adding on.

  • Do not turn away business if it does not align with your sustainability goals, it is much easier to influence changes from within.

  • Incentivise sustainable actions and choices for your attendees to influence long-term change.

  • There is a human consideration to make about the positive impact that sustainable storytelling can produce to leave a legacy for attendees.

Events like these truly display the importance of us sharing our progress and problems with each other to find solutions and build a standardised approach as an industry.

All photos shared were taken by the team at Mash Productions.

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