10 Takeaways from the Sustainable Events Show

At the end of November, Lily went on a solo trip to the second annual Sustainable Events Show. Located in the garden room at London’s breathtaking Barbican Centre, the event attracted a wealth of experts from the events industry: from conscious caterers (hello Searcys) to innovative organisers. Showcasing some of the most forward-thinking ideas the industry has to offer (from low-energy printing to recycling used event props), the event had one overriding focus: to pay close attention our footprint as we unite towards a net zero future.

It’s no secret that the events industry generates a lot of waste. But in the words of event moderator Kevin Jackson, event professionals are among the best at generating new ideas and solutions. As people who don’t shy away from getting things done, November’s event was all about galvanizing the industry’s top-dogs to reflect on their operations…and encourage all event organizers to make the shift to sustainable solutions.

The word sustainable is becoming increasingly clichéd as organisations plaster it all over their greenwashed advertising campaigns – but at its very essence, sustainability is about being as resourceful as possible. Defined by the UN as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’ sustainability is now non-negotiable for every business. Reusing props and decorations, pooling ideas and resources, and becoming less excessive in our consumer habits all contribute to a sustainable living and working lifestyle.

Throughout the day were an array of seminars and talks, taking place in the garden room’s central hub of activity – so much so, that punters lined the edges of the speaker clearing to get a good view. And of course, it wouldn’t have been the Sustainable Events Show without some quirky innovation: reused from last year came ‘Plonk-Its’, the (surprisingly sturdy!) cardboard furniture saving the need for clunky chairs to be transported throughout the building and beyond: and could be easily folded away at the end of the day.

Among the talks were no-BS explanations of net zero, how businesses must adapt to a challenging future and the big elephant in the room: travel.

Here are some of my top takeaways from each of the sessions throughout the day…

  1. Anyone claiming net zero events = greenwashing

Net zero has never been about one organisation doing things right. To truly reach net zero, an industry-wide, collaborative approach is essential. For starters, broader global targets must be met before net zero status can be claimed – which will require extensive changes across the economy and persuasive government action.

  1. We must stay accountable for our measurements

By understanding our base position as a business, we can start to assess whether or not our actions are truly making a difference. Without data to quantify our impact, making change becomes very difficult, not least because there’s no way of proving our progress. How can you move forward if you don’t know where you’re going?

  1. Transparency and traceability

By tapping into our purchasing power or incentivising suppliers to keep pushing forward with their sustainability targets, taking ownership for our footprint doesn’t have to be over-complicated. Transparent conversations with key business players helps keep traceability on track, especially when we focus on the things within our control. When we remember that every collaboration has a consequence and every purchase has an end destination, the path to conscious consumption becomes much clearer.

  1. Follow through on the promises and commitments you make

Over the festive season, The Farm Stratford has promised to plant a tree via Ecologi for every Christmas tree purchased. Following through with this commitment not only does good for the planet, but also instils trust in our customer base.

  1. Conscious catering

Local ingredients, eating with the seasons and offering a variety of plant-based alternatives to consumers are just a few ways to make menus as low-waste as possible. Calculating the carbon footprint of our menus is another consideration that we’ve toyed with here at The Farm, and we’re frequently reassessing portion sizes to minimise the food left on your plate. Despite our best efforts, some food waste is always inevitable – but one of the seminars taught us that allowing clients sufficient time to eat can be an important part of reducing food waste.

  1. Accreditation

On the path to accreditation, whether that’s through B Corp, Greengage or otherwise, it’s absolutely critical that the whole team are involved. Moving beyond the sustainability department is arguably one of the most essential parts of ensuring that everyone is invested in future-proofing the business – not just for the good of operations, but also for themselves.

  1. Sustainability is on the same level as Health and Safety

Gone are the days where Health and Safety is the biggest consideration for businesses: Sustainability, Diversity and Inclusion must now be prioritised more than ever. Creating a dynamic workforce where everyone feels valued is a vital aspect of building a positive business culture – empowering individuals to find sustainable solutions for some of the biggest challenges of our time.

  1. Focus on doing fewer things well

Knowing where to begin when it comes to evolving the eco credentials of your business can be overwhelming. Choosing 3-5 targets (ambitious but attainable) can allow you to deter distraction, streamline efforts and focus on your company’s short, medium and long-term goals.

  1. Make communications fun

According to James Suckling from Are You Mad (a conscious creative unit based on London’s Berwick Street), creative bin labelling is just one way of engaging the public in more mindful waste disposal. Experimenting with different sized containers, thinking outside of the box when it comes to disposal design and standardising colours are just a few inspiring ways to convince the public that in a circular economy, waste is not worthless – it’s a resource. 

  1. Prioritise social impact initiatives

Supporting community and employee wellbeing is not just fashionable for big corporations looking to earn some brownie points; it’s one of the most authentic ways that businesses can offer a platform to the causes it cares most about. At The Farm Stratford, our wellness events, collaborative litter picks and podcast conversations with inspiring members of the community help put us on the map, not just as a food destination, but a sustainable lifestyle hub.

At The Farm, we’ve become increasingly aware of ensuring eco-friendly operations as we venture into the world of corporate catering and events. From the food we serve to the local businesses we collaborate with, thinking about our impact is at the top of the list.

We’re proud to have partnered with local B Corp Warwick Events to deliver events with people and the planet firmly in mind. Hosting events that tread lightly on the planet is a key part of our ethos. Warwick Events recently organised an event at the Natural History Museum in London celebrating 1000 UK B Corps, and we’re excited to build our relationship with them and other likeminded businesses in the West Midlands area as we embark on our own B Corp journey.

Which of our 10 takeaways resonated with you most?

Written by Lily Holbrook

Environment and Sustainability Coordinator at The Farm Stratford