What will it cost if we are not Green & Sustainable?


Although I am not an expert on sustainability, I am aware it is a very important subject and one that is gaining more and more traction. The simple fact as I see it is the world’s natural resources are being depleted, the temperature of the planet is rising and if we all don’t to something the impact will be negative.

Sustainability is such a broad topic but how does the events industry fit into it?

As an industry we are good at wasting things. So much of what we do is for one off use. We waste electricity, food, materials, plastic etc.  In the 17 years I have been in the industry I have been known to waste things sometimes it is hard to avoid when you are planning an event in the middle of a nowhere and everything has to be brought in. It is however getting easier to have a more sustainable greener event that is not so cost prohibitive it makes it impossible.

About 10 years ago I produced an event to launch a bio degradable shower gel. The event had to be carbon neutral and as sustainable as possible. In theory it should not have been a problem however as always, the budget was extremely tight which made things more challenging. Every aspect of the event had to be looked at in great detail making sure products were as locally sourced as possible and not shipped from china, we had to use LED lighting which is standard these days, travel distances for the team had to be as short as possible, any item that was fabricated had to be upcycled or recycled. We had to take things into consideration that, until that point had (rightly or wrongly) never really crossed my mind. The event did go over budget, but we achieved everything that was asked, and we hit the sustainability goals that had been set. It taught me a lot!

I recount this story as it begs the question how would it be different if I was to do it all again tomorrow? Well, I am definitely better equipped and know the pitfalls and challenges. I don’t think there is much I would change however I do believe that I could get it in closer to the target budget. That being said there is still a cost attached to being sustainable, it is getting more and more affordable but cost can still be a barrier and as such I worry that sustainability much like wellbeing can become a tick box exercise for some organisations.

It is easy to have a sustainability policy but to have truly sustainable credentials is something quite different. A company has to not only look at how it operates day to day but also the events it produces. We are definitely improving as an industry and I hope we continue. I think the time has come not to ask what the cost of sustainability it but rather what will it cost if we are not green and sustainable?


Written by James Hitchen, General Manager, EMA

(This article was first posted on H&E North)