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Sustain the chain

Sustain the chain

Cameron Roberts chats with Edward Poland about how working with the supply chain is vital for running a sustainable event.

The relationship between event organiser and venue is vitally important when conducting a sustainable event. If an organiser wishes to be eco-conscious but the boots on the ground aren’t following up, sustainable initiatives are doomed to fail.

I spoke to Edward Poland, co-founder, Hire Space, about the company’s EventLAB hybrid event, which took place in November 2021 at Central Hall Westminster. He talked about what the organiser and venue did to keep the event sustainable.

Partner up

As with any sustainability charter, it’s impossible to look at what your organisation does in a vacuum. This means that organisers must assess the sustainability credentials of their supply chain when conducting an event.

For Poland, this means researching companies before partnering with them and setting clear goals with members of the event team, from both the venue and other key members of the delivery team.

He said: “We always ask our partners for their sustainability credentials when we kick off a new relationship. We knew, for instance, that our catering partners, Green and Fortune, would transparently detail the steps they’d taken to ensure their food was sustainable – using compostable plates and cutlery and being precise on food quantities.

“That transparency was a huge draw for us, especially as this was a showcase for the industry. We also chose local suppliers and those with values which aligned closely with ours, such as b2 Events, who value sustainability highly, and early members of sustainability body isla.”

The venue plays a large part in the facilitation of the sustainable practices of suppliers, so it’s vital that the venue itself is aligned with the goals of the rest of the event team.

The venue should also know the local market and involve local businesses in supplying the event.

A representative from Central Hall Westminster, said: “We push for sustainability as we recognise that our operations have a local and global environmental impact, and we are committed to reducing this as much as possible by following sustainability best practices.

“It is crucial for our future that we operate a sustainable business and we proactively encourage it wherever we have influence, such as with our catering and AV partners and our suppliers.”

This alignment between venue, organiser and suppliers is paramount, and Central Hall Westminster recognises that catering is a key factor in keeping an event’s waste to a minimum. Thus, by highlighting key waste factors at traditional live events, it was able to work with the supply chain to keep sustainability top of the bill throughout the event cycle.

The representative from the venue added: “The team also worked closely with our on-site catering partner, Green and Fortune, to provide sustainable catering for the event. Sustainable catering is just as important to Green and Fortune as it is to us and includes reducing food miles as much as possible. Menus embrace seasonality and the food service is reviewed regularly to ensure the most sustainable material possible is being used.”

Formulating formats

EventLAB was a hybrid event, which gave attendees the opportunity to attend content sessions remotely, keeping travel to a minimum for those who had specific needs outside of networking. But this new format does have its own sustainability connotations, meaning looking into suppliers for this stream was also important for Hire Space.

Poland said: “We live-streamed the content so that delegates could watch the event without travelling. Hundreds of event professionals chose to do this. We know ‘going digital’ presents some of its own issues on sustainability, so we chose as our AV provider White Light, who invest in updating their equipment to lower-impact technologies like LED, leading to energy savings of up to 34% year on year.”

Working with the supply chain boils down to effective communication, alignment of goals and education of the importance of sustainability to businesses that may be further behind in their journey to going green.

Poland concluded: “The events industry has come a long way on sustainability very quickly, but we are all still learning. Every event should be a chance to learn and improve, and to educate all stakeholders in that event so that they can go away and implement things that will improve their own events.”