Ahead of Cop 26, highly experienced freelance executive producer Jon Sinigaglia calls on the industry to take focused, meaningful action to sharply reduce its environmental impact.
The events industry, such as we know it, has had a rapid rise from the economic margins of the early 1960s to where we are today. By any measure, it has expanded and adapted over the years to become an industry where – depending on whose calculation we use – it is today worth literally billions and billions of pounds globally, not to mention employing hundreds of thousands of people – if not millions. It is the size of a dinosaur but moves with the suppleness of an iguana.
So why, I wonder, does this industry which prides itself on being on the cutting edge and ahead of the game on so many issues, not stop dead in its’ tracks and absolutely demand – before it takes another step forward – that something pretty fundamental gets done to make us all more sustainable.
Don’t flip to another article! I know this all seems somewhat tedious and unsexy to discuss, however we have passed the point of no return and in all truth – we have no more options any more.
We are currently hamstrung by two separate but related problems:
Firstly, our clients continue to demand the seemingly-impossible and within time frames that are equally seemingly-impossible.
Secondly, because we as an industry seem to be permanently working against such impossibilities, our suppliers don’t have the time to reflect and invest in tomorrow’s technology with the resource or the time required.
There can be no denying that we, as an industry, are way behind where we need to be. Generators, portable A/C systems, LED screens, power amps etc etc – all these things are demanded of us and equally demand masses of power. The more the clients demand, the more we need to supply.
Concomitantly, the truth is that fudges such as carbon offsetting are not an answer. Convenient, yes, but it’s an unsustainable reality that is up to us as an industry to address and find solutions for.
Agencies and suppliers have to be at the forefront of finding solutions – some of them potentially unpalatable – to this very real existential threat. The fear is that if we fail to do so, we will be forced to do so by some unsympathetic government at some time in the not-too-distant future.
So here’s a hopefully practical suggestion:
Our events tend to have substantial budgets, and we work with serious suppliers – most of whom are keen and also actively looking to find solutions. What if we add a small 1% or 2% levy on the budgets – completely openly and with client buy-in – on the clear understanding that this levy goes directly to invest specifically in finding sustainable solutions to this problem?
To start with this would require some open and frank discussions with clients – something that some agencies will find awkward. The fear, however, is that if we fail to have these discussions freely and openly, that we will then have to move to Chapter 2 of the negotiation of contracts, which will be that we simply can’t supply the client what they are wanting because it would be illegal.
I cannot believe that a single agency in the world would want for that to happen.
So with so much sustainability-related politics about to come to fruition (COP26 etc) – lets lead the charge and be at the forefront of the debate, rather than playing catch-up.