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Arts University Bournemouth BA (Hons) Events Management course leader Kevin Chambers on how the next generation of event managers are putting sustainability at the heart of all activity.

Events are at the heart of  the sustainable post-Covid recovery occupying a unique space where organisers can explore and experiment with alternative futures and encourage their participants to see the world differently.

The next generation of event managers are acutely aware of the responsibilities that they have and how much previous generations have arguably looked the other way when asked what could be done better. They are at the vanguard of what Greta Thunberg described as our upcoming mass extinction. They will need to navigate a new sustainable route through the fairy tales of endless economic growth and continue to ask themselves, ‘when is enough, enough?’

“The next generation of event managers are acutely aware of the responsibilities that they have and how much previous generations have arguably looked the other way.”

To be successful at that we need to return to our core principles. Our industry has a great spirit of entrepreneurialism and of taking chances. We have also evolved to become some of the most thoughtful risk managers in industry. We need to forensically examine where the burden of risk lies. If we value something, then inevitably there is a cost associated with that. The question that we need to introduce into the process at every single stage is whether that cost is worth paying. We also need to look at our entire ecosystem. We need to value our supply chains where perhaps we have often neglected them. That means investing in new technology, new forms of power, finding new ways of working, new ways of moving infrastructure and people. The opportunity that the pandemic has created to rewrite the rules and build back better must not be overlooked.

At Arts University Bournemouth our productions are guided by the principles of the Theatre Green Book which means that sustainability begins at the outset with concept and vision. We have added the Climate Crisis to the agenda of all our production meetings so that we can maintain a focus and continue the discussions around the risks associated with our activity at every single stage of the production process. We have established the principle of materials hierarchy, striving to use locally sourced materials that are either reused or recycled.

This culture is now starting to deliver some interesting work. In May 2022 some of our students produced Sustainable?, a one-day fashion show and exhibition, which sought to ask questions about sustainability in the fashion industry and demonstrate best practice in environmental management of events. All décor was donated or sourced from local recycling centres. Post-event, these materials were donated either to students for future projects or event organisations that could reuse them. Much of the content on the day was also delivered digitally, which meant that people did not need to travel in order to experience the collection and engage with the work. Waste was recycled and kept to a minimum. The whole day only generated three bags of landfill waste which was then compressed into a single black bag.

We can all feel hopeful about the future. The events industry can lead the way and not just as a vehicle for exploration and education