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How to Make your Event More Sustainable and Socially Responsible

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How to Make your Event More Sustainable and Socially Responsible

By Jess May

With the climate change debate heating up and consumers looking towards brands with ethics they can resonate with, companies are looking for more ways to position themselves as bastions of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Now, we do a lot of events here at Bugler Smith. We know how it works, and we’ve consistently helped our clients to reach their goals when it comes to CSR.

So, we’ve pulled together a list of our top 10 ways in which you can make your event more socially responsible, based off our experience in events.

  1. Bin the bottle

Plastic water bottles.
They’re everywhere. Literally. Walk down the road and you’ll probably end up coming across one along the way.

Instead of having hundreds of water bottles dotted about for your delegates, why not encourage them to bring their own, reusable bottles? We would recommend installing water stations for them to refill at, and if they happen to forget their bottle, offer recyclable paper cups instead of plastic ones.

You could even get someone to sponsor any branded paper cups, with part of the cost going towards a charity, maybe one which plants trees or donates to environmental efforts.
Another option would be to offer out branded reusable bottles, again these can provide a sponsorship opportunity with strong visibility, or they can make more eco-friendly corporate gifts, which brings us to our next point.

  1. Choose to reuse

We all love a conference goody-bag!
However, a lot of them might contain plastic-wrapped sweets, paper pamphlets that end up straight in the bin, or other useless doodads and thingamabobs. (Is that branded wristband ever going to be worn again?)

Why not look at options for corporate gifts which can be reused?
USBs always come in handy around the office. In the past, we’ve also used these to store conference resources and collateral, rather than filling bags with printed collateral. You can also offer for these to be sponsored or offer exhibitors the chance to put their own marketing materials onto the USB, cutting down on their waste, too.

Goody bags could be recycled cotton or paper totes, a good option for delegates to take home and reuse at their local supermarket.

The possibilities are endless!

  1. Say my name, say my name

Wouldn’t it be fantastic, to ditch that piece of plastic, when talking works the same?

When it comes to names, we’ve seen them printed onto plastic badges, slotted into plastic wallets on lanyards, and, more often than not, both of these are completely ignored and asked for anyway.

In this day and age do we really need plastic name badges pinned to our lapels?
We’re all adults here, just open up a conversation. It’s perfectly fine to go into a room and just introduce yourself, you’re probably going to do it anyway. And if you forget the name of whoever you’re talking to mid-conversation and there’s no name badge to help you, maybe just apologise and ask again. Or try sneakily Googling them, whatever floats your boat.

  1. Make use of mobiles

Firstly, mobile ticketing is a great way to put those pesky phones to use.

It’s likely that 99% of your delegates will have their mobile phone with them, unless your event is some form of anti-technology retreat. Use mobile ticketing to save the trees, and this way you’re less likely to run the risk of a misplaced ticket causing trouble. Even if, for some reason, some of your delegates can’t use their mobiles and would require a paper ticket, sending out one or two is a bit better than sending one or two thousand.

Secondly, you could also be tempted to send out a big booklet, jampacked with information about your event. We would politely recommend that you resist such temptation.
A great alternative would be to create a dedicated app for your event, one which can showcase your company’s technical prowess, and keep delegates in the loop without weighing them down with the event’s equivalent of the Yellow Pages. You can even use push notifications to alert delegates of any last-minute changes to schedules, something which could cause confusion if all you had was printed collateral.

We’d also recommend setting up an event website for delegates to access, just in case there are any problems with the app. 

With events prone to small changes, it’s a great way to have flexible control over something so fluid. 

  1. Who cares what day it is?

Picture this: your delegates are at your event. They all made it on the right day, at the right time.
So, do you really need everything at the event to have today’s date on it?

Maybe that pull-up ‘Welcome’ banner could be reused elsewhere, or those backdrops can make a return next year. Have a think. If you know your event theme / branding, schedule or menu tends to be consistent, can the materials be reused?

Keep the date off this time, so you have the option for next.

  1. Don’t be a cheapskate, donate

Sign up fees, ticket costs, dinner packages or even exhibitor pack costs. All of these might be paid for separately by your delegates, so why not offer the person doing the purchasing the option to make a voluntary donation to a chosen charity?
You could even donate a portion of the profit made from your event to a charity of your choice. Maybe one that you partner with already, or one whose cause ties in with your company.

  1. Teamwork makes the dream work

Now we all love a team building activity, right? …Right?

I know it might be thrilling to watch your team throwing around the ‘talking ball’, or constructing a bridge from old pipes, but what if we made them a bit more useful?

What if they used their time to help others instead?
You could have them working together to use products donated, maybe from suppliers or within your company, to build care packages for those less fortunate.

You could even take them out of the venue, maybe there’s somewhere local they could volunteer, or someone nearby who could do with a helping hand?

Make their time worthwhile, not wasted.

  1. Friendly food

When it comes to food and drink for your event, take a look into local suppliers near your venue. Keep responsible purchasing in mind, where product isn’t having to travel from far, and from suppliers who use ethically sourced food. Maybe your venue has strategic partnerships with local suppliers?

If you’re using in-house catering, is their food responsibly sourced? Are their appliances switched off when not in use to save energy? And what is their stance on crockery / cutlery? Think about wooden cutlery instead of plastic, and reusable ceramic plates, or recyclable paper ones.

  1. Vive la sustainable venue!

When it comes to your venue search, why not take a look at locations that have made a conscious effort to improve their own sustainability, which reflects well upon your own brand.

Look for venues who might use renewable energy, have implemented recycling initiatives, or work with local charities. Also, think about your delegates’ carbon footprint – is your chosen venue easy to reach by public transport? The Telford International Centre is a shining example; having received a Silver Green Tourism Award, they can even work to achieve a carbon-neutral status for your event.

  1. Projection > erection

Everyone loves when you walk into a room and the staging takes delegates’ breath away.

Bold, dramatic, a creative marvel – why, this staging must be worthy of the Oscars!

The problem is, set and stage design can be very material intensive.

A more modern approach worth looking into is what opportunities using projection can bring.

Projection mapping - whilst admittedly can be pricy as a standalone and is dependent on your stage design - could save you the cost and time of producing one-off set designs, especially if your event theme is not likely to be used again, or if you are changing mid-event from day to night branding.

Replacing cumbersome props and complex builds with glittery lights and video projection offers a flashy alternative, and can even offer interactive elements, sure to dazzle your delegates.

Remember, there are lots of ways you can look to make your event more socially responsible, environmentally friendly, charitable, and ethical. Technology is constantly improving and making it easier for us to take those first steps.

Let us know if you’ve picked up any new ideas from our list, or if you have any top tips we could add.