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Key Takeaways From Reset Connect 2022

On Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th June 2022, Hire Space headed to the first ever edition of Reset Connect, the flagship sustainability event for London Climate Action Week. Over the two day event, more than 100 inspiring talks took place, bringing together players from across diverse industries to discuss how we can move towards decarbonisation.

Hire Space was thrilled to work with London & Partners to host the inaugural London Hub, a content stage which presented 15 sessions on a range of topics relevant to sustainability in the events industry. Here, we’ve dived into the key takeaways from some of the stage’s sessions. If you’d like to read more about each panel, check out our write-ups of the key content sessions in our Reset Connect articles.

Table of Contents

London is leading the charge on sustainability
Harnessing event tech to reduce event emissions
Historic venues can be sustainability champions
Sustainability shouldn’t come at the cost of inclusion
Communication is key to driving change as an events agency
We need to be closing the loop in events
Net Zero carbon events are within our reach

London is leading the charge on sustainability

London is an incredibly innovative city, drawing in huge numbers of companies and investors to do business and shape the city’s response to global challenges. Their expertise and creativity gives the city huge potential to develop solutions to tackling the climate crisis and bolster a greener, fairer, and more sustainable economy.

The Mayor of London has brought forward the city’s net zero target to 2030, a mission that may seem unrealistic but is already underway with investment into greener transport, more sustainable infrastructure (such as the newly opened Elizabeth Line), and the creation of 160,000+ new jobs in the green economy sector over the past decade.

For events, this will likely have a profound effect, both reducing the impact of events held in the city through improved public transport and building materials, and demonstrating how these solutions can be implemented across the board. Watch this space as London sets out to drive change and inspire other areas of the UK and beyond.

Speaker: Lucette Demets, Head of Sustainability, London & Partners

London with bridge

Harnessing event tech to reduce event emissions

Coming out of the pandemic, the priorities of event planners and attendees have changed dramatically. With clients looking to event organisers to direct them on the new normal, we now have the opportunity to encourage greener ways of running events, from implementing a virtual element to reduce the need for travel, to calculating and reporting on our event emissions to benefit the industry as a whole. This panel – ‘Using Event Tech To Drive Sustainability‘ – delved into how technology can help us on the journey.

Here are some of the key observations made by the speakers:

  1. Virtual events have a place in event programmes, but they should be used on a case-by-case basis, where they fit in with your objectives. Event organisers should bear in mind, however, that virtual events still carry an associated carbon cost, so they’re not a zero-impact solution.
  2. Tech can also be used to help us understand and mitigate the impact of our events. Using carbon foot printing tools like TRACE, by isla, helps to give organisations and the whole sector visibility on the impact of events and actionable areas to reduce this.
  3. All industries need to work together. To start building an awareness of what technology can be used to measure your business’ impact, look at what’s being done in logistics or transport, and how reporting on emissions is being decided in those sectors. By taking inspiration from different areas, we can make our own journey to sustainability faster, easier, and more aligned with the wider movement.

The pandemic forced the events industry to be creative and we ended up coming up with innovative ways to keep putting on valuable events. If we put the pressure on to keep innovating and finding ways to cut down our impact, Net Zero is within our reach.

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Speakers: Adam Parry, Director, Event Tech Live; Mike Piddock, CEO, Glisser; Toni Griggs, Growth Lead, isla; Kris Justice, Senior Manager for Enterprise Customer Success, Cvent Europe

Event technology

Historic venues can be sustainability champions

Sustainability and 19th century architecture might not appear to go hand-in-hand, but some of the most prestigious, listed venues in London are really making the grade when it comes to greening their infrastructure, as demonstrated in the panel ‘Historic London Venues – A Transformation Towards Sustainability‘.

BMA House and Central Hall Westminster are two venues that have recently been awarded an EcoSmart Platinum award from Greengage Tourism and Travel, for their efforts to reduce the emissions of events held in their spaces. Here are some of the steps they’ve taken in greening their venues:

  • Changing lightbulbs to LED lighting
  • Changing heating source from gas to electric
  • Switching to greener electricity suppliers
  • Donating unneeded equipment and furniture to local organisations and charities
  • Promoting vegetarian and vegan menus, with a focus on seasonal and local produce
  • Offering in-house hybrid event equipment

Budgets are often cited as a reason for venues not opting to make sustainable changes, and indeed greening your venue offering does require an initial outlay. However, the panellists argued that the long-term savings make the investment a no-brainer: in fact, making your heating, water, and energy consumption greener is likely to be a substantial boost to your venue’s offering, and to cut down operational costs in the long run.

While there are certain areas that aren’t able to be changed, such as the exterior of the buildings, as these venues show us, listed status or old systems aren’t an excuse for not investing in bringing sustainable changes to your venue. The panellists recommended starting small – for instance by going paperless as much as possible, and working with sustainable suppliers and caterers – and move on to the bigger picture, like electricity and heating, over time.

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Speakers: Emily Simmons-Wright, Business Development Manager, Central Hall Venues; Kat Winfield, Venue Manager, BMA House; Rachael Boraston, Head of Destination, UK, London & Partners

BMA House
BMA House

Sustainability shouldn’t come at the cost of inclusion

Sustainability is a hugely important goal for all of us in the industry to work towards, but we have to be aware of the knock-on effect our changes will have on attendees. What constitutes a more planet-friendly event may leave some attendees unable to participate fully, which is seriously harmful for accessibility and inclusion in events.

Examples discussed on the panel ‘Event Legacies: The Importance of Making Sustainable Events Inclusive and Accessible‘ included removing carpets from event floors, which, while better for the environment, can make it difficult for attendees with hearing impairments to hear, or removing large signage in favour of an event app, which may not be accessible to all attendees.

Instead, make sure you ask your attendees in advance of the event about any accessibility requirements they might have so you can put measures in place to support everyone at your event. Real learning comes from speaking to people with experiences that are different to yours, listening to their needs, and factoring them into your event programme.

Finally, really walk through your event and consider it from every angle you can think of, identifying anything that might pose a barrier to your attendees, from lighting to music being too loud, or signage being too small. This doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from sustainability: there are plenty of solutions that allow you to rent carpets and furniture, and reuse graphics.

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Speakers: Megan Strahle, Sustainability Advisor, The Bulb; Lizzy Eaton, Director, Oddity Events & Marketing; Priya Narain, Event Sales Manager, KERB

Wheelchair sign on grass

Communication is key to driving change as an events agency

Agencies have a great opportunity to communicate with delegates, clients, and venues to be frontrunners of change and make the most of sustainable options in events. But while not everyone has bought into a move to sustainability it can be a challenge to bring sustainability to the foreground.

The key advice from the speakers on the panel ‘UK Events Agencies: Reinventing Around Sustainability‘ was to simplify communications as much as possible, and make it simple, obvious and clear why we’re doing certain things and what we should be doing to improve. Make sure the language you use in your event comms is accessible to all, whether or not they’ve interacted with sustainability before – that means avoiding buzzwords and making it very clear exactly what actions you want them to take before and during the event.

Additionally, keep your advice or instructions clear and separate for exhibitors compared to attendees, as this helps to keep the messaging strong. This might look like asking attendees to bring their own pens and paper to the event, while for exhibitors you might ask that they don’t produce new ‘swag’ to give out at the event. Whatever you’re looking to convey, keep it clear and consistent to avoid confusion and make sure everyone’s on board.

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Speakers: Abena Fairweather, Founder and Managing Director, Legacy Events; Shelley Fletcher-Byrant, Senior Director of Client Relationship Management, Advito and BCD; Manuela Cadarso, Head of Projects UK, Cheerful Twentyfirst; Keith O’Loughlin, CEO, Smyle

group of people speaking

We need to be closing the loop in events

It’s impossible to get around: events produce an unsustainable amount of waste and non-reusable assets. To minimise the impact that our events have on the environment, we need to be closing the loop with the materials used. This process needs to begin long before the event, by considering which aspects, from carpets to exhibition stands and graphics, can be removed from the event entirely, or at the very least made from more sustainable or recyclable materials.

Event Cycle, who delivered this session, works with organisers and companies staging events to close the loop after the event by finding new homes for the remaining assets and materials that are essential to the event. They emphasise, though, that this is the last rung of the ladder and that eliminating surplus materials from your event from the outset is a more long-term sustainable solution.

Areas that you can consider cutting down on include:

  • Carpeting: hundreds of tonnes of event carpeting end up in landfill each year, and much of it contains a material made from plastic.
  • Exhibition graphics: make sure you remove any dates from exhibition stands and wall graphics so that they can be reused at future events.
  • Signage: use recyclable materials for signs – wall stickers contain PVC and cannot be recycled, whereas board can usually be reused or recycled.
  • Lanyards: is there another way you can display badges (for instance with a small crocodile clip)? If not, make sure your lanyards don’t include plastic pockets and don’t feature dates – bonus points if they’re unbranded so can be donated to other organisations like the NHS post-event.

Speaker: Carina Jandt, Director and Co-Founder, Event Cycle

reusable cups at bar

Net Zero carbon events are within our reach

If our industry is truly going to make positive changes at the rate required to reach Net Zero by 2050, we need to be sharing with each other what we’ve learnt from our own journeys, and taking lessons from other industries. In fact, the overarching message of the entire Reset Connect event was that a competitor mindset is not helpful in the drive for sustainability.

Luckily the events industry is built on bringing people together to share ideas and solve problems. Organisations like Greenview and Net Zero Carbon Events provide resources and support for all stakeholders in events to move the needle towards a sustainable and regenerative future. With a network of engaged peers, and we have a real chance to educate and influence clients and attendees positively, and move the industry in the right direction.

Speaker: Olivia Ruggles-Brise, Director, Greenview/Net Zero Carbon Events

sustainability guide

The events industry has a key role to play in bringing clients and attendees along on the sustainability journey. From the speakers we heard from at Reset Connect, there was plenty of optimism around the power each of our organisations have to influence the future of the planet for good.

In order to make it to that point, however, we need to be working together and communicating our successes and struggles so we can support each other to move forwards on the journey to a more sustainable industry.

Finally, we need to remember that it’s a journey: a transition to sustainability doesn’t happen overnight. We’re all learning and developing as we go along, and the most important thing is that we all have to start – small or ambitious, all changes are needed to get us to Net Zero by 2050. For advice and articles on making our industry a greener place, check out the write-ups of the above panels below or browse our other sustainability content.