Organised by agency Smyle and Positive Impact Events, the summit played host to a number of panel speaker sessions with the aim to identify the role sustainability plays in corporate brands’ live communications and events.
In the opening plenary, summit moderator Nadine Dereza was joined on stage by Chris Foy, partnership director for the Great campaign at foreign and commonwealth office; Positive Impact managing director Fiona Pelham; and James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University.
The panel discussed a number of issues including how the event industry should go about being thought leaders in sustainability. Woudhuysen said: "We should prepare delegates for an event by circulating reading materials, treat them as grown ups."
When asked whether much action had been taken by the event industry to address sustainability issues, Pelham said: "It needs to be addressed as a community. A shared vision is needed and the passion is there to innovate. The crux point in the UK is to show that we are taking leadership."
Pelham also announced on stage the launch of the Share a Positive Impact campaign, which aims to enable the event industry to share sustainable ideas and concepts via an online portal. It comes in response to a pledge made at last year's Sustainable Events Summit which invited attendees to name a sustainable goal to achieve in the following 12 months.
Guests were then invited to sit in on a number of speaker panel sessions throughout the day, including one entitled 'We are implementing sustainability because this builds our brand', chaired by Event's news editor Samantha Edwards. Alison Ledger, news editor of sister publication C&IT chaired a panel which debated why sustainability made business sense.
Representatives from a number of brands formed the panels for the speaker sessions including Jane Culcheth Beard, head of events for western Europe at Hewlett-Packard; Dan Germain, head of creative at Innocent; and Inder Poonaji, head of sustainability at Nestle UK & Ireland.
Following a lunch break, a number of practical sessions demonstrated how delegates could create a working culture for sustainability, how they could identify their own sustainability issues and create checklists, and the systems in which they could use to measure and report on sustainability at events for their clients.
In the closing plenary summit moderator Dereza welcomed on stage journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle, who is a presenter on BBC One's The One Show and a columnist for The Observer. She also created the Observer Ethical Awards, now in their ninth year.
Siegle said she was always interested in sustainability issues from a young age and has been working on rebranding them so they appeal to the masses. "I have always wanted to write about green issues in an organic and consumer style so that it could be more accessible."
Talking about the Observer Ethical Awards, Siegle said there has always been appetite for the event, which this year returns to One Marylebone on 11 June for a second year. "The biggest challenge for an event like this is the venue. We have always needed somewhere which is credible but versatile, and there are not enough venues that are like that."
Also joining Dereza and Siegle on stage was Olympian Etienne Stott, who won the gold medal at the London 2012 Games in the canoe slalom. Stott, who is also an ambassador for sustainability charity BioRegional, said his message to the event industry would be to look at the bigger picture. "Like sport, the event industry can be very focused and draws you in. You can lose focus of the bigger picture and we need to ensure that we make this easy, accessible and smooth for people."
Rick Stainton, managing director of Smyle and co-founder of the Sustainable Events Summit, said: "We are absolutely delighted by the response and engagement shown by events professionals towards driving a more sustainable industry. The Twitter feed during the summit has been red hot and delegates have shown a real passion and understanding of the issues and their importance.
"The challenge now is for companies to implement what they’ve learned and drive a cultural change within their organisations. The will exists for more sustainable thinking. By next year’s summit, we would like to start seeing real results across the industry."
He added there was an almost 30% rise in visitor numbers at this year's summit, compared to 155 delegates who attended the 2013 summit.
Read more about the Sustainable Events Summit in our sustainability feature in the April issue of Event, which you can subscribe to here.
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