By Hilary Bradley, Client Services Director, Undercurrent
The internet is filled with articles on why sustainability is an important consideration for experiential campaigns. But the issue with these articles is that the ‘why’ is always the focus. They neglect the ‘how’ and leave readers who care about the environment confused about what they need to do to make a difference.
Below is a ‘how-to guide’ of practical tips to reduce experiential’s environmental impact. Whether you decide to implement them all or begin with just a few, every step taken is a valuable one.
We all know that the temptation of ‘free stuff’ draws consumers into your experience which is great until you remember that these giveaways result in thousands of non-recyclable items being produced only to be thrown out just days after. Consider if you really need to offer anything physical. Could it be replaced by a shareable social takeaway (like a photo) or a digital voucher? If you do want to stick with a physical giveaway, ensure it’s not single-use, for example, good quality branded tote bags or reusable coffee cup will benefit the environment and your brand!
The onus on sustainability has revitalized the market for locally sourced goods made responsibly. Not only are these small businesses environmentally minded, but by using local suppliers, you’ll cut down on carbon emissions from shipping and help create jobs in your local area.
Before you go ahead and print thousands of leaflets, consider if a digital solution be used to spread your message instead? Brand Ambassadors can still be used to strike up a face-to-face conversation with consumers, but the takeaway could be digital instead.
There are other physical alternatives too though. Our WWF Fight for Nature Campaign used seed paper leaflets dyed with vegetable ink to spread the message about an upcoming March on parliament. Once people had finished using the leaflets, they could plant them in the soil and watch wildflowers grow.
A large centerpiece or stand is often key to an experiential campaign and so needs to be looked at through a sustainability lens too. Can the materials used be recycled, or could you adapt something you already have? Good for the planet and good for your clients’ budgets too.
If you are creating something new, use FsC-certified materials so you know it’s been responsibly sourced. FSC is currently the only certification system that ensures environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests. For paint and print, there are vegetable dyes that can be used to produce strong signage without chemicals.
Travel and Logistics
It might sound like a no-brainer, but often the environmental impact is not considered when it comes to travel and logistics. When scheduling multi-site tours, look at the journey plan and make it as efficient as possible by grouping local areas together and ensuring you are traveling from start to endpoint without looping back on yourself. Where possible use local staff to activate your events cutting down the travel mileage and prioritize public transport.
Transporting event kit is trickier – electric vehicles large enough aren’t widely available to hire yet. However, there are loads of fantastic carbon emission offset schemes available to help calculate the emissions based on your vehicle and mileage and suggest a donation to offset the impact. It’s a lot cheaper than you think and a great way to support environmental charities.
If you’re serving food at your event consider moving towards a plant-based menu, whether that’s vegan, vegetarian, or reducing the amount of meat served. This has been adopted by many events recently: the Oscars Nominee Luncheon, for example, was completely vegan. The Drum Social Good Awards ceremony came with vegetarian meals as standard and guests had to ask for a ‘special meal’ if they wanted to be served meat.
The industry is all too aware of its environmental impact, so taking steps to reduce everything from plastic and non-recyclable materials to fuel emissions and food wastage is of the highest priority. Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability is a pivotal part of succeeding in events. Recalibrating your approach and delivering events in a more environmentally conscious way, whether you choose to implement all of the above steps or just some, will be a game-changer.