You’d be within your rights if, as an event professional, you were feeling a bit Fatigued with the idea of “green events” and “event sustainability”. I mean it’s been at least 10 years of money saving tips, volunteer kit-making, recycling programs, carbon offsets and local, organic food: are we done yet?
Fortunately, and unfortunately, no.
While these various efforts have helped us take good steps forward, they’ve also reinforced the Fence around the sustainability silo. The bolt-on approach has delivered the comfortable feeling of doing “something” while delaying deeper actions that address more material and difficult issues. Sustainability has become a piece of Flair we add when it is convenient and appropriate to the audience.
Low-hanging Fruit, like eliminating water bottles and reducing paper, while nice, fall short of the benefits systematic consideration of sustainability can help achieve. One step we can take to elevate our impact is to change the traditional “people – planet – profit” mantra that has been the hallmark of event sustainability education for several years now. Not that our focus should divert from these three important things, but sometimes choosing to use new language can shift your perspective and propel you to a more strategic outcome. So let’s, for a moment, choose to see sustainability as an F-word:
- Development of immunities that promote resilience from diverse risks, including those both reputational and climatic.
- Diligence about reducing waste and being most efficient and fair with resources of all types, human, environmental and economic.
- Leveraging more value from products and services by ensuring they reflect environmental, social and fiscal priorities.
- Caring for stakeholders by asking more questions, and measuring new and different results that go beyond business-as-usual.
- Fuelling inspiration that establishes and nurtures our connection to each other.
- Designing experiences that provoke and move us to action, which make our organizations, communities and very selves better.
- Embracing the technological solutions participants seek that permit them to attend on their own terms, even when that means not in-person.
- Adapting to hone skills that expand our perspective as in-person experience creators, to also be strategy enablers and community-builders.
- Seeking and responding to the diverse cultures, perspectives, values and issues that are important to those we serve, and are yet to serve.
So I for one am going to free myself to think a little less about the somewhat worn-out term “sustainability”, and more about how what we do as event professionals builds Fitness, evokes Feeling and prepares us for a better Future.