The other sides of sustainability
The word sustainable has become synonymous with ‘going green’ and being eco-friendly. Whilst that is a huge part of it, sustainability means a whole lot more. There are in fact 3 parts to it – environmental, social and economical sustainability, or if you prefer – people, profit and the planet.
The best way to think about it is through the eyes of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This framework lays out 17 different goals, which if achieved, is designed to provide ‘a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity, now and into the future’.
So what are these goals and how do they fall out into the 3 buckets of sustainability?
There is understandably a lot of cross over – sustainable cities and communities would tap into people, profit and the planet, affordable and clean energy would be profit and planet – there is a lot of connection. The key point here is, there is more to sustainability than just reducing our reliance on single use plastics or planting trees to offset carbon emissions.
Here are a few you may not be as familiar with….
- Good Health & Wellbeing
The health and wellbeing of all people, at all ages lies at the heart of sustainable development. This includes everything from prevention and treatment of disease, as well as mental health issues, stress and addiction. Applied to the event industry, this means looking after everyone involved in your event, from your delegates through to your event crew on site. Event management is the 5th most stressful job after all, so remember to look after everyone working on your event from your technicians, production, venue staff and caterers – keeping them fed and watered throughout the long days and giving regular breaks, is essential – happy crew, happy event.
How can your venue support and promote wellbeing? Is there natural lighting or are there recreational spaces to get fresh air throughout the day? What food is being served? Events now offer wellbeing lounges with massages and superfood smoothies during the networking breaks. Also think about your event agenda, how long are your sessions between breaks? Lots of short sessions, with energizers in between are far more impactful and beneficial to the attendee, and not only that, but they will be more engaged in your event. How will you build wellbeing into your next event?
- Gender Equality
Women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and inequality in all corners of the globe – that needs to be eradicated for a peaceful and sustainable world to exist. This goal is all about inclusivity and ensuring gender balance including equal access to education and work opportunities, equal representation in political and economic decision making processes, equal pay and rights under law and an end to all violence inflicted upon women and girls. By investing in the empowerment of women, we not only achieve this SDG, but also drive economic growth.
So in the event sphere, how can you successfully promote gender equality? Start by celebrating women and the role of women in your business. Can you run certain sessions at your event to promote women in the industry? Or perhaps a specific event just for women to celebrate their invaluable contribution? If you have a discussion session, ensure that you have equal representation of speakers on your panel to reflect that gender equality. And don’t forget to talk about what you are doing. As with anything in the sustainability realm, always communicate what you are doing, raise the issue, raise the profile and encourage others to follow suit.
- Partnerships for the Goals
This goal spans the whole sustainable journey and I think is the most important one as it connects everyone involved in driving these developments. Think suppliers, governments, businesses, venues, communities – this goal reflects the complex network of people all working together to drive this positive change. A shared vision and shared values are essential.
Consider your next event. Who are you working with to bring this event together? Do they share your goals and vision for the event? If not, find people that do. Educate them on the necessity of sustainable development and work with innovative companies that share your passion. The key thing is to also communicate – share your ideas with your network, what has worked, what could have been better – share your contacts, share your ideas. This isn’t a competitive field – we are all fighting for the same goal, if more people join us, that can only be a good thing.
I could chat on about this for days, and these are just 3 of the lesser well know goals! The key takeaway is, you don’t need to do everything! No pun intended – but that’s not sustainable! Hilarious.
These 17 goals, have a further 169 sub-goals each with 1-3 indicators to measure progress. That is complex and crazy complicated. But don’t panic. Look at the goals and think about what which ones would work for you in your business and your event. Maybe pick 2 or 3 and have a go. Some people may feel super ambitious and think ‘I want to make my next event zero waste’ – whilst very admirable, that is extremely hard to achieve. Zero waste is classified as 90% diversion to landfill (be wary of anyone claiming anything higher than that) but regardless, say you try it and come in at 30% diversion, that is still incredible and will make a huge difference.
The key message – keep it simple, keep it manageable and be authentic. And don’t forget to measure what you are doing and share the impact you are having! Good luck!