Good Event Guide Sustainability


Scott Jameson, GL events UK Group Managing Director

The London Olympic Games in 2012 kicked off a renewed drive for sustainability within the UK events industry, and since then the need for businesses to show consideration to their corporate and social responsibility has been the subject of increasing interest.

With the potential to build on the legacy of events like London 2012, and the introduction of sustainability standards such as ISO 20121, the demand for organisers to show care and consideration in the planning and delivery of events has never been as high as it is today.

The consumer side of this equation should not be underestimated, as people become more aware of climate change and other environmental issues (we call it the ‘Blue Planet’ effect), people’s buying decisions, and with that business activity, are being affected by the need to integrate sustainability into everyday practice. Equally, over the last decade, consumers have become more environmentally-mindful and more likely to actively pursue and prioritise those products and services whose values align with their own principles of sustainability.

Over the last decade, consumers have become more environmentally-mindful and more likely to actively pursue and prioritise those products and services whose values align with their own principles of sustainability.

So why is sustainability so important for the events industry? Last year, a number of surveys amongst corporate businesses highlighted this increasing trend, meaning brand, potential sponsors, and financers have their eye firmly on this ball. Events meanwhile, we know, have the power to affect change; to engage emotionally with large numbers of people and therefore the opportunity and responsibility to act positively. Events also play an important role within the communities they serve, so organisers need to play their part in securing a better future, by not only minimising the environmental impact of their events, but positioning sustainability at the heart of everything they do.

At GL events UK, we believe it is well within our reach to help turn our industry into an example of environmental responsibility at its best, and as a company, actively engage in a number of initiatives that seek to inspire conversations about new and innovative approaches to sustainability. In our efforts to make sustainable practice a normality, GL events UK has produced this guide as a ‘smorgasbord’ of ideas, case studies, tips and opinions that we hope will create a 360o look at what a ‘good’ event could look like. It need not be consumed whole, or even in order, so feel free to dip in and out when you need a bit of sustainable inspiration!

We hope you enjoy it.


Sustainable event management, otherwise known as ‘event greening’ is the process used to produce an event with particular concern for environmental, economic and social issues.

It is a process of applying sustainable development principles that can help minimise an event’s ecological footprint whilst ensuring that it does not impact negatively on the communities and environments involved.

Events can impact heavily on our resources, our society, and the environment, and should be organised responsibly. They can generate significant waste, put a strain on local resources like water or energy, and cause tensions in local communities; therefore, it is important that event organisers are taking the right steps to integrate sustainability into their events.


Corporate Social Responsibility

A Greener Festival
By Claire O’Neill, Co-Founder and Director

At A Greener Festival, we have been assessing and guiding events based on their environmental actions and sustainability management for over 10 years, and currently assess all event types for the Award globally. This has resulted in a detailed insight into best practice, challenges, and the importance of sharing experiences as the industry has evolved from strength to strength.

In the last decade, the event sector has moved on leaps and bounds from seeking bolt-on ‘seen to be green’ actions, and now organisers are weaving sustainability in to their event planning, delivery and review. This is not just the ethical choice, it is good business sense for smart, efficiently run events with longevity.

To help illustrate what practical evidence organisers should see to know their event is sustainable, I will use the Greener Festival Award assessment criteria as a useful structure. This is not by any means exhaustive, but hopefully a useful insight.

1) Local impacts and ecosystems

Where does your event take place? If it is within an indoor venue, does their sustainability policy align with your own? There are a number of certifications that buildings can attain, such as BREEAM, LEED, and Green Tourism. They may have attained relevant ISOs such as ISO 50001 for energy, or even ISO 20121 for sustainable event management if they are an event-specific venue. Even without Certification, you can engage with your chosen venue to find out whether they have an ethical procurements policy. Do they have low energy lighting systems? Where is their food sourced and what is the procedure for food waste? to name but a few. The key is to engage in the conversation and seek to work together to raise the bar where it is needed. Aim for your event to leave a positive legacy wherever it goes, and to continually learn from any good processes and procedures you encounter.

If you are in an outdoor space, be it greenfield or urban, you may require a Biodiversity Impact Assessment. This can identify high-risk areas and provide guidance to minimise any potential negative impacts of the event taking place. There have been many instances of events altering the location of stages and event dates owing to nesting cycles for example.

It is important that the event understand the site that they are working with. The event should have a plan for managing spillages, potentially as part of a broader pollution incident response plan. It is important to note that substances such as beer and dairy can be pollutants – as well as the more obvious oils, fuels and solvents.

Has the local community been engaged with the event, not only in gaining permissions for licensing, but also as participant, contributors, and with feedback surveys post event? The local community will know best how the event can impact the area both positively and negatively so an open dialogue is key – especially in temporary event spaces. Whether the community is happy with your event taking place is a very good indicator of your local area impact.

Buildings sustainability certifications

2) Travel and transport

Clearly part of the event is implementing a successful travel and transport plan which prioritises low carbon movement of the audience, production and artists/exhibitors/talent, the results can be seen in how people arrive to the site. Do you monitor the modes of transport for each of these groups? This can be done by use of surveys both on-site and post event. Ticket data can be utilised, as well as artist liaison records for example.

Are local suppliers and artists sought where possible to minimise mileage associated with the event? On-site is low carbon transport utilised for example bikes, electric buggies, walking? Are lift share schemes promoted and have locations been chosen for their good public transport links? If public transport is poor what provisions has the event or venue made to help (e.g. shuttles from nearest train stations/cities)? How are the audiences or participants incentivised to use public transport?

3) Power

Has your overall power use and, if relevant, fuel usage been monitored, including peak and average use in KW? We have found in recent years that many generators are being run at less than 30% capacity. This means a huge amount of fuel – and hence money is burned and wasted. Powerful Thinking has released a Smart Energy for Festival and Outdoor Events Guide which gives the latest actions for improving this issue. DGTL festival with ZAP Concepts in the Netherlands is a great example of a Smart power plan that was implemented to result in an 80% cost saving on fuel and a 98% saving on CO2 emissions!

Even if you are using mains power are you using a green tariff provider, are you monitoring usage and seeing where savings can be made – and is it reducing each year? There are a number of events that have been running on 100% renewable energy for quite some time. They have become experts in finding the most energy efficient equipment to deliver their shows without compromising artistic integrity.

If using generators or other temporary power sources correct specification of exact power needs is key, to avoid waste and save money.

4) Solid waste and recycling

The event has a policy for re-using or recycling materials used by the event. The use of non-recyclable containers for either food or drink is a clear sign to anyone attending that no steps have been taken to minimise environmental impact. A waste management plan should be a collaboration between all vendors, organisers, venue and waste contractor taking into account all inputs and hence the process and destination for final outputs.

Organisers should seek a waste transfer note and/or weighbridge ticket from the waste contractor post-event, or if in a venue with collections from the Local Authority seek information about the events waste figures. Understand where the waste goes, and what this really means for your recycling. For example, if 80% of the event waste is taken to a facility for recycling, this does not mean that 80% is recycled. If it is taken to a Mechanical Refuse Facility for example, it might have an average recycling rate of 20% with the remainder incinerated for energy with organic waste anaerobically digested. The waste hierarchy should be applied to all waste management plans. This is a legal requirement in the UK – Prevention, Preparation for Reuse, Recycling, Other recovery, then disposal.

Where provisions are made for separating waste streams at source (the best way for quality outputs with higher recycling rates), bins should be marked very clearly and always stationed in groups (e.g. recycling with general waste – not stand alone).

5) Water usage

To understand the impact of water usage of the event first we need to know where the water is coming from and how it is supplied to the event site. Is it mains water in a venue or driven in tankers for a temporary event for example. If water is abstracted specifically for the event, has a permit been provided by the Environment Agency or equivalent regulatory body, and has the impact of abstraction of water on the local environment been considered and monitored?

Whilst some events know their overall water use, monitors can also be used to help understand more precisely where water is being used and hence where savings can be made. Does the venue or contractor provide water efficient taps and showers for example, and is grey water reused? If the venue is in a country with regular rainfall and has rainwater capture that is used within the building, this is a huge win.

6) Organisation and documentation

The event should have a Sustainability Policy that extends to all areas of operation and to all staff and contractors, which is endorsed by the organisers at board level, and backed up by an action plan to ensure that it is implemented in practice on the ground. There should be a clear chain of responsibility to ensure that the policies are actioned and reviewed and those with a position for driving this should have the authority to effectively do so.

Those in a position of upholding the events sustainability policies should also be suitably trained and informed about the latest actions, issues and best practice within the relevant field. It’s important that resources are applied to this. Whilst being a well-managed ‘green’ event will save money in many areas in both the short and long term, it is important that the suitable resources are put behind it through staffing and training to ensure it is effective and to avoid all talk and no action.

7) CO2 analysis

In order to monitor the above in a quantitative way, it is useful for the event to monitor and measure its CO2e emissions. This will help set an internal benchmark for the event itself, but will also help provide industry benchmarking if it is shared. It is important to be aware of the methodology to see where figures are comparable. AGF provide services and methodology for detailed CO2 analysis for festivals, events, venues and service providers. Organisations such as Julies Bicycle, Event Impacts, Green Tourism, HCMI provide online tools in the UK. Many events also take in-depth CO2 analysis studies in house or with environmental consultants.

This is a brief insight into some of the actions and indicators to see whether your event is achieving its sustainability aspirations. It is not exhaustive, but it is also not necessary to achieve everything all at once. If there are areas that your event simply cannot change, focus on where you can have a positive and meaningful impact and talk with your stakeholders and industry about the challenges. There is not a one size fits all and we are learning all the time.

Applying for the Greener Festival Award, Greener Event Award or Greener Venue Award is a way to assess your events actions and effectiveness, to celebrate the wins, to identify where improvements can be made, and to receive recommendations from a decade of experience in global assessment of event sustainability.

To get involved, get in touch!

The future of business
Kate Sandle, Head of Community, B Lab UK

Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and charities alone. Consumers and investors are demanding more accountability and transparency. As a result of these demands, the role of business is expanding.

Our planet and society are in desperate need of attention. If we don’t change our habits, if we ignore the warning signs, our future generations will not forgive us. Yet we still insist on using plastic at every occasion. A material that will still be around for our children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s children (450 years).

We as businesses, society, consumers and individuals, need to change. We are at the beginning of the most important trend of our lifetime: to use business as a force for good.

B Lab UK (the charity behind B Corporation movement) recognises this culture shift and is building a community of leaders who are accelerating this movement and redefining business success. Certified B Corps voluntarily hold themselves to account by measuring their environmental and social performance and making their efforts public for everyone to see. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.

What we need are small steps toward a better world. Certified B Corps are not perfect - but they have met high standards and are committed to improving their impact. This external validation helps businesses to attract and retain the best talent, learn from values-aligned companies and seek mission-aligned investment.
Just as plants lean towards the sun, businesses, from start-ups to public companies, are leaning into these changing demands. There are now over 2,700 B Corps globally, across 150 industries in over 60 countries - all with one unifying goal - to use business as a force for good.

Want to know what small steps you can do? Use our free and #BtheChange

What is B Corp?

B Corporation is an initiative that provides certification and credibility for businesses that advocate change for good. It measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance, assessing the impact of an organisation’s business model on its workers, the community, the environment and its customers. Its certification proves your business is meeting the highest standard of verified performance and acts as a powerful way to build credibility, trust, and value whilst enabling the company to be recognised as a leader of conscious thinking and a trailblazer for positive change.

What is B Corp?

Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that balance purpose and profit. They are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
They meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

How to become a B Corp?

To certify as a B Corp you need to complete the B Impact Assessment and get a minimum score. Find out how your business can meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance.

Read more >

GL events UK sustainability survey

Sustainability has been something woven through the DNA of GL events UK for quite some time and in support of our campaign to drive the topic of sustainability through the events industry, we conducted a short survey that looked at the prospect of sustainability and where the pressure upon individuals and organisations is coming from. The survey was conducted over a six-week period targeting professionals across the events industry involved in conferences, exhibitions, festivals and other outdoor events.

The results of the campaign showed that over 75% of all respondents believed that the subject of sustainable events and quality CSR practice will continue to rise in importance over the next 12 months.

It also showed that over half of all respondents believe that the core values of either a business or a specific event are the main driving factor for organisations who continue to focus on sustainable issues.

75% of all respondents believed that the subject of sustainable events and quality CSR practice will continue to rise in importance over the next 12 months.

For many within the industry, sustainability commitments have never really gone away, but there seems to be a renewed energy towards it. The survey showed that this is a prevailing thought that many are sharing across the industry.

Clearly, the industry has a desire to inspire change, but ultimately it comes down to the core values of the business, the event and the people involved in them, something the majority of respondents chose as a key motivational factor. The second most important motivational factor for implementing change, according to survey applicants, was the changing of legislation.

Finally, the survey showed that the industry is looking at a wide range of sustainable issues beyond just being green and the reduction of the carbon footprint, which scored the highest, and looking deeper to include other important strategies like a sustainable workforce, looking after local communities, developing young talent and responsible sourcing.

Consumer expectations
of sustainability
Nick Morgan, We are the Fair

Social and environmental awareness is not just ‘on-trend', but in fact is fast becoming a cornerstone of mass tourism, and this needs to be looked at as a holistic, pragmatic long-term approach that manages the environmental, social and financial risks across people, planet and profit.

Realistically, when looking at sustainability and CSR in the events/festival sector, there is still a long way to go. Running festivals, like large scale events, is a supply chain. There are a lot of people and businesses involved in that process and when one of those contributors, for example suppliers, is not thinking consciously, then it becomes extremely difficult to honour your sustainable principles.

We are noticing a change within the festival environment – sustainability is becoming key in the thought processes behind staging an event that has large impacts on the economy and the environment. These changes are largely coming from the landowners/venue owners themselves, particularly the savvy ones, who are providing a more flexible, but specific set of sustainable guidelines that need to be adhered to; for example, being able to bring your own water vessels, or supplying reusable water bottles etc.

We are noticing a change within the festival environment – sustainability is becoming key in the thought processes behind staging an event that has large impacts to the economy and the environment.

We also need to consider the changing expectations of audiences and ensure that we as an industry, whose responsibility is to cater to the needs of consumers, are meeting these.

In the last four to five years of We are the Fair, we have been noticing a significant change in the expectations of consumers, who are now increasingly looking towards the wellbeing of the planet. Audiences are thinking more consciously, opting to ride bikes to the festival as opposed to driving, and it’s really important that we are engaging and meeting these expectations – we now provide bike parks and extra security to monitor them. Similarly, consumer consciousness means they are buying more carefully, which is why it’s important to try to promote a greener business.

Whilst audiences today want their brands/events to be conscientious towards their CSR and are excited about the prospects of sustainability, they are also a generation of instant gratification. They want immediate results. If something hinders or slows this down, they aren’t interested and this is an important thought that also needs to be considered in the process of making an event/festival greener. Yes, it’s important that we are contributing to a better planet, and we should do as much as we can to support this. However, we are part of an experience economy and we have to be asking whether certain sustainability actions are impeding the experience of the event.

One of the greatest opportunities as festival organisers in mitigating climate change is to use our voice/platform to communicate with audiences, highlighting issues, leading by example and both inspiring and normalising ideas about sustainability. What’s holding us back? Fear of increased costs, lack of resources, lack of expertise in sustainable approaches.

Events may not always be able to be truly sustainable, but we as event organisers should always strive to ensure we are doing our part in making the world a better place. Showing that you care is extremely important. We must be thinking consciously, not just for profitability and to meet consumer expectations, but because in order to thrive in a busy industry, we need to stand out as an advocate for positivity.

Festival impact statistics

The statistics/infographics have been taken from:
Powerful Thinking – Environmental Report And Vision For The UK Festival Industry
Read more >

How to organise a
sustainable event
Top Tips by Selina Donald

1) Start thinking

Going green doesn’t need to be a headache, especially if you plan ahead. There are a variety of different areas within the event production process that you can improve on, from venues to catering, to waste and overall production. As an organiser, you are responsible for making your events more sustainable so you need to be thinking outside the box and asking the right questions.

How can you minimise the impact of your event? What actions need to be taken to start the process of going green? Before you can improve the event’s efforts towards sustainability, take a look at your event, work out your impact and ask yourself how you can then try to minimise them?

2) Start planning

Take your event to the next level and set realistic sustainability goals for the business. Analyse all the different areas within the event process and come up with a plan that shows how you are going to achieve these goals, ensuring you choose the right person to see this through. Remember, going green is a commitment and if you want it to work, it needs to encompass your entire event culture. Consider how you will measure success and how you will communicate it publicly.

3) Involve your supply chain

Depending on the type of event or service you are running, delegate certain sustainability tasks to your suppliers or contractors. Ensure your stakeholders are thinking about what they can be doing to be sustainable when interacting with your event. How can you get them to help you achieve good sustainability? For example, if you have outsourced a power contractor, ask them to measure how much energy you are using during the event. Introduce formalities into your contracts that specifically asks them to carry out their service conscientiously. Try and encourage sustainability in their business as well!

4) Start simple, go paperless

This is a simple, yet powerful way to make a large impact. Opt for paperless processes throughout the business. Try to incorporate online registrations and ticketing systems as these are great ways to cut down on the amount of paper you are using. Rather than print out programmes or other information booklets, look at creating an app or set up a webpage. These programmes allow you to communicate details of the event clearly and quickly, as well as being mindful of the environment. Involve your audience in this as well, tell them what you’re doing and why, and ask them for your support.

5) Catering

When planning an event, it is extremely important to ensure your catering is as sustainable as possible. Try to consider seasonal or locally sourced food and make sure that you confirm the number of attendees accurately and adjust food quantities accordingly to reduce food wastage. Events are notorious for wasting food and you need to be thinking about where you can donate it to or what you can do with it afterwards. Try to involve your suppliers in this process. Ask that they deliver all food on-site in bulk to reduce transport costs.

Have you thought about water? Do you offer tap water to drink to save on transportation of bottled water and recycling of bottles? If bottled water is unavoidable, buy water in biodegradable corn-based bottles or, as a last resort, ensure the bottles are recycled.

6) Venue – transportation and location

Choosing the right venue and location is vital to the sustainability of your event. Taking into account both attendees and staff, there are a lot of ways you can be cutting down your carbon footprint. Try to use venues that have a sustainable or environmental policy of their own because they will be more likely to cooperate with you and your sustainable goals. Gather information regarding the venue’s sustainability policies. For example, their use of energy, their recycling facilities, their water efficiency and their in-house suppliers

7) Event waste

This is one of the most important areas in your sustainability efforts. After attendees have left, the site is usually filled with a lot of rubbish which can be damaging to the environment, and cause an uproar with the venue or land-owners. Are you recycling waste after an event? If there is no system in place, can you organise a separate recycling company to pick this up? Are there enough bins dotted around to help encourage people to recycle and to reduce waste?

8) Event production

With the advancements and growth in technology today, there are many ways you can save on power to make a more sustainable event; minimising your footprint. Ask the event production team or your suppliers/contractors how you can be using less energy at your event. This can help the environment and be extremely cost-effective

9) Ease into it

In reality, jumping on the sustainable event trend is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time and strong management. You are trying to affect your event culture after all. Be patient, start small, collect your resources and be sure to ask the right questions to the right people. Just be sure not to lose sight of the event experience itself and the reasons why you created the event in the first place

10) Make positive change – market your success

Finally, share your sustainable achievements with the world. Let them know the changes you are making to help save the planet. Remember that change starts with you. It only takes one person to make a positive impact, so really embrace it. The decisions we make today will impact the future of the planet and as an industry that can lead this charge, we should make it our responsibility to take care of the world.

Shambala Festival
The first greenfield festival to go meat and fish free

The Shambala family festival, set in the heart of the Northamptonshire countryside, is perhaps one of the leading examples of how festivals can successfully merge the worlds of creativity and sustainability.

The organisation actively prioritises and promotes its commitment to sustainability, health and wellness, through various workshops, and uses its platform as a leader for innovating positive change. Its commitment to sustainability has resonated through its audiences and the wider festival community having been awarded with several accolades. Shambala is committed to being as environmentally friendly as possible, imprinting this through the DNA of everything they do, and the decisions they make and as a result has successfully reduced its carbon footprint by over 80%. This success also includes achieving a 100% renewable power and the eradication of disposable plastic.

The organisation’s ambition to reform the festival’s contribution to the environment is paving the way for other festivals to rethink their approach.

In 2016, Shambala was the first greenfield festival to go completely meat and fish free. It recognised the impact that the festival food supply chain could have, and also how important our diets are. The organisers believed that consumption of meat is a significant cause of environmental damage, as well as land degradation, deforestation and ocean pollution, not to mention being the cause for more greenhouse emissions, from the global transportation of meat. This led them to make the decision as part of their commitment to their audience. As well as opting for good quality food and ethical food sourcing, Shambala imposed strict food policies which food contractors and suppliers would adhere to.

Shambala has successfully reduced its carbon footprint by over 80%.

Such policies included things like serving 100% organic milk and dairy, only using free range and organic eggs, and using only UK or European fruit and veg.

The organisers knew the risks of alienating audiences by going completely meat-free. However, according to figures collected after one year of being veggie, the decision has been largely well received with 77% of respondents of their post-event survey voting to keep Shambala meat and fish free – the following year, this rose to 94%!

This is only the beginning of their journey to explore the complexity of sustainable food. They have since hosted multiple workshops, debates and initiatives that looked at other important food topics such as sustainable meat/protein sources, and the ethics behind eating the invasive species that have pushed some of our wildlife to extinction.

Good Food

Food production, consumption and transportation have a serious impact on the environment and managing this process can go a long way to reducing the environmental impact of an event. In order to minimise the impacts often caused by food and drink, here are a few important things to consider:

Food transportation

Food miles, the distance from producer to user, should be taken into account when looking at how you can reduce the impact of your food on the environment. This not only includes the delivery on-site, but the transportation associated with the production of food, particularly if food is being sourced from overseas. There are two main ways to tackle this: using fresh produce that is in season and sourcing only locally-made food. This will require less energy and can therefore reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

Supporting the local economy

Sustainable food is not just about considering the distance which the food travels, but whether it can impact the health of the local economy too. Purchasing local food helps to support the local economy, maintaining, creating and protecting jobs. It can also help to sustain growth within the area, particularly for local farmers and produce suppliers.

Reduce food waste

One of the biggest problems with food in events is the amount of waste, post-event. There is nothing worse than running out of food at an event, so we will always over order. Try to calculate how much food you will need in accordance with the number of visitors you have. If you know you will have a lot of food waste, pre-plan where or how you are going to dispose of this sustainably.

Add variation and think about health

As society becomes more health conscious and more aware of wellbeing, the demand for food that is both fresh and healthy is becoming a prevalent trend amongst the event-attending public. We are witnessing a shift in the expectation of consumers who now want better catering and more food options. Sourcing fresh ingredients can not only support the local economy and local farmers, but can also provide health benefits as fresher food is always higher in nutritional value.

Choose biodegradable cutlery and plates

Switch out your usual cutlery and crockery for biodegradable cutlery and crockery. This will make a huge difference to the event’s carbon footprint, reducing the energy of cleaning, and minimising overall waste.

Food recycling and rubbish

Food waste and recycling is one of the biggest problems in landfill. It is extremely important that you look at ways to tackle this. Make sure you have enough bins onsite and make sure you provide both recycling bins and general waste bins. This will encourage people to recycle where they can. Ensure that you have an appropriate action in place for disposing of any waste you have left over.

Glasgow European
Championships 2018
Rachel Baker, GL events UK Group Marketing Manager

For GL events UK, sustainability is more than just green issues. Increasingly, we believe that legacy is an increasingly important part of how event planners view their effects on the communities they serve. A good example of this is the work we did with The European Championships in Glasgow in 2018.

The Glasgow 2018 European Championships was a new multi-sport event concept that combined athletics and golf and was held over the period of 11 days in two host cities, Berlin and Glasgow.

Glasgow 2018 was keen to maximise the legacy impact of the championships within the local communities and wanted their partnerships to do the same, and as the official supplier for overlay - production and infrastructure - across the site, GL events UK wanted to support a cause that they too were extremely passionate about.

It was important for us to contribute to the legacy of the games, not only through a topic that’s relevant to us, but because sustainability is a topic relevant to the events industry as a whole.

With the focus on Glasgow, and as part of the company’s commitment to sustainable practices, GL events UK partnered with the local Queen Margaret University, to give up and coming event students the experience of a lifetime to work behind the scenes of the event, as part of the event’s volunteer programme.

It was important for us to contribute to the legacy of the games, not only through a topic that’s relevant to us, but because sustainability is a topic relevant to the events industry as a whole. The initiative with the University was a great success that both supported the local community whilst giving students a truly unique opportunity to be a part of something as big as the European Championships.

The feedback received from the students was really positive with the volunteers finding the experience both enriching and fulfilling.

Volunteers Josselyn Tarazona and Timothy Carlsen, with David Tunnicliffe, Commercial Director, GL events UK Volunteers Josselyn Tarazona and Timothy Carlsen, with David Tunnicliffe, Commercial Director, GL events UK
Case Study
A festival with a conscience

WOMAD, the world of music, art and dance is a multicultural phenomenon that promotes a plethora of worthy causes. The festival has always prided itself as an industry leader in its efforts towards minimising its environmental footprint, and strives towards becoming a zero-waste landfill festival.

A festival with a conscience, WOMAD not only offers a colourful mix of entertainment and culture, it also shows tremendous passion for the planet. The international celebration features a diverse programme that aims to educate its audiences, raising attention to important societal issues such as wellbeing, sustainability and the environment. Through a host of campaigns, debates and workshops, WOMAD has partnered with leading sustainable organisations such as Greenpeace and Ecotricity to both support and share their initiatives for important topics like deforestation and Carbon Offsetting.

As an international festival, with a large set of green policies, WOMAD works alongside local organisations to ensure sustainability is tailored to the surrounding community and, as an advocate for positive change, hopes to provide a benchmark for other festivals to aspire to.

As an international festival, with a large set of green policies, WOMAD works alongside local organisations to ensure sustainability is tailored to the surrounding community and, as an advocate for positive change, hopes to provide a benchmark for other festivals to aspire to.

Since its inception in 2003, WOMAD has made huge strides in the festival industry’s movement to sustainability, and was the first major festival to employ the ‘FRANK Water Free Fill’ initiative in 2010. The scheme encouraged attendees to use Free Fill bottles, sold at the event that then enabled them to refill their bottles with chilled, filtered water. Apart from reducing the amount of waste produced at festivals, the initiative gives all profits made from the purchase of the bottles to clean water projects in developing countries.

Today, WOMAD continues to lead the charge for greener festivals, innovating the industry’s integration of sustainability and minimising the festival impact.

Case Study
Tiger Tea (TTK Welfare)
Looking after event audiences

As wellbeing continues to rise in importance, not just within the events industry but across the world, it is more critical now than ever to ensure the welfare of the event attendees. Sustainable events are not just about caring for the environment, but for the wellbeing of the event’s audiences.

This is about providing an experience that is both enjoyable and above all, safe. Festivals suffer from adverse publicity around the use of drugs, alcohol and the amount of crime that takes place at some events.

Tiger Tea (TTK Welfare) a wellness organisation that focuses on the health and safety of festival attendees across all ages, was formed by Linda Krawecke upon the recognition that event attendees would benefit from receiving emotional and personal support during large events and festivals. TTK provides a ‘safe and sheltered’ place onsite, free from judgement, where teens and young adults can be supported for distress over issues such as drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse.

This is about providing an experience that is both enjoyable and above all, safe. Festivals suffer from adverse publicity around the use of drugs, alcohol and the amount of crime that takes place at some events.

Since its inception, TTK has partnered with leading festivals such as Brighton Pride, Mutiny in the Park and Sundown Festival, to provides onsite support and guidance for those who find themselves in distressing situations.

The organisation also provides other festival services such as alerting systems for lost children, supporting ID checks and lost property and health and safety consultancy. TTK believes that prioritising the welfare of attendees at times of distress is integral to the sustainability of an event and its legacy.

Case Study
Hay Festival
Sustainable at the core

Hay Festival brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. With sustainability at the core of the organisation, Hay Festival inspires, examines and entertains its participants through on-stage debates and a programme of managing and mitigating its environmental impact.

The festival’s mission is to promote a greener festival through its ‘Hay on Earth’ programme, a sustainability-focused series of events that explore current issues, new developments and technical advances in the field of sustainability.

Hay Festival

Photo: Joseph Albert Hainey

For the last 10 years, Hay Festival has put particular focus on developing a festival that takes care of its energy, waste, transport procurement and venues, and since the introduction of their ‘greenprint’ for improving their sustainability, has shown tremendous achievements. The festival now uses 100% renewable energy and has introduced other impactful changes like the composting of food waste and is seeing an increase in recycling of waste produced at the festival.

The festival’s mission is to promote a greener festival through its ‘Hay on Earth’ programme, a sustainability-focused series of events that explore current issues, new developments and technical advances in the field of sustainability.

Further to this, the festival adopted the use of water standpipes so that audiences could refill their drinking bottles which helped reduce the waste of containers significantly. More recently, Hay Festival switched to reusable beer and wine glasses and was the first festival to trial a new, reusable hot drink cup system. Hay Festival also offered discounts to guests who bought their own cups and bottles.

Looking beyond its environmental impacts, Hay on Earth also prioritises its social and financial impacts and prides itself on selecting the partners who share a similar ethos. For example, the festival worked with the Woodland Trust and the National Trust to plant 30 acres of woodland, providing free tickets for students in tertiary education and therefore supporting the local community. They also host a selection of panels and workshops that discuss important matters like feminism, education and neurodiversity.

Hay Festival continues to develop ideas and practice in sustainability and believes that debate increases awareness, and good practice increases change in the local communities, in business and in society. As a pioneer in the seamless integration of sustainability into the festival scene, Hay Festival continues to share its successes thereby inspiring others to do the same.

Hay Festival Giant Letters

Photo: Elisabeth Broekaert


There is no purple guide, text book or ‘bible’ on how to create a sustainable event. All we can do as event professionals who care, is approach our next event with the right attitude, and for us at GL events UK, this is about wanting to be ‘good’. This guide includes so many amazing examples of great practice at great events, and ideas that demonstrate how the right attitude can achieve so much when implemented positively and openly.

The overused cliché is that we take small steps, and this is nowhere more true than in the case of ‘good’ events – any positive initiative is, of course, a step in the right direction. However, as an industry, we have the opportunity to do so much more. We have a public that is open to ideas and changes that show care and consideration for the world we live in; a community of people that we can affect and lead; and an industry that cares deeply. It means we can try bold ideas like the ones articulated in this guide.

‘Good’ is such an all-encompassing word, but it is the right one. For us, ‘good’ means doing things the right way, for the right reasons. It’s also about everyday attitude, not just big, bold actions. After all, at the heart of most event professionals is the desire to do ‘good’ work, and for it to contribute positively to the people and the world around us.

Here at GL events UK, we’re humbled to have received many accolades for the work we’ve done in the world of sustainability, so it’s something we feel duty bound to continue. We hope the wider events industry continues in its own efforts as well.

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