Many newspapers and business commentators have recently dedicated column space to ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – specifically to the gap between what many organisations have declared in comprehensive polished reports and their later actions. The economic crisis and the causes of it have provided much opportunity to reflect on the way modern business operates. The pariah of the corporate world this time last year was BP following one of the greatest environmental disasters in US history in the Gulf of Mexico . While many factors were no doubt involved, it is undeniable that deep sea oil drilling is a risky business and the most well intentioned companies will struggle to successfully manage every risk, everywhere. Closer to home, this year’s pariah of the CSR reporting world are Barclays, see the news here.
Having issued sustainability reports for 12 years and been very committed to a responsible business culture, Barclays had become one of the darlings of the industry but with the Libor rate scandal and subsequent 290 million British Pounds fine it’s not only Barclay’s staff that are wringing their hands. Many commentators are questioning whether Barclays have lowered the value of sustainability reporting all together. Their latest document, the Barclays Citizenship Report and 2015 strategy now lacks any credibility because statements like the opening paragraph suggesting that Barclays have a “clear sense of its business purpose – to help individuals, communities, businesses and economies progress and grow” ring entirely hollow.
Sustainability, reporting and the events industry
So what does this have to do with the events industry I hear you ask? Actually- everything. Live events are the major touchpoint between an audience and corporations, associations, governments, even musicians and sports professionals arguably. It’s one of the only times a customer, client or staff member can live and breathe the brand in the flesh and we know that every detail is important, from the venue, the sound and visuals, to content and catering. Increasingly live events drive the core marketing of new products, think IPOD unveilings in the era of Steve Jobs or even Barack Obama’s inauguration- marking the commencement of his 4 year term as president of the US. MCI helps some of the worlds biggest brands and associations create that “magic” at their live events and is increasingly helping leaders of their respective industries bring sustainability strategies to life at their events. Smart companies, most notably today in the IT industry are developing sophisticated sustainable event strategies, setting smart and measurable goals and evaluating from day one of their event planning where they can have a positive impact both on the locations where they hold events whilst taking progressive steps to reduce their negative impact through the careful monitoring and reduction of resource use and reporting honestly and clearly following the event. Arguably, I’d suggest if a company wants to create a “clear sense of its business purpose” with it’s staff, customers and stakeholders it needs to be weaving it’s corporate values into its live events. By demonstrating that sustainability is important in a tangible manner – customers and staff will understand that language turns into action. If we are to progress from abstract policies and vague statements totally disconnected from true organisational culture, mature organisations would be smart to “walk the talk” across the full spectrum of their business, from their HQs to their field of operations and most importantly whenever they gather as a group- at events.
A new era for live events
Luckily 2012 is the dawn of a new era for the sustainable event industry with the launch of the APEX ASTM Green Meeting standards, the ISO20121 Event Sustainability Management system and the GRI Event Organisers Sector Supplement planners have never before had such sophisticated tools to guide the planning, managing and final reporting on sustainable events. This year doesn’t mark the death of sustainability reporting, it merely marks the year that companies will have to face the music and really bring their promises to life. At the same time the live events industry has matured significantly and together major progress is possible. The leading companies of the world will realise that in order to turn words to actions, live events are a significant weapon in their armoury and sustainability has the power to bring brands alive, motivate and guide staff, engage customers and act more responsibly from the bottom of the organisations to the very top. If you need help bringing your sustainability commitment to life at your live events, let us know and check out our case studies here.