Many successful organisations have identified sustainability as a top trategic priority and have initiated steps to integrate sustainable development principles into the management of their events. Leadership on the journey towards sustainability is frequently started from the bottom up and reinforced from the top down. Sustainability champions in the lower ranks of the organisation often identify opportunities which align with well-defined organisational vision, purpose and principles and deliver innovations which improve the performance of the event. Senior management demonstrates clear commitment and provides sufficient resources to deliver on the integrated sustainability objectives.
A 2009 Green Winners report from AT Kearney consultancy revealed that companies with a well-defined commitment to sustainability were companies who were also leaders in financial performance. The study highlighted that in 16 out of 18 industry sectors, sustainability leaders out performed sector peers by 15% throughout the economic crisis. These leaders demonstrated:
• A focus on long-term strategy, not just short-term gains.
• Strong corporate governance.
• Sound risk-management practices.Good sustainable event management leadership is characterised by four key traits:
A clear compelling vision of sustainable success, shared by fellow members of the core event team. The ability to communicate and engage people at all levels of the organisation.
The incorporation of values and principles into the organisation and development of an event is of the utmost importance. Principles act as signposts to guide good decision making and strategic development. Most organisations have brand values, but event managers frequently fail to align their event strategy with these. With thoughtfully defined and communicated sustainability principles, event project managers can easily adopt more internationally accepted sustainability practices and incorporate these into their event mission and strategy. Excellent examples of widely recognised sustainability principles can be seen at:
Visionary leadership understands how the three elements of sustainability, social, environmental and economic, fit together for optimum long-term results. They fully realise that good environmental and social performance, combined with correct incorporation of sustainability principles, can help deliver positive returns which benefit society and local communities. Events that out perform their sustainability targets have leadership which understand that there is a bigger purpose to their actions, and who then seize on the opportunities that are presented to catalyse innovation.
The path to event sustainability is a journey that requires persistence, effort and, above all, unflagging commitment. The latter is demonstrated through the dedication of financial resources and the investment of management time to develop sustainability knowledge through training, coaching and research. Leaders committed to sustainability create an business culture that cultivates social responsibility, innovation and a more balanced approach to profitable business.
Creating a Sustainability Culture
The process of changing from traditionally organised events to sustainably organised events requires a paradigm shift of cultural norms. Leaders must show commitment to the initiative by providing necessary resources which include staffing, empowerment and oversight. Often, a sustainability steward or CSR champion rises from within the organisation. Good management will foster this interest and passion, providing coaching and leadership development opportunities for such talent as part of the ongoing effort to improve the organisational sustainability culture. Sustainability projects often unlock and release undiscovered talent within the organisation.