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Brand Purpose Brand Strategy Events

So you’re planning an event. But is it really sustainable?

By Beki Winchel, Spiro



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May 15, 2024 | 9 min read

​Sustainable credentials are a non-negotiable for more and more consumers. Beki Winchel of Spiro explains how to ensure your events sustainable too.

The backs of three people who look out over an outdoor event while the sun shines

Events can be a very effective way to build customer engagement. / Aranxa Esteve via Unsplash

With brands increasingly sharing their sustainability commitments and initiatives – and with eco-friendly messaging, content, and packaging filling today’s marketplace – being eco-conscious might seem like the new trend.

Yet, consumers clamoring for brands to step up and make a positive impact on climate change issues isn’t a trend. Today’s customers – especially millennials and gen Z – aren’t merely hoping for greater brand eco-consciousness. They expect it as part of a larger push toward a more environmentally sustainable society.

That consumer demand – and the opportunities particularly that it presents to event marketers – is what we dove into in our recent report, “The Eco Imperative.”

The business case for sustainability is strong. Some 78% of consumers want brands to step up and play a more significant role in securing a sustainable future, according to an EY report. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents said they rely on brands to raise awareness of environmental issues, according to Nielsen.

Yet, brands have more work to do to gain customers’ trust: Edelman revealed that 65% of consumers think brands are not doing well at living up to their climate change commitments.

“Brands need to hold themselves accountable, communicate their societal actions, and address consumer vulnerabilities to have a shot at earning trust,” according to Jackie Cooper, Edelman’s global chief brand officer. “They need to nurture the consumer relationship with ongoing actions that build trust – things like owning their mistakes, being transparent about climate impact, and developing an emotional connection with customers.”

One way marketers can nurture these relationships and build trust while championing sustainability for their brand and the industry is through the events they put on. Brand-side and event marketers, this is your moment to make a difference.

Sustainable events build trust with customers

Events and activations can play a crucial role in driving your brand’s sustainability initiatives – boosting the bottom line and earning you a seat at the table in the process.

Your event is not just a gathering or something nice to put on. Instead, each experiential marketing activity offers your current and potential audiences an opportunity to interact with your brand – and that interaction can have a great impact on inspiring customer preference.

Event Marketer revealed that 85% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand after attending an activation, and 91% walk away with more positive feelings about a brand after they engage with an event or experience.

Moreover, by strengthening your brand-customer relationship through your experience, you can gain even more long-term brand value. Sprout Social reported that when customers feel more connected with brands, 72% will buy over a competitor, 68% will recommend to friends, and 64% will be more loyal.

However, this loyalty loop brought on by fostering strong brand-customer relationships requires you to truly understand your audiences, focusing on their priorities and concerns. Bentley University & Gallup reported that climate change is the number one subject on which US consumers believe brands should take a public stance, and according to Capgemini, 73% of global consumers think it’s important for brands to take environmentally responsible actions.

“We’re fast approaching this tipping point where sustainability will be considered a baseline requirement for purchase, and companies should prepare now,” declared a report in Harvard Business Review.

By making sustainability a priority in your event marketing, you can take advantage of the maximum impact and immediacy that your activations offer.

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Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint

Considering the industry’s carbon footprint and the work that needs to be done, it can seem overwhelming when first implementing event sustainability initiatives. American Express reported that roughly 24% of meeting strategists consider lack of knowledge, skills, and resources to be their biggest challenges when it comes to implementing sustainable practices.

While there’s no single magic formula to succeed with sustainability, eco-conscious event guides and initiatives such as the Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge can help you to start. Focus on progress over perfection. Remember that your customers want to see that you’re taking steps towards a greener future.

Your event sustainability goals don’t have to deliver upon all your brand’s eco-conscious commitments. Rather, strategically set your event sustainability KPIs by focusing on your customer motivators and your brand objectives, then move the levers to incorporate eco-conscious initiatives in ways that continuously strengthen your customer relationships.

Recent sustainable event initiatives including recycling bins and clean-up crews at Mardi Gras or Delta ditching single-use dishes and utensils at SXSW 2024 have made an impact on the environment, brand sentiment, and the way audiences view these massive events. We help event marketers through our G.R.A.V.I.T.Y. Index™, which identifies the drivers that create those crucial brand-customer bonds, so you can build your brand reputation with each event and experience.

Now it’s your turn to create powerful experiences that showcase your brand’s sustainability commitment while fostering audience relationships. Together, we can create a positive impact on the industry and across our global communities.

Brand Purpose Brand Strategy Events

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