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We delivered the G7 event sustainably: here’s 5 things we learned

by Michael Gietzen

September 23, 2021

Michael Gietzen, Identity, talks sustainable lessons and achievements of G7 that are helping inform the delivery of COP26

G7 was an event played out under a global spotlight: key world leaders as guests; President Biden’s first visit to the UK; the first international event in the UK since Brexit and the pandemic; and, of course, the Queen’s drop in.

It also provided Identity with challenging yet attractive opportunities to really stand out as the face of the sustainable future for live events. Every tiny detail of the event was sustainably assessed and audited. And, as guardians of one of the most idyllic bays in Cornwall (if only for a couple of weeks), we all felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to achieve the ultimate in sustainability.

What we learnt from G7 is is now helping to inform what sustainable measures should be in place for delivering United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November. With its dedicated climate change agenda, the stakes on delivering sustainability couldn’t be higher.

So, here’s a quick glance at five practical sustainable actions that can inform any future event:

1. Do we really need it?

For almost everything we or our client look to use, we ask ourselves, ‘Do we really need it? Could we do without it? Do we actually need to print, produce, paint, develop, transport XYZ item?’ If the answer is ‘possibly not’, then we didn’t include it. More does not equal better. Better means precise and meticulous planning and being innovative.

2. Buy local, source locally

Never before was this more crucial than when dealing with the remote location of Carbis Bay, Cornwall. Local suppliers, providing local services and local produce is a winner. For G7, everything from food (of course) and plants and greenery (a lot of these were used), to services – including photography, furniture-hire, printing and manpower – were sourced and provided locally. This not only supports the local economy, but also reduces damaging transport emissions. The same approach is being employed for COP26.

3. Choosing materials

Nothing to landfill – ever. All the shell, temporary structures, signage and so on had to be reusable (or else entirely recyclable and/or biodegradable) for G7. Locally sourced plants were also employed as screening solutions.

Other quick wins of course were implemented for G7. There wasn’t a single-use plastic molecule used, and while reducing single-use plastic is an easy win, in reality it’s low down on the emissions generated by events. Having every supplier sustainably audited well in advance to ensure they meet strict criteria will have a greater impact.

4. Energy and power source – is there an alternative?

Events need power. Incredible power was needed for all manner of equipment, technologies, hybrid set-ups (yes there was that too at G7) and so on. Consider the huge G7 media centre, hosting hundreds of journalists along with all their paraphernalia. The power requirements were both enormous and constant for five straight days, morning and night. While we couldn’t quite harness wave power at Carbis Bay, we did the next best thing: hydrogenated vegetable oil powered the generator. This achieved a 29% reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and a 77% reduction in airborne particulates (compared to red diesel generators). The high cetane value of the fuel also reduced noise pollution.

5. Travel

We can’t dictate how attendees travel to the event and, of course, Cornwall is not the most accessible of regions. However, it takes a huge cohort to put on events like the G7 and COP26. Identity’s personal transport was either by our fleet of electric cars or on the Identity coach, while the logistical transport was planned months in advance. We also recruited dozens of locals as runners for the event. The vast majority traveled by foot or bicycle to site every day.

Adding it up

Events is a world where every action counts. Post-event measurement of emissions and impact on the environment is crucial. Otherwise we never know the true story. A great tool for managing and auditing events so that they contribute to the three dimensions of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social - is International Standard, ISO 20121:2012, event sustainability management systems. It’s a very detailed framework but worth the effort.

As event professionals, we hold a position of incredible influence. When we do it well we can shift mindsets and leave powerful legacies. Delivering fully certified sustainable events, as an absolute minimum requirement, must be the standard baseline across the sector – after all, it’s the only ethical future for this industry.


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