Ethical Environmental Events: Five Questions to Ask

The event industry has taken a lot of flack for its ethical and environmental event footprint. This has been particularly true around waste and plastic consumption generated by events. However, running an ethical and environmentally minded event, extends far beyond waste and plastic.

We have found it both understandable and encouraging to find that more and more companies are seeking clarity from ourselves, as well as venues and event agencies. With clients specifically asking questions with regards to our environmental and ethical credentials, prior to confirming a booking with us.


So what are you already doing to ensure you reduce your event footprint? Or maybe this is the start of formalising your approach? Either way, it is great that you’re reading this post, as it shows important interest and commitment to ensuring we’re all running sustainable businesses into the future.


So how do you know if the agency or venue you are working with, is stepping up in terms of their ethical and environmental event impact and responsibilities?


Here are 5 questions to ask, next time you’re looking to appoint an agency.


Does your agency or venue host Ethical Environmental Events?

We have come up with 5 questions to ask, before you book your next event! This is not an exhaustive list, and we would encourage you to discuss and create further questions to ask! By applying questions like this to your tendering process, it is a fantastic way to make sure you are considering your own environmental and ethical impact every time you host an event. It’s something to celebrate and share with employees too. It’s time will all stepped up, and our employees will thank us for doing so.


1. What is their travel policy?

Any agency taking their environmental impact seriously, will have a published travel policy available to read.  This will cover factors such as mode of transport used, employee commitments to sustainable travel, use of public transport and affiliation to an accredited Carbon Offsetting organisation run by CView,  to name a few.

At o3e, our travel policy includes using event staff who live geographically close to the event venues when ever possible. Further, when we’re responsible for booking the venue, we will always seek a venue that is located centrally to the delegates attending, with excellent public transport links.

In terms of our greenhouse gas emissions, we use an accredited program run by CView to offset the emissions generated by our activities. It’s worth asking your potential agency or venue if they have a similar arrangement in pace.

We even have our name down for an electric van! We can’t wait to start using our new electric van for  delivering equipment to events, once it’s been released!

Not strictly travel related, but to raise awareness around our individual footprint and the amount of energy we each use, we are now bringing our ‘pedal power mobile phone charger’ along to some events! This activity is a great insight into how much energy it actually takes to charge a phone! It may make you consider how many apps you have running, how bright your screen is etc!

You can read more on our commitments in our Environmental Policy here.


2. Do their suppliers operate transparently with full traceability?

What does your chosen agency or venue know about the ethics of it’s supply chain? For example, at o3e we work with vetted suppliers. We select British Manufacturers where possible, using sustainable materials, and with recognised employment standards. Wherever possible, we source our products from Charities, Social Enterprises or Community Interest Companies. This allows us to invest in our community as often as possible.


For example, all of the wheelchairs for our Performance Wheelchair Challenge are bought from a fantastic charity called Motivation, while all of our bikes for our Charity Bike Build are purchased from British Companies Raleigh, Forme, Ridgeback and Squish.


ethical environmental events


At o3e we also always challenge our suppliers too. For example if we see what we believe to be excess packaging, we will challenge our supplier to see what their thoughts are and if there is the potential to reduce waste. In fact, we previously walked away from one bike supplier, as they had no interest in reducing their packaging. Put simply, their values didn’t fit with ours. However, there are many other companies who do have similar values to ours, and these are the companies we chose to do business with.


3. How much event waste is there?

At o3e, we work closely with our suppliers and our in-house event team, to ensure we minimise waste at every touch point.  Ask your agency or venue, what kind of waste your event will generate and how it will be disposed of.


How o3e is reducing waste

Here are some examples of how we are mindful to keep waste to a minimum in practise;

  • we use recycled paper at our events and for our correspondence.
  • all used materials are recycled whenever it is possible, with us often taking waste back to our office from an event, if the event venue is unable to recycle
  • when printing, we only print if absolutely necessary and we print in ‘draft’ to save ink (which has plastic in it). We are exploring the use of vegetable based inks
  • all of our event plastic brochure binders get reused over and again.
  • we work with suppliers who have the same waste reducing values. For example, the manufacturer of our skateboards, commits to applying their skate deck templates to the plywood in the most space efficient way. This not only reduces their waste, but obviously means they use less material, keeping their costs down. This in turns keeps the price to ourselves and our clients down too, creating more value for your money.


we develop events that create value not waste.

Peter Lindsay, Founder o3e


“Creating Value not Waste”

  • Every single event at o3e creates something which is donated to charity, rather than ending up in the bin. Our founder Peter, actually created o3e after his “aha” moment! Peter facilitated a team building event which saw teams creating a polystyrene totem pole! Can you guess where the totem pole went straight after the event?! That’s right, the bin! From that ‘aha’ moment, Peter went onto create Charity Bike Build and then o3e. Through o3e, everything created at your team building event has a valuable purpose and a long life ahead of it! From bikes, to sports wheelchairs, from fun houses to cancer care packs, o3e events create value not waste.
  • Finally, we’re mindful not to create pointless promotional items to hand out at our events. You will never find us handing out plastic freebies to you. Let’s face it, you will ultimately pop these in the bin after a brief bit of fun, and our ocean has enough plastic! Instead, our promotional activities at an expo, would include ‘helping us to artwork a skateboard’ for charity!  Surely that is a much better idea than yet another plastic squishy.  Why not ask your agency if they hand out plastic promotional ‘stuff’ and if they do, ask them not to!

Charity Team Building


4. How much food waste is there and how do they manage it?

When booking a venue, it’s important that you understand how your venue manages the waste from the food and drink they serve to you. How do they minimise waste, whilst ensuring that you aren’t left short of food on the day? For example, are they signed up with an awesome food waste charity such as City Harvest? City Harvest, diverts potential hotel landfill to charities supporting the homeless. Or – is your venue’s food waste simply going in the bin…

Is the food served on reusable or disposable plates or with plastic cutlery? Be careful not to be misled with talk of bio-plastics or compostable plates. These are still ultimately ‘single use’, cannot be recycled and mostly end up in landfill where bio-degradation is impossible due to the wrong conditions.  So while they may seem like a better idea, you’re still far better off with good old fashioned, reusable stainless steel cutlery!

And what about drinks? Do they provide you with water jugs and glasses for refills or do they just issue lots of plastic water bottles or plastic cups for your delegates to use?! Did you know that in the UK alone, we use 7 million disposable coffee cups every single day! That’s 4.5 bn every year! These are incredibly difficult to be recycle, so invariably if your event uses them, they will end up in landfill. Make sure you insist on reusable mugs at your next event, and while you’re at it, perhaps ask for some fair trade coffee and tea!




5. What employment checks do they run?

Modern Slavery is estimated to affect 40.3 million men, women and children. Ask your venue how they ensure they know how to identify and report possible slavery in their event employee pool. Some organisations or large venues, such as Olympia, have published their Slavery Policy on their websites. There are also independent companies such as Ardea International who can offer consultancy in such matters.


We work with suppliers who have clear commitments to stamping out and reporting Slavery, such as Raleigh, who publish their Modern Slavery Policy on their website.



What next?

Make sure you’re asking the right questions before you book your next event. Even if your agency or venue can’t meet your high standards, the mere fact that you asked the questions, will be influencing how they operate going forwards.


Create Value not Waste, next time you embark on an event.


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