Steering towards a greener future in eventing
Lisa-Jade Hutchings, the Head Ginger at GingerBiscuit, shares her thoughts on the green eventing trend and how this is set to become more of a business imperative for event planners in the future.
Globally how big is the trend towards greener events?
Globally the trend towards sustainability within the events industry seems to be growing at a rapid rate. Recent reports and publications on 2020 trends for our industry all include sustainability. This is not a passing trend however, as what we are witnessing globally within all industries, is an overall shift from “business as usual” to “how can we now do business differently?”.
The current rate of global economic development and population, interlinked with planetary boundaries are issues which no one can ignore. It’s now about adopting fresh and innovative practices which support this new realm.
What is happening locally?
At times, locally we have a tendency to lag behind when it comes to global “trends”. This does not need to be the case with regards to sustainable events though. While we have seen over the recent years a slightly slower uptake, interest in these types of events is starting to pick up significantly. South Africa and also Africa as a continent, are poised and ready to introduce and implement sustainable practices within the events industry, as well as tourism as a whole.
What are the most common misconceptions greening your event?
A number of articles could be written on this topic, as there are many misconceptions surrounding event greening and sustainable events.
The one is the perception that green events cost more than “normal” events. While this could be true in some instances, this is not always the case. Hosting an event which aims to be sustainable will always look at unnecessary items and expenditures. Event planners will consider what can be done to minimise not only the potential negative impacts on the environment and communities which host them, but also what is really essential and what alternatives could be found to better suit this space.
Another common misconception is that any event that purchases carbon credits or recycles, is green – essentially events calling themselves any one of the words associated with this movement prior to the event taking place – think ”eco-conscious”, “green”, “carbon-neutral” etc.
This leads to something which we term “greenwashing”. Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers (or guests) into believing something is good for the planet or people, when in reality this has not been proven. We never know what is going to happen on event day – you could have the most awesome waste management plan in place, but have it fail miserably on the actual day –you’ve marketed the gathering as “eco-conscious” or sustainable, when in fact it is not.
What are the business benefits of greener eventing?
The following benefits have been identified for both events and businesses aiming to become more sustainable in nature:
Cost savings: Sustainability is about improving the bottom line, cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, and working with what you have.
Risk mitigation: Minimising the risk of unnecessary demand on resources such as energy and water, thus ensuring that the event/ business will maintain sustainability. Furthermore, when achieving certification as a business or event, there are certain standards which need to be upheld in order to achieve an authentic result which in turn governs the implementation of best practice.
Consumer demand: Consumers are also becoming more aware of the impact which events and businesses have on the environment around them. GingerBiscuit ensures that clients are kept up-to-date with the emerging trends and consumer demands surrounding sustainability.
Employee retention: People are, by and large, driven to work for a purpose. They want to be part of a bigger and purposeful picture. According to various studies, this is especially true for the most recent generations – an example being the millennials.
Brand awareness: Going green builds the event or company brand by demonstrating that you, the client, does care thus creating brand value, awareness and contributing to the “greater good”.
Innovation and leadership: It helps clients to effectively position themselves as leaders and innovators within their industries.
Management of limited natural resources: The efficient and effective management of natural resources which are limited, such as water.
Approvals: Adding sustainability to the company’s portfolio creates a positive perception in the market and reduces the risk of the company being seen as environmentally or socially irresponsible. Many businesses are now making use of certified sustainability consulting companies in order to enhance their “responsible business” profile.
Tell us about a favourite project you’ve undertaken in this space?
Two experiences come to mind.
The first is the 2019 SAACI Congress. This project taught me so much not only about how to manage multiple events taking place under one event banner, but also about the value of the team and people as a whole, as well as my own perceived limits, which we can all place on ourselves at times.
The second was when I was able to speak on sustainability within the events industry in Mumbai, India, which took place in early 2019. I never expected to be able to be presented with that awesome opportunity on an international platform. The things that happen along this journey are truly incredible. Hold the vision, trust the process – magic does still exist.
When and why did you start GingerBiscuit?
GingerBiscuit was first conceptualised and launched during a very dark period of my life. I could not find employment for various reasons, was going through a messy divorce, with two children to provide for and had little to my name. I sat outside one night thinking to myself how I could use my unique skill set and help contribute to making the world a better place –and GingerBiscuit was born in November 2016.
Initially, it had a different business name – I soon realised that my initial business model would not work and that the name needed to change. In April 2017 GingerBiscuit was officially registered with the vision of incorporating sustainability into the events industry, as well as other avenues which allow for connection between people, delivered through unique solutions. Since then GingerBiscuit has expanded outside of the events space and also works with businesses via consulting and also provides basic “people to planet” training/ workshops.
Describe your services.
GingerBiscuit’s primary focus is embedding sustainability within various spaces through connecting people in a creative and authentic manner. Services at this stage are primarily consulting, project management and mind-set awareness guidance through training and workshops.
Within the events industry GingerBiscuit is able to provide a full turn-key sustainable event management solution. In order to move the industry towards the sustainability space, GingerBiscuit also works alongside existing event teams or companies in an outsourced consulting capacity to provide them with the additional support with regards to event sustainability. All events are also further guided through training surrounding the event and the implementation of chosen event greening practices, as well as marketing and communications to avoid greenwashing.
From a business perspective GingerBiscuit works with businesses through consulting to support organisations in achieving their goals of becoming certified as sustainable and thus future-proofing their operations and longevity as an organisation. Training is also given to businesses which fall under this banner.
Additional workshops are currently being developed for the above industries and will be on offer from beginning to mid-2020 (keep a look out for these – would love to connect with you!). These workshops will form the basis of an introduction to what sustainable event management entails, as well as how to operate a business in a more conscious and responsible manner.
GingerBiscuit is also looking at branching into other areas of project management, like schools for example, in the not too distant future. GingerBiscuit has aligned and collaborated with prominent key players within the industries to be able to provide extra value-add services such as certification and environmental management systems, and routinely works with other events companies and consultants to deliver the best possible solutions for clients – after all, together, we get further.
For more information visit: www.gingerbiscuitsa.co.za