Sustainable organisation or a good party first?

Organising leisure activities, cultural gatherings and other types of events sustainably: it goes without saying. In whose mission statement is sustainability not yet included? But who is really on it today? And what is still holding back many companies from starting with sustainable organisation and entrepreneurship today? Let us collaborate and learn from each other.


Recent research (December 2021) by our centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts, shows that not only event visitors are concerned about the climate issue. More and more companies active in various meeting sectors are too. However, it is worrying that only 27 per cent of the visitors think that, as an individual, they can have an impact on climate change. And this reluctance to convert intentions into concrete actions is also evident among many companies.


A lot of hurdles


Making the switch to sustainable organisation and entrepreneurship? Event companies still have a lot of hurdles to overcome.


An important obstacle is surviving after a long-term, global pandemic. Economic survival after two disaster years, that is the focus of most companies. And frankly, who does not understand that? Many companies have already stopped their activities since the outbreak of the corona crisis and many more are on the brink of bankruptcy. Impact research of our centre of expertise shows that more than a quarter of the organisers and suppliers in our country were already in financial difficulties at the end of 2021. More than 80 per cent expect to be in serious trouble in 2022 if the tide does not turn soon.


Given these dramatic figures, is it still fair or realistic to ask them to make additional sustainability efforts? Is sustainable entrepreneurship not only something for those companies that can afford it? Perhaps, but above all, we do not have the luxury of ignoring the problem. Sustainable organisation and entrepreneurship is a necessity if we want to meet each other again at festivals, discotheques or theatres in the future.


Most companies have the urgency and the will to organise and do business sustainably. However, many lack the knowledge and inspiration to tackle this abstract climate issue in a practical way. Our research shows that almost a third of the event companies need help and want to learn more about how to reduce the ecological impact of their activities. And this despite the economic crisis and financial difficulties.


Our centre of expertise wants to make a difference in this field. Not only by means of applied scientific research, but also through dialogue and by focusing on the critical success factors for sustainable organisation and entrepreneurship: solidarity, collaboration on and strategy.


Need for solidarity and collaboration


Companies that organise sustainable activities consider their societal (people), economic (profit) and ecological (planet) impact. This is quite a challenge, and often comes at a cost. Who is going to pay for it? Research by our centre of expertise shows that almost half of the event visitors are prepared to pay more for drinks and food during events, as long as they are allowed to party again. And two out of three visitors are willing to pay more for entrance tickets to help bearing the extra costs of the corona measures. But what about the extra efforts and costs for a sustainable party?


During the summer of 2021, events were allowed again. Remarkable in this crisis were the many efforts made by organisers to manage waste and recycle. Reusable cups were the norm. However, rarely have so many half-empty bins been spotted with reusable (!) and smashed cups on the ground. Especially for reusable cups for which no deposit was charged, this phenomenon was noticeable at numerous events.


What to do now? Should we then, as with the corona vaccines, quasi force people to show solidarity and 'punish' those who do not cooperate, with exclusion and fines? Probably not. But as with the corona crisis, the climate crisis can only be solved if we work together. The formula for success is therefore to move away from the 'I' and 'now' thinking and move towards a 'we' and 'future' thinking. And all that without any 'reward' for the achievements made. But is this truly realistic? Is the Western, somewhat pampered, society ready for this?


Hopeful, perhaps, is the woke movement. This movement strives for more awareness in society. They focus on themes such as racism, exclusion and climate. Way to go! However, because of their more extreme thinking and actions, they are not always taken seriously. The intention is good, although dividing people into right and wrong is not the most appropriate strategy. It creates even more divisions in society and that is exactly what we do not need. We need to show solidarity and work together, both the event visitors and the companies.


Strategy, but above all: start!


There is a clear need for a strategy. What are the best initiatives and activities to undertake as a company? How can you get your employees and visitors to behave the way you want them to? How do those cups end up IN the bin instead of AROUND it?


And also: sustainable organisations, what is that? Too often, we only think about waste management, recycling and CO2 emissions. But as a company you can do so much more to be sustainable and profitable at the same time. After all, profit is the short-term reward, and in fact the necessity of every company. At least the costs must be covered by the revenues.


There are many questions, many obstacles and the solutions are not unambiguous. Many organisations that want to organise and do business in a sustainable manner struggle with a lack of innovative ideas and creative solutions. This is logical. Simply search the Internet. Inspiration does not extend much further than reusable cups and straws. Professionals, especially those starting out, do need best practices and concrete handles, tips and yes-we-can-vibes.


Do you also want fewer one-off, invasive mega-festivals in the mountains, but rather sustainable, inclusive, local and profitable gatherings? Do you, as an organiser, want to think big and be innovative and inspiring? Let us know, share your questions and experiences with other companies. What works and what does not? Be the teacher, not the preacher. But above all: start! Preferably today.


As the centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts, we conduct research into the ecological impact of events, amongst other research topics. We develop tools and bring organisations together in knowledge networks.


Would you like to become a member of our knowledge network on sustainable organisation and entrepreneurship? Let us know.