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July 28, 2008

NO EXCUSES 2:Why venues need to be sustainable

Imagine you were a plastic champagne flute used to entertain guests at an event held recently at well-known London exhibition and conference venue Earls Court. Someone fills you up, passes you to a delegate or visitor, who sips from you while chatting, and then leaves you on a table or drops you into a waste bin once they’ve finished their drink. But what happens next?

Well, until recently you’d have ended up being collected by the local council refuse department and dumped in a landfill site – but not any more. Today, you’d find yourself in the vast basement of Earls Court, where the owners, EC&O Venues, have developed a large recycling and waste centre. Once there, you’d be placed into the plastics section, and would then wait with all other sorted suitable waste materials – paper, cardboard, metal, paint, cotton fabric, glass, carpet banners and wood – to be recycled.

Basement trash: Earls Court's recycling and waste centre

Blazing a trail

This is now what happens to 43% of the total waste removed from Earls Court and its sister venue Olympia, which also has its own dedicated recycling centre. As a result, in 2007, 1,496.68 tonnes of waste was recycled of the 3,527.95 tonnes produced. The remaining waste is compacted and then sent for further sorting and extraction of recyclable material to help divert as much from landfill as possible.

As such, Earls Court and Olympia are blazing a trail for other venues to follow, which is particularly commendable for two large and relatively old buildings. But their sustainability efforts don’t stop there.

“Over the last year, we have continued to take great steps forward in the areas of energy efficiency, recycling and waste management,” says Lynne Marie Cox communications manager at EC&O Venues. “Our venues are fully committed to continuing to advance in those areas, which has included representing UK venues on the committee which developed BS 8901 (the British Standard for sustainable event management) launched in November 2007.

“In fact, following our involvement with BS 8901, we have progressed our Environmental Policy into a Sustainable Development Policy which consists of a number of ongoing objectives.”

These include:
1. To identify and engage with stakeholders and suppliers on issues of sustainability
2. To assess sustainability risks and opportunities presented by hosting events at EC&O Venues
3. To set sustainability key performance indicators and objectives for any work on events held in Earls Court or Olympia
4. To help to provide necessary resources and training for those involved in event management within the venues

Cutting emissions
EC&O has also appointed a sustainability adviser, Emma Wellman, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience of the events industry, and chairs the Association of Event Venues Sustainability Group. Indeed, it was Wellman who was instrumental in the development of BS 8901.

“We are also very conscious of the impact carbon dioxide emissions have on the environment,” Cox continues. “Consequently energy management programmes are in place that look at reducing the amount of energy used and sourcing the best available energy solutions.”

This initiative saved 2,300,000kWh (kilo Watt hours) in electricity consumption at Earls Court and Olympia in 2007, which is the equivalent of 990 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Over the same period, the two venues also saved 1,400,000kWh in gas consumption, which is equal to 266 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“In total, we reduced energy consumption by 10% and in 2008 we aim to reduce our energy consumption by a further 5%,” explains Cox.

Saving money

This has also had a not insignificant economic benefit.

“Combined with water consumption reduction, we achieved approximately £220,000 of savings in 2007,” says Cox.

Not only that, but major companies have been attracted to the venues because of EC&O’s commitments to sustainability.

“M&S chose Earls Court for its annual conference as it was imperative that the event took place at a venue that was in line with its own corporate social responsibility policy – its Plan A project,” explains Cox.

As well as those initiatives already mentioned, EC&O has also undertakes pollution control measures, it works with in-house caterers and service partners to assist them in improving their waste management, uses a sustainable procurement ethos and recycles food waste.

Joining Green500
What’s more, the company has recently signed up to Green500, a London Development Agency scheme, which is encouraging London’s top organisations to reduce their carbon emissions in the capital by 60% by 2025.

“This is a very new initiative for us, and something we are very pleased to be getting involved with,” says Cox, adding: “We are also working with Transport for London on a project to increase visitor travel to events by sustainable modes of transport.”

So, just as we reported a few weeks ago, not only do live marketing agencies and events organisers have no excuse for not pushing ahead with sustainable policies, neither do venues. And more and more corporates, like M&S, are looking for suppliers that can match their own CSR programmes.

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