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Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Oct 17

The Environmental Impacts of Events

The environmental impacts of events are increasingly gaining traction, the responsibility for which are generally perceived to lie with event and festival organisers and managers.

I’ve talked about the triple bottom line before. The Triple Bottom Line approach involve the measurement of an event’s success across three broad categories: economic impacts, social impacts and environmental impacts. You can have a read of my blogs on the social and economic impacts of events, if you’d like.

As intermediaries, event management agencies have to manage events according to clients’ requirements and clients’ budgets and often it simply isn’t feasible to prioritise the environment.

However, most reputable companies would implement best practice and do their best to leave no trace, after the events on which they work. Tum et al. (2005) suggests that the event management industry is hypercompetitive and there aren’t very high barriers to entry for new companies. Organisations should endeavour to differentiate by showing diligence, and operating in an environmentally-friendly manner presents companies with an opportunity to do so.

Many advocate that there should be strict environmental policies in place that oblige event management companies and those involved in events to take environmentally-friendly approaches to their work.

However, Kennell (2014) argues that implementing a top-down approach to sustainability hasn’t worked to date. On the other hand, it’s possible that a bottom-up, responsible approach could be more effective. This fundamentally means that event managers on the ground should take it upon themselves to manage their events with consideration given to environmental responsibility.

What motivates companies to take an environmentally-friendly approach?

Mair & Jago (2011) found that companies that incorporate an environmentally-friendly have the following motives:

  • The personal values of management

  • The desire to meet consumer demand

  • The need to attain a competitive advantage

  • The desire to educate and encourage others to become environmentally-aware

Barriers to corporate greening also emerged. These included:

  • The costs associated with acting in a more environmentally-friendly manner

  • The limited control that could be exerted within venues

  • An inability to source suppliers who prioritised the the reduction of environmental impacts in their work and limited availability of environmentally-friendly supplies

What can event management companies and event managers do?

On site:

  • When engaging vendors, find ones who use local ingredients

  • Ensure recycling bins are accessible

  • Advertise on social media and online to reduce the need for printed signs and fliers

  • Utilise digital ticketing where possible

  • Use VMS or projectors which can be re-used, instead of printed signs

Within the organisation:

  • Communicatie using Skype, Conference calls and emails where possible and minimise travel

  • Car pool to site visits

  • Develop a green policy outlining ways to reduce environmental impacts and familiarise employees on how to incorporate it on a day-to-day basis

  • Turn off the heating if it’s not needed

  • Turn of the lights when they’re not necessary

  • Be mindful before printing that email or document – do you really need a hard copy?

Those are just some small ways to make a difference.

A good example of a festival that makes the environment an absolute priority is Burning Man.


Harley Dubois, one of the founding members of the Burning Man, spoke at Best in Fest ICON about attendees’ obligation to clean up their own space and camp as well as contribute two hours of their time to the mass clean up.

Leave No Trace is a philosophy that makes up one of the Ten Principles of Burning Man. Essentially, Leaving No Trace means that the event management team endeavour to leave an event or festival site as they found it, leaving no trace that the event occurred.

Burning Man is a leading example of how a large-scale event can minimise environmental impacts and in fact, this feature is one that appeals to many of its loyal attendees.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there is no planet B, and a change in our ways is long overdue.

The event industry is consumer-facing and, as our planet continues to face threats to the environment, awareness of the importance of acting in an environmentally friendly manner will grow.

Consider making some simple changes to how you run your events, set an example for your industry peers and be the change you wish to see.

Lindsay Fraser
February 16, 2018, 04:52 PM

It's refreshing and inspirational to read such a comprehensive thought process and philosophy for event management. At Eventco in Australia we are proud of our multi-skilled team and ultra high standards of safety and our record of consistent smooth delivery of large scale events. With an ever increasing competitive market filling with inexperienced operators ready to come in cheaply with no determinable ethics or professionalism, I doff my hat to your teams approach and high standards.

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Hi there! We don't really operate as Cuckoo Events any longer.

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