Leaders

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Eco or ego? The environmental impact of awards ceremonies

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When it comes to paying lip service to environmental causes, the creative industries don’t exactly hold a monopoly but they are far from innocent either. 

As the generic public continues to ‘wake up’ to the realities of climate change, everyone appears to be scrambling over themselves to show off how eager they are to offset their carbon footprint and ‘experiment’ with veganism. Brands and agencies in particular. But more often than not, is this really anything other than surface buzz and are award shows helping or hindering the cause?

Green is in this season

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Of all the headlines generated after the BAFTA Awards earlier this month, it was those featuring Joker star Joaquin Phoenix that appeared to hold the most weight. Not only did the actor use his platform as Leading Actor winner to address the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry but he also saluted the Hollywood Foreign Press for “recognising and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change” by serving exclusively plant-based food at this year’s event. He also wore the same tuxedo to the Oscars last week that he wore two weeks previously. A small gesture perhaps, but a powerful one nonetheless.

But that’s Hollywood; an industry that exists to flatter and lecture us in equal measure whilst holding up an attractive one-way mirror. The creative industries, meanwhile, have always been a little more transparent and that transparency can work against it when you’re looking hard enough.

There is innate hypocrisy behind award shows

There is innate hypocrisy behind some award shows, for example, awarding environmentally-conscious campaigns on one hand whilst flying in executives from across the globe on the other. It’s sometimes easy to look the other way, particularly when you’re lavishing in the glitz and glamour and knocking back mojitos at 11 am because you’re busy ‘networking’. But there is another way. Awards shows don’t have to be virtue signalling eco disasters.

Event greening

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Integrating core sustainable practices is something that more brands than ever before are experimenting with and it’s paying dividends. In 2015, for example, M&S started actively promoting greater efficiency and sustainability across a number of areas such as energy consumption, logistics, waste reduction and packaging design. Their plans delivered a £185m net benefit that the company has been able to reinvest into the organisation.

These kinds of initiatives not only make sense from a financial perspective but are attractive to prospective partners and also extend a healthy green hand to the wider community. This has an incredible impact on brand value and doesn’t come across as pandering because it simply makes sense for everyone involved.

Green initiatives can be implemented with different levels of commitment

Introducing a greener aspect to our creative award shows can seem daunting, of course, but it all comes down to the planning and setting realistic goals for sustainability objectives. This is also something you can improve upon year after year as you work out the kinks. Green initiatives can be implemented at an awards ceremony with different levels of commitment; from simply serving tap-water instead of bottled water to becoming completely carbon neutral by offsetting your carbon footprint.

Transport can also be targeted with green initiatives - whether it’s the transportation of food products or the guests themselves. Understanding how your attendees will be travelling to and from the venue is a key part of the planning process and it will be up to you to encourage the most sustainable method by providing the best travel information and a range of options.

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Some organisations have taken the event greening concept a step further still. A Greener Festival, for example, is a business dedicated to helping festivals, awards shows and other large events reduce their environmental impact and have worked with everyone from Glastonbury Festival to the Chelsea Flower Show. True eco-innovators indeed.

Setting an example

A major part of the innovation behind the Creativepool Annual is that we’re always looking to make it more relevant and more useful. Each year we aim to add a new element to make the ‘most’ award even more ‘most’ and this year, which meant making it the most eco-friendly award on the creative calendar. 

With the world on the cusp of an irreparable climate crisis, we thought it was about time to bring the environmental footprint of the Annual to heel. We couldn’t help but be aware of the impact the Annual was having on the environment, not only via the physical printing but all of the energy and investment that goes into it. So, for the 2020 Annual, we pledged to completely offset its environmental impact.

With the Annual 2020 we will have offset 5 times as much carbon as we have created

We aim to ensure that the carbon footprint generated by the Annual is offset by a minimum factor of 5, which means we will have offset 5 times as much carbon as we have created. This will offset the carbon generated not only by ourselves but by all of the agencies and individuals in entering this year. It’s a small gesture, but it’s one that we feel passionately about and one that the creative industries as a whole should be getting behind given their historically wasteful nature.

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To achieve this feat, we ensured that all paper used in the Annual (where possible) was made from recycled sources and are donating 10% of all profits generated to the environmental charities Project Crimson, The Woodland Trust and The Nature Conservatory

The profits will be shared equally amongst the 3 charities, all of which are built around the shared goal of planting more trees to offset the effects of climate change and protect plant diversity. These charities work tirelessly to ensure there will still be a planet left for our children to enjoy in the decades and millennia to come and we are truly honoured to support their cause.

Sacrifice

So, is it possible for a creative awards show to have a genuinely positive environmental impact? To extol green virtues without resorting to well-worn platitudes before sneaking off in a gas-guzzling limo to the next glitzy red carpet event? Of course it is. We’ve done it and so can you. All it requires is a little effort, a little compassion and making a few sacrifices. And what could be more creative than that?

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