The Green Room

I'm a corporate event planner who made my team sustainable. AMA

Hello,
I’m Alex Whiteley. I have worked in events since 2006 and always enjoyed it! My experience has mainly been in the financial service industry and I have been involved in running a variety of events such as round tables, awards evenings, networking activities and conferences. My last role was Head of Events, Investment Europe & International Investment at Incisive Media.

Over the past few years the majority of events I have been involved in have been based in Europe and I have loved the travel aspect to the job. Most recently I undertook the meaty project of shaping up the sustainability of my company’s events. This has proven to be an area of great interest for me and there is much to explore and learn.

I’ll be here to answer your questions live on 2020-05-26T15:00:00Z2020-05-26T16:00:00Z

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Talk soon!

Hi Alex,
Thanks for doing this AMA! How did it fall to you to try and make your company’s events sustainable?

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The events MD needed a point person to lead the project and she felt like I would be a good fit. I had a moderate interest in sustainability but since working on the project I have become much more interested.

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How did you get your team on board?

Hi Aex,
How do you overcome the red tape and negative opinions you find in a corporate world?

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Hi Alex, what advice would you give if the team that you are in isn’t particularly bothered about sustainability?

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Hi Alex, how do you balance a love for travel and events overseas with sustainability? And what initiatives have you put in place to help reduce the impact of event travel?

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Hello everybody! This week’s Ask Me Anything session is now live! Please keep the questions coming and Alex will start answering shortly.

Hi Abena, sorry but how can I join this session now?

Thanks
Andrea

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It’s a text based session Andrea, you are already here, welcome! Do you have any questions? Just click Reply and go ahead.

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I chose a couple of team members to assist me on the project so that they in turn could spread the good word about how important the new sustainability drive was to the company and to our events. I did a group presentation but tried to tailor it so it would appeal to the audience. A lot of young people are already more interested in environmental impact than some of the older generation. I tried to link the presentation content to every day life situations as well as for our events.
I also write a pledge and asked each team member to sign it if they were on board which created a sense of togetherness.

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Looking forward to the response - sometimes bureaucracy in events can be really frustrating!

Hi Alex, Do you think that corporations are open to change when it comes to sustainability or is there still some way to go?

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In my experience with the financial institutes we were dealing with, a lot of the time they were also under pressure to become of appear to be more sustainable to appeal to their clients so as part of our sales patter we used our good work to explain to them the benefits.
I luckily didn’t come across very much red tape and most of our suppliers were willing to work with us.
I made sure the team were very aware that this journey was not a short one and all we could do at the beginning was try our best to make changes where possible. Some of the venues were quite a struggle but we started making a library of all of the information on each one we used with a view to only trying to use the ones that had good standards of sustainability and were willing to work with us. The long term view being that if enough of the events planners did the same thing then the venues would have to bend to our will.

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Hi Alex, sustainability is a key topic now in events and corporate company’s want to be seen to take it serious. However, I still found that the reality is that stakeholders don’t necessary see it as important and are reluctant trying a more sustainable way. eg exhibition stands, giveaways, signage etc. What would your advise be on that?

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I would try to find out if and what they were bothered about and try and find a way to link that to sustainability. E.g. a sales person in a company who isn’t bothered as they do not see how it can benefit them, then you could explain to them that as sustainability is such a hot topic at them moment that most businesses are keen to pursue, your efforts will enhance your brands reputation therefore hopefully increasing sales and profits.
Everyone has an angle…

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That’s really helpful, thank you Alex.

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This is a tricky one and something we hadn’t touched on in my previous role. The brand I worked on used to fly a team of approx 4 - 9 people out to the destination of each conference (dependant on size). Many of the events were for locals but a few were built so that we were flying all attendees in from all over Europe. This was something that could not be helped with the model of our events as the networking and face to face interaction time was the key ingredient, plus one of the biggest selling points for the events was that the sponsors had undisturbed access to the delegates in one place without having to visit them all in their home cities. We tried to implement as many changes as we could to other areas of the conferences instead of trying to climb the mountain that was changing the whole concept. instead of picking up individuals at the airport, we organised shuttle buses. We made sure each delegate was aware of the public transport options available in the city. We looked very carefully at how we could made changes regarding F&B and materials waste from the event.
I’m afraid the hurdle of eliminating the need to travel was just to large at this stage.

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This one is so hard, especially if you love travel. @AmyBlades1 do you have any ideas for when travel starts up again post-corona?

I think there is a very long way to go. In my experience, there are many inside a company that would like the benefits that come from having a recognised sustainability standard but when it comes to getting the funding, time and man power to take the task on, there lies the problem. One of the fundamentals about trying to achieve the ISO 20121 is firstly getting stakeholder by in. This in my opinion is easier said than done and unless you have someone at the helm of the business who is willing to back the project both with money and time then there is only so much you will be able to achieve.

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