Sustainability in Live Events: Essential Round-Up 2021

Whilst this year could be seen as a ‘COP-out’ on the global stage, with a code red for climate apparently not hitting home, it has been an encouraging year of climate action in the UK live events industry. In this end-of-year blog, I provide a whistle stop tour of the key developments this year, and signpost the years most useful new resources.

An Unprecedented Explosion of Climate Action in UK Live Events

In 2021 there has been literally an explosion of sustainability-related activity in the UK live events sector, with almost all parts of this diverse ecosystem stepping up to grasp what meaningful action to measure and reduce emissions toward net zero targets looks like on the ground.

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Massive Attack set the scene, launching their Super Low Carbon Live Music report, which helped to provide some scientific context and targets for the sector – see the launch video here. The LIVE Green Declaration and Charter followed, signed off by the live music industry’s 13 key industry associations, providing direction and a framework for action toward a net zero target by 2030 for over 3,200 companies represented. Coldplay hit the headlines with their laudable 12-point plan approach to more sustainable touring. Music Declares Emergency (MDE) continued to engage the industry, with various campaigns including pension divestment, and Turn Up The Volume, on Earth week.

Industry titans Live Nation and AEG have launched more initiatives that commit their global operations to sustainability targets: Live Nation launched the Green Nation Touring Program, and AEG Announced their Climate Positive Touring. DJ’s For Climate Action Launched a new initiative for electronic music – Future Vision. Major label have got together under leadership from AIM and BPI to launch a Music Industry Climate Pact, with the support of the UN’s Environment Programme and as part off the Race To Zero, although I personally cannot view it as ‘race’ with a 2050 net zero target. The Touring Production Group (TPG), which has been very active on sustainability, issued a Call to Action in the form of an open letter. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) have both set up Climate Action Groups, and existing successful campaigns such as Drastic on Plastic are set to continue.

Engagement on sustainability focussed events has been strong this year: The Green Events and Innovations (GEI) conference took place as a hybrid event in March with a packed program, and launched a new summer edition. Vision:2025 produced their annual conference at Showmans Show under the banner Journey to Net Zero, hosting the annual Green Supplier Awards – this years winner, the OneCupOnePlanet company – see a round-up here. A persistent question in the many forums and initiatives that are driving sustainability forward is how collective work will be funded. One answer, launched this year, is Earth Percent, a charity which seeks to provide a vehicle for donations across the music industry to fund organisations having an impact.

All in all its been a cracking year for commitments on sustainability. As an industry we have now developed the vision, targets and frameworks to enable real change. It is now essential that we measure our impacts and take decisive action to reduce them, with net zero 2030 firmly in mind.

A Potentially Pivotal Moment for the Industry – Consultation Open

A potentially pivotal moment for sustainability in the events industry came relatively off the radar, with a question tabled as part of the Select Committee on the Future of Music Festivals (May 2021). Evidence was submitted by many on the topic including MP’s, Julies Bicycle and Rob Del Naja of Massive Attack. The committee made recommendations in August including Local Authorities introducing mandatory standards. The Government is now exploring this, the DCMS holding the brief. In response Vision:2025 have drafted a green code of conduct that has the potential to provide minimum standards for all live events in the UK. Vision:2025 are calling for all organisations involved in outdoor events to feed back on the draft of the code. The consultation closes on 14th January, and can be found here.

Meet the Green Festival Leaders of 2021

Aside from the amazing leadership shown by a whole bunch of people across the industry, who helped keep our industry alive through advocacy with Government, access to funding and developing industry practices [LIVE Outdoor events and festival group, Paul Reed of the AIF, Melvin Benn to name but a few], there has also been green leaders to celebrate. The Green Leaders series, published by Vision:2025, profiles green leaders in the festival space, providing an opportunity to find out how they do what they do, and what inspires them. This years Green Leaders Q&A series kicked of with Chris Rutherford, Boomtown co-founder, and featured a line up of pioneers including Mitchel Van Dooijeweerd, DGTL, Vikki Chapman, Head of Sustainability (UK & Ireland) at Live Nation, Sarah Bird, Wild Rumpus, and Ben Robinson, Kendal Calling and Blue Dot co-founder. See the full line-up of Green Leaders on the Vision:2025 website here.

IQ Magazine also ran the second year of their Green Guardians series, championing 40 individuals, companies and initiatives that are driving the green agenda.

New Training and Resources

The music industry got a dedicated carbon literacy course, Climate EQ, and there has been an acceleration of new tools and resources to support organisers, all of which can be found on the Vision:2025 Resource Hub. Here’s a few that are worthy on note:

Headlines From the Annual Festival Industry Green Survey

Sustainability is now firmly back on the agenda for festival organisers after being consigned to the side-lines during two years of survival-focus. The annual Vision:2025 Industry Green Survey in 2021 revealed this month that two thirds of events are reporting that they are measuring their carbon footprint, an 33% increase compared to the 2020 survey, when less than half of events were doing so. Whilst this is likely to be well above the real industry average, due to the survey participant profile, it shows an increase. However, even amongst events already acting on climate, 70% of organisations are yet to put a net zero strategy in place. Head over to the Vision:2025 website to read the full analysis of this year’s survey. View the full results and analysis on the Vision:2025 website here.