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Events as a Force for Good

Posted by Sarah Threlfall

At the beginning of the summer, I was lucky enough to attend the Micebook “Talks” session held at the Meetings Show.  And finally, several very intelligent, engaging and passionate people were able to articulate what has been swirling round in my head for several years now. 

The unstoppable force that is Chetan Shah created and hosted the panel show and opened with the sort of statement that leapt off the stage and slapped me round the face: 

“The events industry can be a force for good – Is the world a better place because your company is in it?” 

Since then, it’s taken on a whole separate identity, with Chetan launching the Micebook Ventures at the end of October – expanding this 30 minute talk into a 2 day industry conference, encouraging us all to ‘be a part of the change’.

The Power of Events 

The events industry has a VAST purchasing power across a huge range of sectors – where else could you one day be sourcing 200 monogrammed towels and luxury jewellery and the next you’re on the hunt for 150 hay bales, 30 glass tables and 500 edible favours.   

Just imagine the good that could be done if all that money was invested in ethically sound, environmentally conscious companies – who themselves have a supply chain that brings wealth to poor communities or supports disadvantaged groups with employment.  

This is WAY more than using biodegradable cups and wooden cutlery. 

This is about transforming the industry, the way we look at our own supply chain and making sure we are all making good choices in everything that we do. 

Progress, not Perfection 

Of course, it’s a work in progress, and no-one is going to go from throwing entire stage sets in a skip to 100% ethical and reusable material overnight – but we all have a duty to aim high to kick start the process.  

Equally, not all our clients or suppliers are going to be as passionate about the cause as we are – but our responsibility is to start the conversation early – and force the discussion to the top of the agenda. The most dramatic differences can often be made with those fundamental event decisions:  format, venue, location. 

Beware Green Washing 

One word of warning though – the panel were unanimous in a desire to avoid ‘green washing’ at all costs.  This is where companies are using this purely as an exercise to tick RFP boxes – you will get found out!   

Having said that, in the short term, if you need to convince someone higher up to take a 2nd look at this, there is no denying that sustainability is becoming increasingly important for your clients and your stakeholders 

Their decisions on who to appoint will increasingly be influenced by your policies, attitude and approach in this crucially important area.  

Best Practice Suggestions 

The panel were a great cross section from agencies, venues, suppliers and were all incredibly committed to the message. Emma Welstead, from Warwick Events was the most passionate, honest and knowledgeable speaker I’ve ever heard on this topic and she lit a fire underneath me which will now never go out.  

She focused on the idea of making sure everything at your event has a great story behind it – if it has a story, it’s likely had a positive impact.  Don’t just hire in conference chairs and tables, use a company like Rustic Furniture Hire that repurposes 2nd hand / waste products to make furniture instead.  Don’t buy the best value for money room gifts, in bulk, from Amazon.  Instead, source thoughtful items made by social enterprises (social enterprises UK) that fund good work elsewhere as well as using sustainable materials.  

Another bold idea was to do away with traditional give aways altogether – but instead make a direct charity donation and then use your event comms / screens / content to tell guests that their missing goody bag has instead funded the building of a school or is funding a food bank.  

Give them a warm glow – instead of a bag of branded crap.   

Claire Pearson from non-profit water company Belu explained how it was the little things that add up and it’s important to make changes from the ground up – not just the big decisions like which hotel you use.  This echoes one of my favourite concepts – the 1% gains.  If you make enough of them, they make a huge difference.  

Caroline Lumgair Wiseman from Eventful talked us through how they are taking pro-active steps to lead their clients into better decisions.  They will highlight the most sustainable venue choices and other decisions throughout the process to force the conversation even if the client hasn’t mentioned it.  This is something that we have already introduced.  

Ana Carolina Moutella from Good Hotel Group in London gives a big tip – to find suppliers who are already doing it – and let them do it!  If you can appoint the right people within your supply chain then you will make your life much easier.   

Ask probing questions around sustainability, re-use, waste management etc. when you have those first conversations around a new brief.  Put pressure on them to demonstrate / up their game.  Why choose a less than committed hotel then spend the next 6 months challenging their operation when you could choose someone who’s already there – and will probably be able to give you even more ideas to improve.  

The full supply chain story is so important – Emma gave another example of table centres which I’d like to finish on as the #eventgoals for all of us: 

You may choose a local florist and feel that you’ve done your bit.   

  • Supported local small business, maybe even minority or female owned 
  • Non plastic 
  • Low mileage to deliver 
  • Biodegradable 

However, if you dig a little deeper, the cut flowers industry has a terrible track record for workers rights & welfare – off in distant countries and uses vast quantities of the world’s precious resources including land and water. 

It usually involves thousands of airmiles to get them to the local florist.  Then it all gets thrown in the bin.   

Instead, purchase locally grown houseplants, dressed for the tables, and then given to attendees or even event / hotel staff to take away to keep.  Supports local industry, reduces carbon footprint, reduces waste, recognises unsung staff who are often on minimum wage and introduces more plants into the world!   

That’s a win, win, win, win, win in my book! 


For more information on Micebook Ventures and to join us and other industry leaders and global players, click here.

At Brightspace Events, we’re extremely passionate about this. Event Management, Delegate Registration, Exhibition Stand Design & Build, Event Staffing, Incentive Programmes, AV Production…..always delivered with the good our planet and our society at the very heart of conversations, decisions and the operation.

If this really matters to you and your company too and you need help and ideas on how to make your next event a ‘force for good’ Get in touch, we really would like to help you.


Sarah Threlfall

Sarah's worked in the corporate event industry across hotels, global event agencies and now at Brightspace for over 25 years and has been lucky enough to deliver some jaw dropping delivered events from Antigua to Zambia. She now leads the agency and is heavily involved with all the projects and is wildly enthusiastic about every client and every event; relishing the challenge to get under their skin and deliver real value in their event strategy. Health and well being are central to her life so she prioritises all sorts of activity with running as her first love and most recently, joining a ladies cricket team. She's also very likely to be found on the touchline of junior football / rugby and cricket matches as well as indulging her love of live theatre. (p.s. as 2 separate hobbies; her kids would disown her if she were bursting into song / bringing out the jazz hands on the sidelines!)