BLOG: Tackling Sustainability at Events - BDC


BLOG: Tackling Sustainability at Events - BDC

28 Feb 2019 by: Kate Simpson - Marketing Director - Business Design Centre

bdc blog


The debate around plastics, waste reduction and the consumption of energy is nothing new to us at the BDC; in fact, we have been Carbon Neutral® now for 10 years. The future though clearly requires a bigger investment into much greater detail, especially from an industry where waste production has the potential to be a significant by-product of its success. Those at the forefront of affecting change are already implementing initiatives to push their participants to create a more responsible outcome from their events. From seemingly small ideas, such as providing reusable water bottles at conferences to use in conjunction with ticketing incentives, to making measured change across a portfolio to ensure exhibition stands are used again, the events industry is most definitely not sitting back; it is in fact a topic of conversation across numerous event sectors.

The EDIE Sustainability Leaders Forum held last week at the BDC brought together figureheads from global corporations to deliver and debate key messages on the topic, not just in terms of reducing but in reversing the situation; transforming the way business operates for good. Messages from the event were clear that ‘silence really is not an option any longer’ when it comes to business sustainability.

Last month’s AEO Forums hosted a panel of industry experts on how best to engage those at events on the matter of sustainability and what they thought should be done to impact change at the highest level. Venue Services Manager, Hayley Constable who heads up the Sustainability Team here at the BDC sat on the panel session:

“I think it’s imperative for venues to engage with the organisers of events from an early stage to be made aware of the impact the show will have. Our policy at the venue is one of 0% to landfill, however the next step would be to reduce users issues and incineration. We also don’t want that to mean people are able to leave things behind knowing that it will simply 'be taken care of'.
Some organisers are already implementing important changes to ensure that not only do exhibitors take their stand away, but it’s also being used again and again. The idea around stands on exhibitions shouldn’t just be about them going to a responsible end, but should be about the longevity of what is built in the first place.”

Chief Executive, Dominic Jones also considers it of vital importance in the education of venue users, who may not be aware that they are contributing to the problem by incorrectly recycling their waste:

“Creating clearer directions for visitors to the venue is important to ensure that the good work done in recycling isn’t ruined through contamination. In the same way we ensure the safety of those onsite through clear and concise health and safety messaging, it is key that we take the education of our guests just as seriously when it comes to sustainability.”

Tackling waste has to also be addressed by suppliers to the venue. Our catering company the Good Eating Company has been integral in our reduction, replacing single use plastic containers with glass jars, providing biodegradable straws and offering discounts on hot drinks when guests bring their own reusable cups. They also understand that part of the solution is in their own supply chain, so have focused on this when sourcing their produce. General Manager, Liam Keating explains,

“Not only does the UK have some of the best producers, it also makes sense to source locally. We use fish from down the road at Billingsgate Market and have an even closer supplier here in Islington who produce our charcuterie from the highest welfare British meats. Our cakes are made here at the BDC using ethical products where possible such as Fairtrade chocolate. Reducing our impact on transporting our ingredients to the venue is important to us as we cook freshly onsite every day, so decreasing pollution levels by getting what is available on our doorstep makes environmental sense.”

Sourcing locally extends across the business as we are lucky to serve as a home to over one hundred other companies, many of whom may able to offer support onsite. When making changes to the building or providing event services we will always try to keep the work within this network further reducing transport to the venue. The in house team has already begun the first phase of a venue wide water filtration system offering free water at new filling stations across the event space which is due to be completed in the coming months.

Our Sustainability Team made up of staff and contractors onsite are consistently implementing changes in and around the venue and along the supply chain. We have been working with both our local council and environmental service providers to ensure that the practices we put in place are of the best possible standard. We also see it of the utmost importance to learn from and share these best practices across our industry at opportunities such as the (AEOAEV & ESSA) cross association Sustainability Working Group.

Our advice to event organisers coming to the venue is to get in touch with our event managers to start the conversation early. We are happy to offer support and ideas on ways to keep waste low and recycle more, to implement better practices and to introduce you to suppliers that we work with. We have connections in the local area, so if you don’t want the chairs from your feature builds, I bet we can find a local community centre that might. Meet the caterers for a tasting, they are always on site and happy to explain the choices available to make your menu less impactful on the environment. When it comes to getting here, we are a well-connected venue; point guests to our visiting us section for the quickest routes by public transport and if they want to drive, there are electric charging points available in our car park.

We also say communicate to your exhibitors and visitors before they arrive. If you only tell them two things; bring a reusable coffee cup (you will get a discount on hot drinks in Jack’s upstairs in the venue) and bring a reusable water bottle (you can refill it and there will soon be more locations to do this). Finally, if exhibitors aren’t sure about their stand build yet – ask us for support!

If you would like to discuss your next event here at the venue then please get in touch with your event manager or you can contact another member of the team.

For information about the meetings and events mentioned, you can find out more below:

AEV Sustainability Cross Working Group
EDIE Sustainability Leaders Forum
AEO Forums

Thank you to Kate for granting permission to post. Visit here to view Kate's blog on the Business Design Centre website.




  • "Great day hosting our first AEV working group event!..WOW did I learn a lot and some great insights into how other venues work and the challenges they are trying to overcome. If you are a venue looking to network with other like minded professionals I would recommend looking at joining the AEV".
    Danielle Worker
    Corporate Events Team Leader, Silverstone Circuits Ltd
  • "“Great essential for a successful venue. The AEV provides a platform to establish consistent best practice in this field"
    Phil Wetz
    Retail & Catering Manager, ExCeL London
  • “The AEV provides collective representation for its member venues, turning individual commitment into a group effort"
    Paul Brough
    Venue Health & Safety Manager, Olympia London
  • "Proud to be part of this Cross Association discussion. I am confident in our ability to improve and progress our working platform through conversation".
    Amir Vered
    Head of eForce and IT, Olympia London (Chair of Cross Association Technology WG)
  • “The AEV is essential to the venue sector’s ability to cooperate and collaborate"
    Jazmin Beale
    Head of Marketing & Communications, Olympia London
  • “The AEV undertakes crucial work on behalf of event venues up and down the country to ensure our voice is heard. They reinforce the important role our sector plays in delivering economic impact, increasing trade, providing jobs and driving the visitor economy.”
    Lucy Merritt
    Head of Marketing and Communications, ExCeL London
  • AEV Membership is a key part of our business strategy; it has and will continue to be a core elements of our plan to support knowledge sharing in the industry and to develop both our team and the venue.
    Kate Vandenburg
    Marketing Director - Business Design Centre
  • Our team at ACC Liverpool feel indebted to the substantial work that the AEV do for our amazing industry. As the pillar association for venues across the country it’s a real privilege for our teams to participate in many of the working groups, learning and contributing to new processes which helps drive our industry forward on a national scale.
    Colm Graham
    Senior Exhibition Account Manager, ACC Liverpool
  • We have benefited hugely from all of the insight, discussion, events and networking, but it has also meant that we have been able to give back to the industry by sharing our unique experiences and professional knowledge and allowing our employees to help lead and shape the Association from the inside.
    Mathew James
    Head of Brand, Telford International Centre
  • “The AEV has been an invaluable asset to us as a company and the wider industry, helping to lobby on the industries behalf, consolidating and distributing information and facilitating vital knowledge sharing.”
    Charlie Hodgson
    Managing Director at The Kia Oval