Can the Events Management sector help scale sustainable solutions?

Sensemaking / Can the Events Management sector help scale sustainable solutions?

More Events Management students are learning to ask what sustainability can do for their practice. The next question is what Events Management can do for sustainability, argues Sandro Carnicelli, winner of the 2014 National Union of Students Green Impact Award.

11 Sep 2014

Sustainability and environmental impacts are two concepts that I have observed being used more frequently in the events industry, since the publication of the first version of the standard BS 8901 in 2007. Now, it is usual for Events Management students to learn about sustainability, and study pre-defined sustainable actions and environmental impact assessments which can contribute to the organisation and management of events.

However, it’s rare that students are encouraged to think about the possible contributions that Events Management, as a profession, can make to the field of sustainability. Why not have the events sector leading the way, by implementing sustainable transformations and innovations, and demonstrating their capacity for scale? For an industry worth almost £40 billion in the UK, according to Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP), it’s a reasonable ambition.  

My point here is that a challenge needs to be presented to future Events Management professionals about their prospects in practice. Turning lights off and recycling bottles are no longer enough if an event wants to show any degree of leadership.

The Green Impact Award run by the National Union of Students (NUS) is a good mechanism to push for environmental education. It’s something I have been involved in since my arrival in Scotland in 2011. Firstly, I realised that most of my Events Management students had never planted a tree before. This saddened me as such a simple action is capable of creating a positive bond between humans and nature. So, sixty trees were planted in 2011/2012 by some of my students in our UWS Hamilton Campus. In 2013/2014 we decided to continue moving forward with the Green Impact agenda and officially incorporate it into our Events Management degree.  

Now, all the first year Events Management students are required to engage with Green Impact. This involves analysing, evaluating and implementing changes in different sectors, groups and departments of the University. This activity has seen students take a central role in the transformation of their learning environment.

Our aim for the academic year 2014/2015 is to take our Green Impact activities further afield. Our first and second year students will be encouraged to take what they have learned about sustainable event management within the faculty out to local event companies.

An important decision was not to include Green Impact in our summative assessments. We believe that students should engage in an environmental transformation which goes beyond grades and academic rewards. However, this lack of ‘grade’ is probably the greatest challenge we face with students. It is not always easy to challenge people to see beyond the academic boxes as we are immersed within a very competitive, assessment-focused environment.

This is why the recognition offered through the NUS award scheme is of such value: it provides the stimulus and encouragement to push for sustainability to become a mainstream component of Event Management education.

Sandro Carnicelli is a Lecturer in Events Management at the Business School, University of the West of Scotland, winner of the 2014 National Union of Students Green Impact Award.

Photo credit: Brian Digital/Flickr


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