Earth Day guest blog: The final warning on climate change

In this guest blog from Selina Donald, Founder the Bulb and isla Advisory Board member, explores why we we should view sustainability as an opportunity, rather than a cost, in the face of the climate crisis.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is made up of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists and advisors on climate change. In March 2023 they published their latest report and – spoiler alert – it is grim reading. It’s a synthesis of five years of climate change data and paints an alarming picture of the state of our planet.

Destructive and unpredictable weather patterns have cost $750 billion over the past five years alone, destroyed homes, fragmented communities and led to the loss of livelihoods of millions of people. Climate change will continue to disrupt society, businesses and the economy and no sector is immune.

It’s not all bad news

A recent study cited “companies with a strong purpose outperform the market by 5% to 7% per year.” And the most recent IPCC report also presents areas of opportunity to adapt and mitigate climate change to ensure our survival on this planet.

But we need to act decisively and collectively now – as an industry and across industries. Net Zero by 2050 is too late. And anyone in the events industry who’s tried, has already realised that no one can be Net Zero until we’re all Net Zero, so we truly must collaborate. It’s time-critical for the events industry to share best practice and create a community of practice through key players like isla.

This is actually good for business

Climate change requires the biggest systematic shift that our world will ever see. The stakes are high on all fronts: if you don’t adapt your way of working, you will find yourself struggling to compete against those who already have.

The driving contributor to climate change is reliance on fossil fuels. For us, that means doing better than just recycling or removing virgin plastics from events. We each need to be delivering authentic, credible approaches that ensure a positive impact.

At The Bulb, we’re already helping our client’s respond to requests for further information on their sustainability strategy from tenders to impact-related questionnaires from procurement teams, and what’s clear is that this will soon be a requirement for working with household names. Brands are under the media and consumer microscope to demonstrate their positive action on climate change, so I predict in the next two – three years providing carbon footprint data and event impact reports will be standard requirements.

You have a narrow window of time now to get ahead of compliance by building an effective strategy and approach, up-skilling your staff and incorporating it into your project processes and supply chain. If you don’t know where to start, reach out, because we do – our raison d’etre is to help our industry transform its impact and create systemic change.

Get practical

If you’re wondering where to start, I have a few pointers:

Firstly, remember: Data is your best friend in demonstrating progress and stewardship. Every company should be reporting on and reducing its own Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Secondly, you must embed a sustainable, climate-changed focused approach all levels. If your approach isn’t embedded into culture and practice, you will render yourself non- competitive in the very near future.

Thirdly, know what you stand for. This is your North Star. Can you articulate your purpose and values as a business? This can inspire and guide you in creating effective practice and having the impact you want to have. We ourselves deep-dived into this process and emerged with a manifesto that has guided how we work, the tools we’ve produced and, eventually, having the measurable impact we crave. It’s powerful.

Fourthly, remember that climate change is about everything – environment, economy and society. The World Resources Institute’s response to the recent IPCC included a key point: ‘Climate change … will exacerbate inequity should we fail to ensure a just transition.’ This is why we’ve dialed-up our own work to help others ensure accessibility, community impact, diversity and other highly-relevant areas of focus are at the heart of their event planning and delivery.

Finally, be strategic and practical. Commit to measurable targets. Use tools like TRACE to track your progress and that of your clients. Embed your strategy into your business.

Report on your progress. Seek to improve continuously.

Over to you

As an influential industry of creatives, strategists and communicators – we are well-placed to influence a best-possible-outcome on climate change. We reach global audiences by creating exciting and memorable platforms. We work with the world’s biggest brands. Our collective reach is huge. How can we make the most of that to contribute to the rapid, collective action needed now?

Not only is a strategic, impactful approach an investment in your future as a business: – it’s an investment in our collective future.

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