Green Events & Innovations Conference 16 – A sell out success

The Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the foremost conference for sustainable events, welcomed 400 delegates to the Royal Lancaster London for the event’s 16th edition on 27th February.

AGF CEO Claire O’Neill and director Teresa Moore started the day’s proceedings by highlighting that we’re reaching critical mass structurally and culturally in which we must change the way our sector operates and that using our platform for communication has never been more important in a year of pivotal elections worldwide. This was followed by a packed agenda of inspirational innovators from the global live music, sports, and event sector, tackling critical sustainability topics with speakers who brought their knowledge, insight, and passion to the panels and conversations.

The first session of the day covered extreme weather events, exploring the current situation with a presentation from climate scientist, Richard Betts from the Met Office and University of Exeter, who said, “We are seeing spring coming earlier and summers are hotter and winter is later and wetter, so thinking about the timing of events in the future should be taken into consideration,” with Safety & Security Consultant Alexandra von Samson adding, “We have to adapt to the situation as it’s not going to go away.”

The sponsored by oil and gas session tackled sponsorship and greenwashing with Luke Howell (Hope Solutions) sustainability advisor to Coldplay and Glastonbury Festival stating that “Oil and gas companies are aware that the music industry has been struggling and are seeking to take advantage.”

​​The world’s first carbon-removed gig – The 1975 @ at The O2 Arena with AEG’s John Langford and Sam Booth examined the pilot event (a partnership between AGF and carbon-removal experts CUR8) – a game-changing step on the path to helping the global live events industry reach genuine net-zero. And saw Booth stating that “there is a need to convince artists and bands to come on this journey with us and get on board with it and to open up conversations that wouldn’t normally be had.”

Popstars, sports personalities, and music industry moguls were in the spotlight in Bridging The Gap, Proud To Pay More with Julia Davies (Patriotic Millionaires UK) explaining how the event and entertainment industry is in a prime position to make a difference and stand up for a better future for us all.

The quick-fire innovation Round saw unique and innovative sustainability ideas presented, including ChefChain blockchain for food traceability, ReClaim Audio recycled speakers, FibreStrap biodegradable cable ties, Take The Jump innovative communication strategy to cut through behaviour change messages, and Fluctuations the transnational boat festival wandering European rivers, to mobilise on social, environmental, and citizenship topics.

Continuing the global affairs impacting the live sector focus, Ellie Kinney (The Conflict and Environment Observatory) discussed the environment as a silent victim of armed conflict in The Military Emissions Gap, stating that “If the world’s militaries were a country, it would have the fourth highest carbon footprint,” whilst in Influencing Audiences Beyond the Festival, Dr Teresa Moore and Green Gathering’s Em Weirdigan explored the influence of green festivals towards audiences beyond the event, discussing research undertaken by The Green Gathering in association with A Greener Future with Weirdigan highlighting “40% of people are there because they believe in our ethos and feel they’ve found something meaningful with us.”

The agenda also tackled the structures on which the live sector depends, including artist contract clauses with a session hosted by Head of Sustainability for EMEA at Live Nation Patricia Yagüe with LIVE Green Chair Carol Scott (TAIT), Tom Schroeder (Wasserman Music), and Ross Patel (Whole Entertainment /Music Managers Forum) in Contracts for Climate. In this essential discussion, Patel said “Artists with significant leverage are starting to use their power to drive their own sustainable goals,” with Schroeder adding, “What we need is not just Billie Eilish doing her thing, we need it to be accepted as part of the ecosystem and not to be the exception but the rule” and that “more efficient touring and scaled-down production lead to less [of a] carbon footprint and more income, so everyone wins.”

This year’s research sessions included the launch of a new toolkit: No Climate Action Without Us. How to include disabled people in live event sustainability – a joint project with Attitude is Everything, A Greener Future, and Julie’s Bicycle with Farah Ahmed (Julie’s Bicycle) and Dr Teresa Moore (A Greener Future) presenting, followed by a panel with Blaine Harrison (Mystery Jets), Tori Tsui (Climate Activist), and Harry Jones (Forwards Festival), and hosted by Feimatta Conteh (Arts Council England). Three case studies from Forwards Festival, Green Man, and Shambala were also examined. This thought-provoking session saw Harrison state, “Feeling connected to nature makes us feel more incentivised to fight to protect it.”

It’s not possible to consider green events without considering the stage. ‘Greening The Stage’, hosted by John Robb (Louder Than War), with Carol Scott (TAIT), Pauline Bourdon (Team Love/Soliphilia), and Zarya Vrabcheva (STUFISH Entertainment Architects) discussed what we have in our toolbox today to design stages that mitigate the use of virgin materials, reduce emissions, and start working towards the circular economy. Scott stated “Solving the key fundamental problems is having more lead time. The biggest problem is the lack of decision-making at the front end.”
After a delicious climate-loving plant-based lunch including sliders courtesy of Devil’s Kitchen, Dale Vince (Ecotricity / Forest Green Rovers FC) took center stage to host two sessions: Firstly, Low Emission Festivals & Events highlighted that more than 85% of festival energy in the UK is still coming from generators and this needs to move to grid, battery, hybrid, and other fuel mixes in the near future, whilst Andy Hibberd (Ecotricity / Grid Faeries) stated that “without data, you can’t make informed choices.” Secondly, Avengers Assemble: Using Profile for Change with Sam Lee, Music Declares Emergency’s Fay Milton, and Louis VI, in which Vince stated that “this is the most important year of our lifetimes” in terms of elections and then called for the industry to get behind the #JustVote24 campaign.

AEME (Association of Event Management Educators) returned to GEI bringing together a panel of academics to discuss the demand for sustainability skills across the industry in Supporting sustainable employability skills for current and future generations of festival and events managers with rapper, multi-instrumentalist, and activist Louis VI joining GEI for the first time to give an inspiring keynote speech Nature Ain’t A Luxury, where he asked the question: “Why aren’t we defending the music of nature like we are defending our creative expression and songwriter splits?”

A series of thought-provoking presentations also took place, including Sisyphean Or Herculean? The task ahead for decarbonising transport with Glenn Lyons (Mott McDonald/University of West England), chasing waste management gremlins with Clive Philips (Greenbox Events Ltd), and carbon impact of festivals: AGF annual report with Alex Fintoni (A Greener Future).
The highly anticipated EarthPercent Hour completed the programme and featured a keynote conversation with Brian Eno hosted by EarthPercent’s executive director, Cathy Runciman, with Jarvis Cocker taking to the stage during the grand finale to present his book – Biophobia – which was both thought-provoking, entertaining, and a treat for GEI delegates.

The day rounded up with the International AGF Awards 2024 sponsored by the incredible Skydiamond, with 27 events, venues, and innovators from 12 countries as finalists, with the the top accolade – the International Greener Festival Award 2024 – going to Belgium’s Paradise City, who also scooped the Greener Catering Award. Louis VI also gave an impromptu interactive performance engaging the crowd.

Skydiamond founder Dale Vince said: “Sky diamonds are made from the sky. It’s 21st-century alchemy. We don’t have to give up the things we enjoy, we just need to do them differently, and that’s what GEI and AGF is all about, so this was a natural alignment and well-deserved by the winners.”
Full list of 2024 International AGF Award winners:
International Greener Festival Award – Paradise City, BE
Greener Transport Award – Rosendal Garden Party, SE
Circular Event Award – I Land Sound, EE
Community Action Award – Sonidos Líquidos, ES
Greener Catering Award – Paradise City, BE
Pied Piper Award – ØyaFestivalen, NO
Greener Power Award – Green Gathering, UK
Water & Sanitation Award – Boom, PT
Greener Innovations Award – 6 Degrees by Team Love & re: right design, UK

GEI was kindly supported by Ecotricity, TAIT, Instagrid, KB Event, and The O2.
More information at / @agreenerfuture