As an office of foodies, we know that the catering options are a corner stone of any event, but the amount of meat consumed was having a major impact on how sustainable our events could be. So we got our heads together and came up with a simple solution – what would happen if you had to opt-in for a meat option, rather than opt out?
BeaconHouse Events co-founded the TechNExt Festival, delivered in partnership with Dynamo North East and Sunderland Software City, and the week-long event took place in June 2023. As part of the event the team created the ‘Good Festival Ambition’ in order to curate an experience that put quality, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility and sustainability front of mind. As part of this ambition, the catering throughout the week was designed to reduce our carbon emissions by encouraging people to make conscious choices about what they were consuming. That meant that all buffet options at the Main Stage event and Festival Party were meat-free and the menu for the 120 guests at the conference dinner was vegetarian by default, with delegates having to request the meat option if that was their preference. The result was 55% of the attendees at the dinner choosing the meat-free options, as opposed to the average of only 10% that we would see at a usual event, greatly reducing our carbon footprint across the week.
The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world and when forests are destroyed to produce industrial meat, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. This one simple change allowed us to do better for our planet during the week-long festival while still providing a delicious dinner for the guests to enjoy.
Under 5% of people in the UK are vegetarian but there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of people attempting to cut down on the amount of meat that they consume, either for health or environmental reasons. That means that as an industry we have to adapt. And the issue is coming into mainstream consciousness more and more, over the last year we have seen the news that Oxford Council have banned meat from their menus at corporate events, with Cambridge, Exeter and Norwich Councils following suit and Cambridge University Darwin’s College served a fully vegan menu for their ball this June.
But the key to creating impact isn’t simply switching to a veggie or vegan menu, the trick is to communicate the importance of why. Going meat-free was just one element of our ‘Good Festival’ ambition and ‘for good’ was a core value that ran through everything throughout the week. That meant a focus on quality, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, and sustainability, all of which we communicated the impact of to our delegates in the lead up to the festival.
It is our job as a responsible employer and business to forge the path of what is possible and to collaborate with other organisations, both in and outside of the event sector, to learn from, and inspire, each other. We are seeing an increased demand for environmental reporting from our clients and are proud to be early adopters of TRACE, a digital carbon measurement platform to help the event industry reach Net Zero. TRACE helps us to gather data on our carbon impact at each event, which in turn gives us the ability to work with clients to benchmark and track success alongside their ESG strategy.
This small step is part of our wider goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 5% year on year, with the key ambition to become and remain a carbon responsible business, looking at carbon neutrality, alongside supply chain engagement, research into sustainably sourcing materials, digital solutions to limit single-use print and staff training to upskill the team on the future of events both in-person and online
There is still relatively low adoption for sustainable change across the sector, but with consistent and considered steps we can make real change together. To speak to one of our team about how you can put sustainability at the centre of your next event call on 0191 691 3456 or email email@example.com