Introducing O+ The Climate-Positive Framework for Event Sustainability
An element that many marketers include on their “must-have” lists, sustainable event design requires a significant financial investment to pull off — and a willingness to adjust goals to fit changing realities.
Meaningful sustainability efforts require a multitiered, multifaceted approach to move the needle. As the teams at Opus Agency work to implement sustainability strategies for ourselves and our clients, we developed a new strategic framework for approaching event sustainability for the next five years — an initiative we’re calling O+ (more on that later).
In creating this new five-year strategic framework, our teams explored insights on business ethics, circular design, and climate positivity and identified key differences between conventional and modern sustainability goals.
So, how do we get to O+, and what does it look like in action? Let’s dive in.
Taking on a climate-positive strategic framework requires a reevaluation of conventional goals. These modern targets are central to the idea of circular design and cause a shift in perspective for those who seek them.
With these new, climate-positive goals in mind, we can begin to explore key findings that show where we’ve been and where we’re headed next. The following three insights support the imposition of modern sustainability goals and lay the groundwork for the O+ approach.
The Shift from CSR to ESG
A decade ago, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was the buzzword for sustainable business practices. Companies adapted and built frameworks for philanthropic, economic, and environmental responsibilities.
Trends shifted over time, resulting in a more measurable, specific, and holistic approach to ethical business practice — ESG (Environmental, Societal, Governance). A term commonly used by investors in capital markets, ESG helps to evaluate business behavior and determine future financial performance.
ESG has quickly gained popularity as a crucial way for companies to demonstrate impact by examining
- How a company performs as a steward of nature and the environment
- How a company manages its relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and communities
- How a company is run and governed
From Linear to Circular Design
As detailed in the Regenerative Revolution report, the events industry currently utilizes a linear economy, i.e., take → make → use → dispose, as its baseline, but the extraction of raw materials and waste production can be drastically reduced by prioritizing circular design. Recovering, repairing, remaking, reusing, and recycling as many products and materials as possible, repeatedly and systematically. Circular design, is on the rise across industries, within fashion, consumer goods, and events — it was even a debut category at the 2022 Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards.
Accenture calculated that the circular economy is the world's most significant opportunity, with the potential to unlock $4.5 trillion in growth. We’ve even begun to see circularity in our industry with the development of Feel the Peel.
International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati, in partnership with global energy company Eni, developed an experimental Circular Juice Bar that uses oranges to make bioplastic, turns it into filament, and 3D prints disposable cups to drink the freshly-squeezed juice. Since its premiere in 2019, Feel the Peel has been installed at events across the globe as it strives to demonstrate a new approach to environmental circularity in daily life.
From Carbon Neutral to Climate Positive
This third insight is key to Opus Agency’s O+ framework. With the net-zero emissions initiative booming, a fifth of the world’s largest companies have committed to net-zero targets.
Net zero, or carbon neutral, refers to activities, processes, and companies that offset environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions to zero. A climate-positive company will not only achieve net-zero carbon emissions, but it will also work to remove greenhouse gasses through tactics like tree planting, regenerative agriculture, and circular business designs.
Climate-positive actions are achieved by identifying where you produce emissions→ making a strategy to reduce → implementing reduction strategies → measuring emissions → offsetting the excess.
The green goals we’ve prioritized for many years have changed, and working toward climate positivity requires a shift in mindset — and a bold plan.
The New Event Sustainability Strategic Framework
Created by the teams at Opus Agency, O+ (oh-plus) is a cyclical framework designed for accessibility and implementation into every part of the event planning and execution process to move toward more ambitious sustainability goals within our industry.
O+ In Action
When thinking about sustainability strategies for 2023 and beyond, there are actionable changes that we can all begin to implement as we continue to explore circularity.
- Redefine sustainability goals toward more progressive action
- Reimagine strategies to eliminate and reduce energy, waste, and emissions
- Evaluate the value chain and shift towards more circular, regenerative alternatives
- Use local/sustainable vendors
- Implement circular event technology
- Use recycled, recovered, and natural event materials
- Limit food waste
- Work with local government/businesses to create nature-based solutions that regenerate local ecosystems and improve people’s livelihoods
- Bring your resource management actions to the front of the house (composting, food donation, resource separation) and make them participatory for attendees
- Give attendees donation/giveback opportunities
- Share success stories
- Shine the spotlights
- Organize giveback impact and resources
- Design take-homes
- Take part in post-event celebrations
- Invest in measurement technology and staff to measure emissions, waste, and energy consumption
- Set goals and track progress at every stage of event planning and execution
- Create environmental impact reports post-event
- Be transparent about goals before the event and show your success in achieving them
- Demonstrate a desire for progress for the next year
Traditional sustainability models focus primarily on Redesign, Show, and Measure, but O+ also includes Engage, Energize, and Prove to “close the circle.” These additional steps allow event marketers to dive deeper into their sustainability commitments and prioritize accountability.
O+ is cyclical in nature, moving the industry closer toward modern sustainability goals every time it is used. Using a measurable ESG framework, O+ applies to every event process step. O+ is our holistic approach and framework for achieving future sustainability goals and climate positivity for us, our clients, our partners, and our communities.
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