EN’s Stuart Wood hosted a panel discussion at Confex North with some of the industry’s rising stars, examining the future of corporate social responsibility.
Confex North came to Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse on 3-4 July, continuing to extend the reach of the Confex brand outside London and across the UK.
The event provided a platform for exhibitors in the North to showcase what they have to offer, while delegates were invited to attend a programme of speakers to keep them up-to-date on the latest industry trends and developments.
EN’s Stuart Wood hosted a panel discussion with members of our sister magazine Conference News’ 30 Under 30, titled ‘The Future of CSR’.
The panellists comprised Kasim Choudhry, Thinkfest national director, Pathway Group; Matt Culverhouse, CEO, TEN6 Creative; Posy Cuthbertson, creative, WRG, a division of The Creative Engagement Group; Will Dalzell, head of events proposition and innovation, Venues and Events International; and Lizzy Dring, director, Right Angle Corporate.
The discussion focused on the evolution of corporate social responsibility from an optional extra into a mandatory, core part of all businesses.
Companies which have put CSR initiatives at the top of their agenda are the ones who have managed to connect to a young audience, one is more socially aware than ever. In the retail sector, companies such as Lush and Innocent have been highly successful from marketing themselves in this way – so what about in events?
“There is a lot of change needed in people’s mindset within the events industry,” said Dring. “We still have a bad culture of overwork, which is causing a lot of young people to burn out in event careers. People feel pressure to work unsustainable overtime, and then find themselves looking for a change of scenery after two years.”
When asked where change needs to come from within the industry, many panellists agreed that it should come from the top down – that managers and CEOs within events need to get their staff on board.
Cuthbertson said: “I think it’s really powerful when your boss or someone in C-suite gets behind something you care about – when management feels to be on a level with everyone.
“For example, at TCEG we do ‘Meat Free Monday’, which isn’t necessarily about going veggie or animal welfare – but more about reducing the amount of meat we eat and therefore the land and water usage, as well as the carbon footprint, associated with producing meat. It’s not obligatory, but it’s a kind of tradition that we do here as a group.”
On the topic of sustainability, Culverhouse said that many event companies are talking the talk but not walking the walk: sending out a press release about removing 1,000 plastic straws means nothing if that ethos doesn’t carry through to every aspect of your business. He also conceded that events is, by nature, a difficult industry to make sustainable, due to the travel involved in bringing people together in a physical space.
Cuthbertson posited hybrid events as one solution to that problem: “We’ve delivered hybrid events for some of our clients at TCEG. There were a handful of senior leaders still gathering in the physical space, but the event really ‘lived’ online for this brand team. There were scheduled streams, on-demand videos and discussion walls.
“Consider Glastonbury – the TV marathons with friends and family, the online catch-up of your favourite artist’s performance and all the social media hype that surrounds it.
“As a remote viewer you get the best of that live event, a much bigger conversation, and in the case of our client’s event we were also able to include hundreds of delegates who hadn’t been able to attend the live event in previous years.”
Photography: Mr Ladd Media.