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Green Leader Q&A #40: Sarah Tew, Sustainability Lead at We Group (The Fair, We are Ops & We Are Placemaking)

Sarah has been working for We Group since 2017 and heads up the OPS team. She has always been passionate about safeguarding the future of live events in urban spaces and ensuring events have a positive legacy. Sarah leads on environmental sustainability at We Group and is committed to establishing a sustainable business model which ensures the agency can continue to deliver world-class events and experiences. She recently joined the Vision: 2025 Steering Group adding her voice to shaping climate action for the live events industry.

1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?

This year I delivered We Group’s first companywide sustainability training session and I joined the Vision 2025 Steering Group. It’s been great to inform and support colleagues and drive for change. Part two of the training is coming soon!

2.  What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?

Believing that I didn’t have enough knowledge, qualifications, or experience to make a difference in this space. Letting my imposter syndrome hold me back from acting.

3.  What are you excited about implementing this year?

I’m looking forward to seeing how the new briefing documents and templates I’ve created will support the Production Manager’s and Creative Producer’s at The Fair and We Are Placemaking to start talking to clients and suppliers about sustainability.

4.  Which environmental issue do you most care about?

Social justice and biodiversity loss.

5.  What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?

I have always loved clothes and I used to buy new things far too frequently. Now I rarely shop, and I’ve learnt to sew so I can repair and modify my own clothes to extend their lifecycle.

6.  What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?

Vision 2025 & The Guardian.

 7.  What is the most memorable live performance in your life?

Elton John at Glastonbury 2023.

8.  Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?

I went to South East Asia in 2017 and I was shocked by the amount of single-use plastic waste dumped there that scarred the beautiful landscapes. It also got me thinking about all the waste left behind at festivals and I knew I wanted to do something to about it.

9.  What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?

Firstly, it’s about encouraging action and secondly, it’s about reducing carbon emissions from energy consumption.

10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?

Inspiring and equipping event organisers with the knowledge and tools to fuel widespread collective action. The systemic constraints of attempting to operate events sustainably within the existing capitalist model.

11. Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?

Attending Shambala the year they went meat and fish free – and reading the Show Must Go On Report.

12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?

Embedding sustainability in planning and communicating complex information in an accessible way.

13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment

How the outdoor events and festival industries are coming together to push for change. Setting our own standards for best practice with the new Purple Guide Chapter on Sustainability and the launch of invaluable free resources such as the Future Festivals event sustainability e-learning course and Vision 2025 guide to Sustainable Materials and Waste Management Toolkit. It is great to see these practical resources that empower the industry to act.

14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?

If I’m ever feeling a little bit down about the world, I head over to Positive News to shift my internal narrative.

15. Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?

Focus on the low hanging fruit by taking simple actions that have immediate impacts.  For example, speaking to your power provider about energy use at your event and asking them to come up with a smart power plan to reduce energy use. This will help you to use temporary power more efficiently, reducing the number and size of generators across the site, save money on fuel, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. Don’t get bogged down with the sustainability jargon and attempting to navigate data capture if you don’t have the resources to do so at present. Keep it simple and start taking actions, this is the best thing you can do now.

16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?

Standing on the hill and looking over the Three Mills Island festival site during Art’s House Festival in August 2018. It was my first festival season since joining We Group and I remember feeling really proud that we had built this beautiful little festival in the middle of London and I knew I’m made a great decision moving into live events.

17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?

Learning to stay positive and not giving up. Understanding how people see things from different perspectives and finding the right angle to communicate.

18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!

We’re focused on how we can come together with our clients and the supply chain to create a more sustainable, equitable and just industry. To support us in doing this we’re creating new internal systems, tools and processes that encourage conversations and help us all to act.

19. Will we save the world?

Yes, if we come together and push for change.

20. What would your sustainable superpower be?

The ability to get everyone to understand why we should change and how to do it. 


Follow Sarah on Linkedin and find out more about We Group.
Follow We are OPS:
Twitter: @weare_OPS
LinkedIn: We Are OPS
Instagram: @weare.ops

This Q&A originally appeared in our March 2024 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.