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Industry Green Survey 2021 – Results and Analysis

The annual Industry Green Survey of outdoor festivals, conducted by the Vision: 2025 network of outdoor events and businesses taking climate action for the 7th year running, provides a snapshot of sustainability practice across the industry by asking UK festival organisers about their attitudes and challenges. The results identify trends and changes and help Vision: 2025 shape support and resources for the industry.

About the survey:

The Industry Green survey 2021 was completed by representatives from 109 festivals ranging from 1,000 – 80,000 capacity, with combined audience of more than 2,000,000. The majority of respondents are Company Directors, with some employed sustainability leads

The survey was published by Vision: 2025 with the AIF and AFO. It was open from Oct – Nov 2021. The below analysis of the results was written by Chris Johnson, Chair, Vision 2025, who comments:

“We acknowledge that things are shifting fast, and that this sample of events that engaged with the survey may be above average in terms of environmental practices; however, the answers nonetheless give us a valuable snapshot that will help inform our work over the next 12 months. With thanks to everyone who has given us their time. “

The key findings

Two thirds of events in the survey reported that they are measuring their carbon footprint, a 33% increase compared to the 2020 survey, when less than half of events were doing so.

70% of organisations are yet to put a net zero strategy in place

Local authority expectations are changing: 15% of events reported that their local authority required information about sustainability in 2021, and a further 25% said it has been indicated that this will be required in the near future.

What’s new in 2021?

Despite many events not taking place or running at reduced capacity, and the challenges of the 2021 season, many events report putting new sustainability measures in place. 20% of events reported that they had done one of the following in 2021 for the first time:

  • Engaged with a project or consultancy to improve sustainability
  • Implemented new recycling measures
  • Worked with specific suppliers to improve sustainability

Plastic has been less of a focus in 2021 than the previous three years, but is still on the agenda, with 10% of events choosing reusable cups for the first time in 2021.

Priorities and challenges for festival organisers

The top three priorities identified by organisers are energy consumption, waste (specifically serveware and cups) and travel and transport impacts.

Various transport-related challenges were highlighted, such as lack of public transport options, the reality of families needing to travel in cars, and the trend for audiences to prefer private cars due to covid concerns. Other transport challenges shared by survey participants were; a lack of sustainable supplier options in certain regions, last minute changes in event requirements, and needing more knowledge to feel confident about measuring emissions and generally to implement new practices.

As has been the case in every annual survey, time and costs are reported as the leading barriers to change, followed by lack of expertise and suppliers.

Internal commitment is motivating festivals to go greener

By a long way, the main driver for action within festival organisations is a commitment amongst the team (71%), with the secondary driver reported as audience experience.

Local authority requirements are changing

60% of organisers have said that there are no current requirements relating to sustainability from local authorities, but the survey suggests things are changing: 15% have reported they were required in 2021 to provide information about sustainability or meet certain standards with their local authority, and 25% reported that it has been indicated that this be in place in the near future. Organisers reported that some local authorities are putting in place sustainable event guides.

The leading sustainability practices in the sector:

  1. Strategies in place to reduce waste and increase recycling (82%)
  2. Monitoring fuel use in generators (67%)
  3. Promoting an incentivising sustainable travel (62%)

FOCUS ON KEY AREAS

Energy

Almost two thirds of festivals are using LED festoon, at least some LED stage lighting and monitoring fuel usage in generators. A third are using some solar equipment, and 25% battery technology. Almost half are receiving a detailed post-event report on energy management, which means despite research showing that festival can typically reduce fuel bills and emissions by 40%+ with these measures, more than half of events are yet to do so.

Travel

Around 40% of festivals are offering a package of services to incentivise sustainable travel, including car sharing, charging for vehicle tickets, shuttle buses. 56% offer cycle parking. With travel representing 80%+ of a typical outdoor festival’s carbon footprint, there is an opportunity for more than half of festivals to implement similar changes and reduce emissions.

Waste

Three quarters of events have front and back of house recycling in place. Two thirds know where their waste goes through their contractor, and the processes involved, and over half of events (55%) have checked and verified this information directly. Over half (57%) now have a reuse policy in place for production materials.

Communicating with stakeholders

80% of festivals are communicating about sustainability with audiences, and 15% of events published their environmental policy for the first time in 2021. Half of event reported that they comminate sustainability initiatives with their crew, and 40% with supply chain and performers. There is a clear opportunity to engage all stakeholders in changes based on these findings.

Carbon Footprints + Carbon Balancing

68% of events reported that they are measuring their carbon footprint. However, only one in ten festivals are currently measuring and balancing their scope 1 and 2 emissions, and work with stakeholders to do the same. 20% include carbon balancing as part of their ticketing process. Almost 40% are interested to work with stakeholders to balance emissions on a voluntary basis.

Dedicated Sustainability Roles at Events

Employed capacity to deliver sustainability in increasing marginally: Compared to 2019, 44% have managed to maintain same employed capacity dedicated to sustainability, almost 10% have increased, and 13% expect to bring back similar capacity in 2022. Almost a third (31%) of festivals in 2021 did not have a dedicated role for event sustainability.

Governance and Policy

Only 40% of festivals reported that they have a specific environmental or procurement policy in place, but many more have action plans annually. 70% of organisations do not yet have a net zero strategy for their organisation.

Please contact info@vision2025.org.uk for all enquiries regarding to the Industry Green Survey.

This news story originally appeared in our December 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form below.