A Responsible Event

Not just a business buzz term, Corporate Social Responsibility should be an integral part of your outdoor event’s planning. Read on for Part 1 of Event Insurance Service’s guide

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming an increasingly important factor for anyone organising a festival or show, particularly in terms of environmental protection and community/stakeholder engagement.

With rising concerns regarding the negative effects of various outdoor events on the environment potentially casting the industry in a bad light, we are seeing a rise in the number of ‘green festivals’, with some of the biggest festivals taking a strong stance on CSR.

Read on to discover exactly what corporate social responsibility is, how it is already being used within the festival industry, how it can be a benefit to your event, and how to create a successful CSR strategy.What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility is an initiative or strategy a company adopts in order to assess and positively improve its effect on the environment and social well being of the wider community.

Companies or corporations adopting CSR strategies are seen to be making a conscious effort to go above and beyond what is required of them by regulators and environmental protection groups in order to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and community.

 The ISO 26000 CSR guidelines
The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) released corporate social responsibility guidelines, named ‘ISO 26000’, in 2010 which offers information on socially responsible behaviour and how it can be implemented within a company.

ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard and should be used to improve a company’s social responsibility activities voluntarily. ISO suggests that those using these guidelines should promote the fact they have used them to help validate their CSR activities. Such activities do not usually have a direct financial benefit, however they do promote the company’s positive social and environmental standing, which in turn can encourage a loyal following and subsequent financial gain.

Community, environment and economy-focussed CSR
Common issues companies confront with CSR activities include:

– Protecting the environment

– Encouraging fair operating practices

– Community involvement.

These three main areas can be categorised into ‘Community’, ‘Environment’ and ‘Economy’ CSR. Which activities a company chooses to focus on could be due to the cause fitting their brand or values, or simply personal preference.

The Community
Community engagement and development within the community is a particularly important area of CSR in the outdoor event industry. Festivals and shows draw masses of people to certain areas, such as the 135,000 people who experience Glastonbury each year.

This can cause a real disruption to the local community, with noise pollution, littering and gridlocked roads being just a handful of issues the local community have to face each summer. Festivals need to ensure they are keeping local residents happy and giving something back in return for their tolerance.

Glastonbury Festival works hard with the local community, particularly with the residents of Pilton, Pylle and Sticklinch who are offered free tickets to the festival as a sign of goodwill for their tolerance to the disruptions caused.

> The local community

‘Helping the community’ is quite a broad term, and your festival needs to decide which area of the community it should focus on. Following in Glastonbury, Reading Festival and Radio 1’s Big Weekend’s footsteps, it is a great idea to offer free tickets to your festival for anyone living within a certain distance that may be negatively affected by it.

Your festival may also want to consider contributing to local projects, such as supporting youth activities or local community clubs. These types of activities spread positive sentiment throughout the community and give tangible and visible evidence of the positive effect your festival has within the area. However, it’s not just about the local community, but the wider community too, therefore charitable donations are often used in order to show support to specific causes.

> Your own internal team

It’s also important to care for your festival’s internal community: employees, volunteers and helpers. CSR from an internal standpoint means considering the human rights of those under your employment and ensuring they have a safe and fair working environment. It’s about resolving grievances, being culturally sensitive and avoiding discrimination while providing a good standard of living for everyone involved.

 The Environment
The environmental impact of festivals is an issue all organisers need to be aware of. Festivals in the UK are collectively responsible for 14 kilo-tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, therefore the responsibility to reduce this figure and give back to the environment lies with the festival organisers themselves.

> Carbon emissions

70% of the carbon emissions of UK festivals come from attendees travelling to each event, so the success of any environmental campaign relies on the involvement of the attendees as well as organisers.

Camp Bestival and many other environmentally conscious and eco-friendly festivals are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint by signing up with ‘Energy Revolution’, a registered festival charity investing in clean energy and tackling climate change. Camp Bestival is working with Energy Revolution and its partner, The Converging World charity, in order to fund a 1-megawatt wind turbine in the Tamil Nadu area of India within the next five years. They also work with ‘Big Green Coach’ to try and reduce emissions from attendees travelling to the festival by lowering the number of vehicles being used, while Big Green Coach commit to protecting five square feet of Amazonian rainforest for every customer they transport to Camp Bestival.

 > Littering at festivals

Carbon dioxide is not the only environmental threat caused by festivals; the amount of litter left behind by festival attendees can be substantial. It is the responsibility of festival organisers to encourage attendees to clean up after themselves and to deal with any waste issues after the festival is over.

One of the main issues is attendees leaving their tents behind, for example, around 20 tonnes’ worth of tents are left behind at Reading Festival each year. In 2015, organisers introduced a new tent cleaning and packing service in an attempt to encourage attendees to take their tent with them and reduce the level of waste. This shows that Reading Festival is trying to tackle a big issue and is facing up to its environmental responsibility. > Environmental solutions
There are many options available to festivals looking to include environmental protection within their CSR strategy. With emissions from attendees travelling to festivals having the most detrimental impact on the environment, implementing and encouraging greener ways to travel to and from events is a great place to start.

Strategies include signing up with Big Green Coach, encouraging car sharing networks and rewarding attendees who display environmentally friendly behaviours. Any festival can also sign up with Energy Revolution and commit to raising money for the charity through ticket sales and fundraisers, or follow Camp Bestival’s lead and commit to a specific environmental project.

 The Economy
Depending on the size of the festival, the turnover can be breathtakingly high, however the cost of putting one on decreases profits substantially. For example, Glastonbury Festival 2015 reportedly sold £35 million worth of tickets, however only saw a profit of £764,000 after all costs were covered. This is in part due to the fact that Glastonbury takes its economic responsibilities very seriously, ensuring fair payment across all areas of the festival and giving back to the community financially.

Annual festival spend
Festivals are great for the wider economy, with music tourism reportedly generating £3.1 billion worth of direct and indirect spend in the UK in 2014 by 9.5 million music tourists. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) reports that its member festivals themselves added £1 billion to the UK economy between 2010 and 2014. While these figures prove festivals to be healthy for the economy, there are several economic factors organisers may still want to consider within their CSR activities.

As previously mentioned, the costs involved in organising a festival can be staggeringly high, therefore organisers have a responsibility to ensure their event is profitable enough to support its employees financially and provide them with a good standard of living. The festival organiser is also accountable for ensuring all costs are covered appropriately, such as paying for the rental of land, any equipment used and entertainment hired.

Supporting festival performers
The Guardian recently reported on literary festivals refusing to pay authors appearing at their events and expecting them to appear for free. This has caused quite a stir in the industry, with Philip Pullman resigning as patron of the Oxford literary festival and a negative light being shone upon certain festivals which have refused to pay.

Local economics
Festivals also have a responsibility to support the economy of the wider community. According to AIF, over £80 million was spent in local UK businesses between 2010 and 2014 due to there being a festival in the area. This is a fantastic way for festivals to prove their economic worth and showcase their CSR accomplishments.

As part of their CSR strategy, organisers should ensure that local businesses are benefiting from their festival and that profits are being used to support charities. It can be of huge benefit to a festival to partner up with a charity, promoting their activity through specific campaigns.

Glastonbury is a notable example of this, with festival organiser Michael Eavis donating the vast majority of the festival’s profits to different charities and only taking home a modest salary himself. While this may not be realistic for all festivals, this a great example of economic CSR in action.

Ask the Organiser

 There is no denying that the most successful festivals have incorporated corporate social responsibility into their activities and that it is having a positive effect on the environment, communities and the economy. We have spoken to some of the top festivals and outdoor events in the UK and, along with our survey and secondary research, have discovered not only how and why organisers are incorporating CSR but what their views on the subject are too.

  • 66% of festival organisers say CSR is of high priority to their festival
  • 83% of festival organisers find that CSR activities have a positive effect on their bottom line
  • 86% of festival organisers say that the main benefit they see from CSR activities is improved relationships with the community

One of the main reasons the festival organisers we spoke to said that CSR benefited them was by improving relationships within the community. One organiser said: “We involve the community in as many activities as possible. We give generously to charity and provide free sessions for young people to get involved in sport. We also celebrate with a family fun day at the end of the sessions where we support local businesses through trade and by inviting them to attend.” The local community is important to this festival and the organisers do what they can to maintain a positive relationship with them, also stating that these types of activities are: “Very effective in getting more people involved in a community activity” which is one of the main goals of the festival.

It is clear to see that even larger festivals, for example Boomtown Fair, which has a capacity of around 50,000 people, are committed to improving relationships with the local community, as it says on its website: “Since finding our home at the Matterley Estate in 2011 we have been working hard to give back to the local community as much as possible and have donated over £30,000 directly to charity projects and organisations around the Winchester area and to the parishes near the festival site.

“Each year we look to get more and more local people involved in the festival, from volunteering as stewards, working as part of the on-site team, trader, supplier or as external contractors.” This level of investment into the local community demonstrates how important a good relationship is for a festival to succeed and to be accepted as a positive force in the area.

 Maintaining and promoting ethical standards
Another reoccurring theme that came up in our research was the importance of CSR activities when maintaining, promoting and encouraging high ethical standards. A representative of Vegfest UK, Europe’s biggest vegan festival, told us that ethical issues were the most important aspect of CSR for their festival and that there main aim was to “Support veganism (and) the abolishment of using animals as food sources”. They also stated that they are seeing “More and more attendees supporting the vegan philosophy” which indicates that their CSR activities are at the very core of their festival and that they are working in order to achieve their goals.

We also spoke to Farmfestival to get their view on ethical standards within their festival. They said, “We have turned down sponsorship from several large corporations that do not fit with our ethical values”. This is a great example of a festival sticking to its core values and remaining socially responsible instead of sacrificing their beliefs for financial gain.

Improving environmental impact
Most of the festivals we spoke to mentioned the importance of festivals improving their impact on the environment in some way. One organiser saying: “I certainly believe all should be trying to minimise the negative environmental effects of events”.

This belief is repeated throughout the industry. Farmfestival also agreed and gave us an insight into how they are reducing their impact on the environment by “Increasing levels of recycling and trying to use local contractors to cut transport costs and environmental impacts”. This is one of the most important areas of CSR when it comes to festivals and this has become increasingly apparent throughout our research.

Look out for Part 2 in the next issue of Open Air Business.

About the Author
Event Insurance Services was established in 1996 to provide affordable, reliable insurance for all scales of events. The team works with companies and individuals across the full spectrum of events, as well as supporting a broker network of over 2,500 brokers and 450 of the country’s top venues and hotels. www.events-insurance.co.uk

About Open Air Business 1272 Articles
The voice of outdoor hospitality - in print and online. If you liked this article, subscribe to the printed magazine here. We produce industry e-news between issues - please sign up here