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More artist and broader business engagement was called for during today’s sustainability summit at The O2 in London
By IQ on 16 Jun 2022
Over 250 music professionals and sustainability specialists came together at The O2 in London for a series of debates and performances today (16 June).
The event, which took place alongside Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever tour, was hosted by the BBC’s Abbie McCarthy (BBC), with representatives from REVERB, The Big Climate Thing, Live Nation, Julie’s Bicycle and The O2.
During the discussion titled Taking Charge – Efforts to Decarbonise Events, The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer described the changes that hosting the Eilish tour had seen at the venue, including going fully vegan for the duration.
“We had Morrissey here five years ago and the question about whether we sold burgers was a huge topic, but on this tour, it wasn’t,” he said. “Going fully vegan was the right option for this tour and we’ll be entirely open with other venues about the results from that.”
The O2 recently committed to removing meat burgers from its menu, but other moves include installing water filling stations, and recyclable wristbands for floor-standing guests.
“We’re planning forward in partnership with our caterers, Levy, who are committed to being net zero by 2027,” he said. “As a flagship site for them, we’re aiming for 2025.”
“The solutions are there, and amazing simple, but you have to get people to move past where they are right now”
Sayer also outlined that all National Arena Association member venues will be banning non- biodegradable confetti over the coming months.
With much of the day detailing myriad practical steps now available to tour and events on their sustainability journey, Chiara Badialli, music lead of Julie’s Bicycle, listed carbon offsetting as one of the most exciting.
“If these costs are factored into tour planning – and an example is that Pearl Jam has recently committed to paying $200 per tonne of carbon emissions – it gives artists a budget at the start of their tour to actively reduce emissions,” she said.
A focus of the discussion was collaboration across the business to bring change. And while Sayer insisted that senior management at each company must be engaged in the conversation, it was bottom-up pressure that instigated it.
“The most powerful agent of change was when our employees started coming to The O2 and AEG management team to ask what we were doing,” he said. “That employee push was incredibly powerful.”
And Jamal Chalabi of Backlash Productions reported that there are open ears across the supply chain now as well.
“It’s the culture change, particularly within crew and production houses. The solutions are there, and amazingly simple, but you have to get people to move past where they are right now,” he said.
“It’s a system change,” added Badialli. “You have to ask how we can do things differently.”
The event included performances from Sigrid, Nick Mulvey and Love Ssega, while Billie Eilish took the stage to thank the room for attending.
“I want to thank you all for informing people like me, and for everything you’re doing,” she said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed. It might sometimes fell like what you’re doing is pointless, but it’s not. There is a point and it’s really important.”
The conversation came just weeks after the 14th Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.
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