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Earth Day 2024: Live’s sustainability priorities

A range of industry figures have shared their sustainability priorities for the live music business to mark Earth Day 2024 – an annual event highlighting the importance of environmental protection.

While the sector continues to raise its game on green issues, there remains plenty of room for improvement. It was announced earlier this year that a comprehensive study of the live music industry’s carbon footprint is being conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-funded by Coldplay, Live Nation and Warner Music Group.

The report will suggest practical solutions to reduce the environmental impact of live music events “at every level,” from pubs and clubs to stadiums.

Last week, meanwhile, The O2 in London revealed that more than 545.9 tonnes of carbon were extracted across The 1975’s four headline concerts in February. The shows marked the world’s first carbon-removed arena events and took place in collaboration with carbon removal experts CUR8 and sustainable event specialists A Greener Future (AGF).

“This year is all about firming up our path to net zero,” AEG Europe director of sustainability Sam Booth tells IQ. “After the success of our recent pilot series of carbon removed arena events at The O2, we now need to undertake some detailed work around our general gas usage, as well as figuring out our approach to dealing with fan travel and continue working with brand partners to address the emissions of the products we sell in the arena.

“Education is also an incredibly important area of focus, so we’re rolling out training to all our employees to ensure they know how to make more sustainable choices in their day-to-day roles.”

“How sustainable we can be with our power, transport, water, food, etc, all depends on policies, legislation, taxes and subsidies that make better choices possible”

Elsewhere, in January, sustainability initiative Vision:2025 and Julie’s Bicycle launched a 12-month pilot with 10 local authorities to test how the Green Events Code of Practice (GECOP) can be used to embed sustainability within local authority processes.

“We’re all looking for a simple answer to the question: What does good look like?” Vision:2025 chair Chris Johnson, co-founder of the UK’s Shambala Festival, tells IQ. “Our priority for 2024 is to test the new Green Events Code of Practice with local authorities, and take steps toward establishing an acceptable minimum best practice for sustainability across the UK that promoters, supply chain and local authorities understand.”

AGF (A Greener Future) recently hailed “significant areas of improvement” in festival sustainability after surveying more than 40 European events. The sustainability not-for-profit released its Festival Sustainability Report, comprising data analysis on mobility, food & drink, water & sanitation, power & fuel use, waste & recycling, and carbon emissions at events on the continent.

“In 2024 the largest number of the global population will be called to vote,” says AGF co-founder Claire O’Neill, who organises the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI). “How sustainable we can be with our power, transport, water, food, etc, all depends on policies, legislation, taxes and subsidies that make better choices possible. We need to have governments in power who will understand and support a just transition to a green economy.

“In the UK, voters now have to use photo ID to vote, which is a hurdle for many. We’re supporting #JustVote24 to help young and disadvantaged people to get their voter ID if they don’t have a passport/driving license or old persons bus pass, and to then get them to vote. The music campaign is called #crashtheparty and we urge everyone in live music to get behind this and local equivalents.”

Germany-based Holger Jan Schmidt, who heads up pan-European think-tank GO Group (Green Operations Europe) and is  general secretary of the European festival association Yourope, points out the latter organisation has adapted its approach a little of late.

“The focus today is less on honouring the spearheads of sustainable festivals and more on making the sector future-proof at large”

“Although we continue to present the Green Operations Award, the focus today is less on honouring the spearheads of sustainable festivals and more on making the sector future-proof at large,” says Schmidt, speaking to IQ. “Yourope today offers freely usable tools that enable every festival out there to position itself accordingly, train the team and benefit from the great expertise of the frontrunners. Examples of this are our European Green festival Roadmap 2030 and the Future Festival Tools with self-assessment tool, e-learning course and best practice guide.

“For this purpose, our association works with both the expert organisations in the live entertainment industry and with the festivals directly in order to identify their needs and develop tailor-made measures.”

In a further notable development, six Spanish music promoters – Advanced Music, Bring The Noise, Centris, elrow, The Music Republic and Sharemusic! – have inked strategic sponsorship agreements with Madrid-based global energy company Repsol to jointly promote the use of different multi-energy solutions and reduce their CO2 footprint.

The agreement initially covers 77 events managed by the firms in Spain and Portugal, rising to 89. Festivals such as the FIB, Arenal Sound, Sonar Lisbon and O son de Camiño will use 100% renewable fuels, among other solutions, to reduce their CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, venue management company ASM Global, which operates more than 50 green certified venues, has marked Earth Month 2024 by naming Lindsay Arell as chief sustainability officer as it ramps up its efforts to convert its 400-strong venue portfolio to “the most sustainable on earth”.

After founding her own company, Honeycomb Strategies, Arell led the development of the ASM Global ACTS sustainability plan and is a past chair of both the Events Industry Council Sustainability Committee (EIC) and ASTM Venue Sustainability Standard. Arell’s new role forms part of ASM’s sustainability goals, announced in 2023, which include the elimination of single use plastic.

“Sustainability should be the cause of our lifetime in our industry”

“I’m thrilled at the chance to spearhead ASM’s sustainability initiatives working alongside our teams and communities across our over 400 global venues.” says Arell. “By providing our venue teams with the necessary knowledge and resources, we can accelerate the progress of our programme significantly.”

Just last week plans were announced for ASM to join with reuse platform r.World to rapidly introduce reusable service ware in venues throughout ASM’s portfolio.

Fellow venue giant Oak View Group (OVG) welcomes the world’s second carbon-neutral arena this month in Manchester’s Co-op Live, following the firm’s Climate Pledge Arena, with UBS Arena slated to follow. Speaking at ILMC 36 in London, OVG chief Tim Leiweke said: “Climate Pledge can’t be the only carbon-neutral arena in the world or else [the industry] has failed. We as an industry should lead this charge… sustainability should be the cause of our lifetime in our industry.”

He added: “We as a company are going to continue to build these arenas and make sustainability a priority and a way of life in our culture and then hopefully, it will inspire our industry to come along with us.”

OVG COO Francesca Bodie agreed: “Sustainability is part of our core DNA and we want to make sure that we’re not only championing but challenging our industry to get better.”

In addition, REVERB, which partners with artists, festivals, and venues to reduce their environmental footprint, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Working with artist partners like Billie Eilish, The 1975, Odesza, Harry Styles, Dave Matthews Band, Boygenius, Jack Johnson, The Lumineers, Dead & Company, Tame Impala, and many more, REVERB has created and executed comprehensive sustainability and fan engagement programmes on over 350 tours, 60 festivals, and 7,000 concerts.

Positive impacts to date include neutralising 375,000+ tons of CO2e, raising over $12m for environmental causes, hosting over 5,000 NGOs in fan-facing Action Villages, and preventing the use of over 4m single-use plastic bottles at concerts.


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Green Code of Conduct consultation launched

Sustainability initiative Vision:2025 has launched a consultation for a music industry Green Code of Conduct to provide clear, minimum, environmental standards for all UK outdoor events.

The code has been developed by trade bodies including AIF, AFO, NOEA and EIF, as well as organisations such as Festival Republic and Julie’s Bicycle, with support from live event promoters across the UK.

“Developing a code of conduct by the industry for the industry has multiple benefits,” says Chris Johnson, chair of Vision:2025. “It will provide standards for sustainable practices that are credible, realistic, and crucially, workable, for all event organisers. It will bring the clarity, along with national consistency, that stakeholders across the sector are asking for, as we take steps to reduce emissions and impacts as part the industry’s journey to net zero.”

Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards

The Green Code is a direct response to recommendations made by the select committee on the future of music festivals, in May. It also relates to the framework set out for the wider music sector in the LIVE Green vision, launched earlier this year.

“Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards,” says Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn.

Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, and chair of the Event Industry Forum (EIF), which oversees health and safety publication the Purple Guide, says: “The Purple Guide is an established publication that advises how our industry manages health & safety best practice. This Green Code of Conduct could provide the blueprint for a new sustainability chapter.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) adds: “The development of the Green Code of conduct will help AIF members and all outdoor events to manage their impacts and agree on some top-level shared principles. It is vital that we continue to work together as an industry and with government to mitigate impacts and take collective action.”

The online survey is open for comments here until 14 January.


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Green Guardians: Event infrastructure pioneers

The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference and IQ Magazine, will be compiled each year to highlight some of the work being done around the world to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.

To identify the companies, organisations and individuals that are pioneering sustainability measures, a Green Guardians committee has been established, including representatives of some of the sector’s most respected bodies, including A Greener Festival, Go Group, Greener Events Foundation, Green Events Netherlands, Green Music Initiative, Julie’s Bicycle, Réseau des Femmes en Environnement (The women in environment network) and Vision:2025.

This inaugural list features 60 entries across ten categories, and we would like to congratulate all those featured for making this year’s guide. As well as thanking everyone involved for the hard work they are putting in to making the world a cleaner and better place. The goal next year is to feature 100 Green Guardians and establish this as an annual guide for anyone that is looking for partners to address sustainability matters and, ideally, help to make the live events industry carbon neutral.

IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Up first, are sustainailbity pioneers from the event infrastructure sector.


Event Infrastructure

Located at the centre of Montreal’s Cité des arts du cirque, the 1,200-capacity TOHU is a place where dissemination, creation, and experimentation converge with culture, environment and community involvement. Since its 2004 inception, it has become an example of sustainable development through culture.

TOHU’s 360-degree circular hall is in the purest circus tradition and plays a major role in the incredible growth of Quebec circus, which it places at the top of the bill, thanks to its dedicated venue and festival.

TOHU’s Pavilion is green not only in spirit, but in body, too. It was been awarded LEED GOLD (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) – a programme that imposes the strictest environmental standards, not only during construction but also in the management of the completed building.

Among the many measures TOHU can boast are passive geothermal power, an ice bunker, biogas heating, natural/hybrid ventilation, recycled architecture, green roofs, a naturalised basin, and even a vegetable garden and beehives.

Since its 2004 inception, TOHU has become an example of sustainable development through culture

Passareco offers soil protection solutions that make it possible to use nature while also protecting it: whether parking lot infrastructure, hiking or bike trails – Passareco helps customers reconcile the different usage requirements.

Climate protection is central to Passareco and as a result it sources wood from regional sawmills and uses 100% green electricity. The company’s all-encompassing approach to sustainability means it is incredibly careful in choosing its partners, and it promotes like-minded organisations such as tent rental company Tent in Time, social company Syphon AG (which produces floor-protection panels), landscapers Biel-Seeland, and a variety of social enterprise operations that variously provide skills training to unemployed and disabled adults.

Passareco also champions ESB’s Biel/Bienne green electricity product, which is Naturemade Star-certified – produced in the Biel city area through a combination of electricity from the Taubenloch Gorge and power from solar roofs.

Passareco offers soil protection solutions that make it possible to use nature while also protecting it

NNNN was created to target the audio market with a disruptive solution and mindset, combining acoustic quality with sustainability. The company’s patents enable it to do with sound what LED did with light, and it has succeeded in designing speaker solutions that reduce energy consumption by up to 90%, compared to leading premium brands.

Transportation is one of the largest contributors of CO2 emissions, so NNNN is setting up a local manufacturer in the US to cover the North American market, while manufacturing in Norway will cover the European market.

NNNN’s speakers are made of sustainable Nordic spruce and are manufactured without toxic substances such as beryllium. Manufacturing in Norway is done with 100% hydroelectric power, which has no CO2 footprint. The company says its search for better solutions for the environment has only just begun.

NNNN was created to combine acoustic quality with sustainability

FGH Security
Although its mission statement is “Keeping People Safe,” environmental issues have always been on the agenda for FGH Security. The company was an early adopter of the #DrasticOnPlastic campaign and saves 100,000 cups and bottles from going to landfill every year, simply by issuing 500 mugs and 500 sports bottles to its team.

FGH has been carbon-neutral for a number of years and as part of its ISO 14001 certification, it calculates all the carbon it has produced (travel Co2, paper, electric, etc.) and plants four trees for every ton. The FGH team is also working on a plan to build an office from sustainable materials, complete with solar panels, vegetable gardens and a gym that produces electricity.

Boss Peter Harrison tells IQ, “Most of the things we have done – electric cars, a paperless office, #DrasticOnPlastic – are actually cost-neutral, so doing good does not need to cost a lot. It just needs the will, tenacity and some thinking outside the box.”

Although its mission statement is “Keeping People Safe,” environmental issues have always been on the agenda for FGH Security

Continest is an innovative, foldable container solution especially developed for relatively short-period usage anywhere there is a need for temporary accommodation, office/meeting rooms, first aid, command posts, storage, service areas, and cooling and heating purposes. The containers are uniquely developed for easy and quick set up and transport, thus being environmentally friendly. The solution offers an 80% cost cut on logistic and storage costs, and a similar reduction of CO2 and GHG emissions.

In the next 12 months, three main innovations will be rolled out: the CN20 Solar 20-foot, foldable container; connectable Wet Cell units; and the bullet and blast proof foldable version.

Continest aims to succeed in the event market segment as well as providing innovative solutions to the defense industry.

The company claims to be the world’s first signage specialist that only deals with sustainable materials

The Sustainable Signage Co.
With its plastics-free signage solutions, The Sustainable Signage Co. is a forward-thinking, can-do operation, whose focus is to help companies and individuals reduce the amount of plastic-containing materials that are currently being used in the signage industry. It does this by offering sustainable alternatives that are as good, if not better, than current plastic signs used, while also helping to minimise the amount of plastic entering landfill every day.

The company claims to be the world’s first signage specialist that only deals with sustainable materials that can meet the demand of internal and external signage in small and large quantities. Its products have been scrutinised and accredited by A Plastic Planet and it says it is the only signage company to have been accredited with this certification mark.

Located in the West Midlands, UK, the company has both UK and international clients, and even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was encouraging the use of Skype or Facetime to reduce carbon footprint whenever possible.

Water scarcity is a very real concern for organisers

Water scarcity is a very real concern for organisers because events cannot take place without a guaranteed supply of freshwater and wastewater supply for sewerage maintenance.

SANI solutions has developed water-saving sanitary vacuum products for the event sector, including vacuum toilets, showers and urinals.

SANI’s products require less water and less power, meaning that emissions from wastewater transport and power consumption are reduced in comparison to traditional festival toilets. There is a lower faecal load of wastewater compared to portable toilets and the wastewater left is more resource efficient to clarify in sewage treatment plants compared to portable toilet wastewater.

The company says that it can save: up to 80% in wastewater transport costs compared to conventional flush toilets; up to 30% in energy costs through more efficient units, distributors, etc; and up to 50% in storage costs for wastewater and freshwater. In 2019, SANI worked with Rock am Ring to install vacuum toilets, showers, washing units, urinals and toilets with wheelchair accessibility. The festival saved 25-30% water for the event, or about 1,500-1,800m³ .


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 90, or subscribe to the magazine here

New industry sustainability resources launched

Five years on from its inaugural edition, the second Show Must Go On report has been published, offering a comprehensive insight into outdoor event sustainability.

The report, which is available to download here, is the result of years of planning, research, data gathering and crowdfunding from within the industry. The Show Must Go On launches alongside a free-to-access online resource, the Vision2025 website, that features case studies, briefings and a supplier directory.

Both resources reflect the progress made in terms of the technologies, materials and operational practices used to reduce the environmental impacts of live events. The report is divided into chapters on governance, resources and waste, water, food, energy, travel and transports.

So far, more than 100 festivals and events have made the Vision:2025 pledge, committing to cutting the environmental impact of the events sector in half within five years.

“After a decade of the Powerful Thinking industry steering group, this is a significant step in the journey. The industry has now come together around a vision and has crowdfunded world-leading resources to inspire meaningful action,” comments Chris Johnson, chair of Powerful Thinking and Vision2025.

“The report is a call to action. Whatever people and organisations have done to date, the time to act and to tackle the climate crisis is now”

“This has been a huge collaborative effort and our thanks go out to all contributors, including our three gamechangers: Festival Republic, Continest and Nordic Wristbands, whose financial support underpinned the process.

“The report is a call to action. Whatever people and organisations have done to date, the time to act and to tackle the climate crisis is now.”

Alison Tickell, CEO and founder of Julie’s Bicycle, the charity behind Powerful Thinking and Vision 2025, adds: “Living within the generous boundaries of our planet’s ecosystems is now the only job in hand. As a creative and events collective, we can bring inspiration and community to this task.”

Live industry professional will discuss ways to reduce the environmental impact of events at music business sustainability gathering the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) on 3 March, presented by A Greener Festival in partnership with the International Live Music Conference.


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