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Beyond Recycling: Environmental Sustainability in Experiential Marketing

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Beyond Recycling: Environmental Sustainability in Experiential Marketing is a contributed article from ASV Experiential.

As we peer into the future of experiential marketing trends, the integration of sustainability within exhibit design and the overall attendee experience emerges as a pivotal focus. This evolution is driven not only by corporate pioneers like Patagonia and Apple, whose sustainable practices set industry benchmarks but also by the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible actions. These consumers, inspired by the values of their favorite brands, increasingly hold themselves accountable for their environmental impact, adopting greener habits and looking for brands that embody those same values.   

This shift is evident in the event space, with more events powered by renewable energy sources like wind and solar, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. The adoption of electric vehicles significantly lowers carbon emissions, and sustainable construction practices that focus on eco-friendly materials, such as recycled content and reusable structures, aid in the sustainability of stages and booths. Some brands use sustainable materials like cork and bamboo to preserve biodiversity and opt for biodegradable packaging options to minimize waste. Additionally, sustainable food consumption at events encouraged through local sourcing and plant-based options are often complemented by effective waste minimization strategies like comprehensive recycling and composting programs.    

These new trends mark a significant stride toward change in an industry historically associated with significant waste generation. A 2022 report unveiled that the typical participant at B2B events generates approximately 3.5 pounds of surplus waste, with nearly half of this amount consigned to landfills. These figures highlight the extensive scope for enhancing sustainability practices within the sector.    

The Path to Eco-Friendly Events and Sustainable Trade Show Booths  

With sustainable corporate behavior increasingly becoming the norm, McKinsey research reveals that nearly eight out of ten consumers prioritize brands that practice sustainability. As this consumer preference grows stronger, the event planning industry is poised to adapt and integrate these eco-conscious values deeply into its practices, reflecting a strong commitment to environmental stewardship. Adopting the following strategies can make the transition to sustainability both manageable and beneficial.    

Embrace Education    

The first step towards integrating sustainability into event planning is education. Familiarize yourself with the latest in sustainable practices, especially how they apply to display design and production. Knowledge of these practices is essential in crafting events that not only captivate but conserve.    

Budget with Sustainability in Mind    

Adopting sustainable practices often means utilizing eco-friendly raw materials such as bamboo, recycled metals and plastics, FCS-certified wood, and biodegradable materials, which can carry a higher price tag. It’s crucial to anticipate these increased costs and incorporate them into your event budgets from the outset. This foresight ensures that your commitment to sustainability is financially viable and strategically planned. 

Extend Your Timeline    

Sustainability requires a more deliberate approach, partially due to the more limited availability of sustainable materials, often extending the planning timeline for an event. If the usual preparation span is 4-6 weeks, transitioning to sustainable methods may extend this to 8-12 weeks. Adequate planning and time management are vital to accommodate this shift without compromising the event’s success.    

Communication is Key    

Early and clear communication with your management about the implications of integrating sustainability into your marketing events is essential. Discuss the potential impacts on time and budget at the beginning of the process. This transparency helps set realistic expectations and secure necessary support.    

Partner with Experts    

Seek out fabricators and partners with a proven track record and established programs in green initiatives. Their expertise and experience can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of sustainable event planning. Partnering with the right experts not only simplifies the process but also ensures your events align with the highest standards of environmental responsibility.          

Sustainable Innovations in the Fast-Food Industry: Wendy’s Leads by Example      

In 2019, Wendy’s marketing team set a new course, moving away from one-off, wasteful event activations toward a model of sustainability and efficiency. This shift was underpinned by a firm commitment to the “build it once” philosophy.       

The concept was both simple and revolutionary: create modular and reconfigurable components for product and brand events designed for repeated use, adaptation, and reinvention. This approach led to the creation of versatile, building block-like structures that could be assembled in various configurations to deliver fresh consumer experiences at each event.       

This strategy allowed Wendy’s to significantly reduce its environmental footprint while decreasing long-term event planning and execution costs. Despite initial challenges, such as sourcing sustainable materials and maintaining high-quality standards, Wendy’s and its partners overcame these obstacles. The result? Over the past five years, they have rolled out more than a dozen successful activations using these innovative, sustainable components.    

Wendy’s example demonstrates that taking steps toward sustainability in event planning and execution is not only possible but profitable in the long run. By staying up to date on sustainability trends, intentionally budgeting and forecasting, and keeping open lines of communication, you can lead the charge in sustainable event marketing and set an entirely new trajectory for your business.    

Sammy Bliss is the VP of Client Services at ASV Experiential, an event and experiential marketing outfit based in Torrance, Calif. ASV is a full-service provider specializing in creating immersive live marketing experiences for B2B and B2C brands.   

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