Driven by the convictions of its employees and management, VO is staking its claim to being a responsible company and is releasing its virtuous toolbox. As far as events go, there is still a big gap between principles and practice.
In a world where ethics and environmental responsibility are permeating people's minds, at a time when citizen movements demanding concrete measures are constantly on the increase, VO needs to set an example. This conviction is not new. Our event agency was inspired to do this in 2010, when we carried out sustainability projects for Bosch, BNP and Les Petits Riens. Since then, there has been a growing conviction that the most important thing is to give meaning to all our projects. In 2018, the creation of our citizen communication agency, VO Citizen, underlined our acceptance of our societal role. The Citizen team specialises in conveying messages to citizens (rather than consumers), in order to change attitudes and thus contribute to social issues. Their mission is, among other things, to establish a dialogue with all the stakeholders in society around a shared issue. A specific example is "Mobility Week", the communication and organisation of which have been entrusted to us for the past 5 years. That’s something we are proud of!
A structural change in code
In the minds of our teams and in the internal life of our company, these future challenges are being brought to life in very specific ways - through waste management, a kitchen that uses local, responsibly-sourced products, and responsible selection of the objects and materials that make up our working environment. There is no doubt that these convictions are firmly rooted in VO. But do they actually translate into the field of event design and the actual work of our teams? Let’s be frank, there are still obstacles and, in practice, there is still a gap between conviction and its complete translation into the delivery of an event.
Two reasons can explain this in part:
- The reality for project managers is work completed just in time, decreasing budgets per participant and priority often being given to creativity and efficiency, to the detriment of responsible choice.
- The sector remains very much set in its ways and is often locked into ways of doing things that are contrary to sustainability. These hindrances have so far prevented VO from being totally in line with what its teams lay claim to. However, as 2019 begins, our agency is firmly committed to fully accepting its role in society and focusing on expectations in its choice of projects and the way they are carried out.
Two main lines of action are emerging for 2019
- Reduce our ecological footprint
To achieve this, structural changes and technical support are needed. Our reporting tool, which has been undergoing real-life testing for a year at VO Event and will be operational in January, allows data to be collected from all the partners involved in an event. It is used to evaluate the sustainability efforts made (or not) during the process of organisation - at all levels. Applied systematically at each event, this CSR report gives a vision of the project each time, highlighting the aspects (energy, mobility, choice of suppliers, materials, planning, etc.) that can be improved. This is part of a continuous education process, to raise awareness among all stakeholders (internal and external) and to encourage them to react more responsibly. Every client can now benefit from the results of this report. The aim is to regularly produce solutions for more responsible service offerings in the face of social challenges.
The second incentive is that VO has won a call for proposals for the Be Circular programme by Bruxelles Environnement, as a result of which our agency will be able to dedicate a full-time person to focus on “how to make our events circular”, at all levels and in a cross-functional way. This individual, who will contribute to the responsible approach of our agency, is in addition to the 12 people from VO Group who, besides the work that they do, were already participating in a CSR team.
- Offset the emitted carbon footprint
Despite the best efforts of our project managers, an event, by its very nature, will always have a carbon footprint. We have therefore decided to introduce systematic compensation at all our events. Hence, we are trying to convince our customers to include a complete carbon evaluation for each project. If they are unwilling or unable to do so, VO undertakes to pay a minimum amount of compensation based on an average derived from the various events already analysed by CO2 Logic and certified by Vinçotte in recent years. This means that VO will compensate for a minimum of 500 tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to a value of € 7,500, which will go towards projects that support the UN's sustainable development goals. These projects have an impact that is not only climatic, but also social and economic - the three pillars of a CSR approach.
The desire here is to change things, to align our actions with our convictions. This awareness is in itself a great multi-tasking tool for reinventing the codes for events. It might even be THE code to add to our list of priorities..