Sustainability & Events: More Than Good Intentions?


11 August 2020

Sustainability is now more than just a talking point in the events industry, according to Scott Willsallen, Auditoria. And, no, it’s not just because there aren’t any big events.

Scott Willsallen’s company, Auditoria, operates as an audio consultant and designer in the rarefied world of big events (Olympics, World Expo etc) and large installations (MCG, ANZ Stadium et al). AV Asia Pacific talked with him from his base in London about what he’s observed during the Covid crisis. This is a brief snippet of that conversation. You can watch the whole interview here.

AV: Can you observe any technologies in your world that are going to get a real shot in the arm because of Covid? Are there any trends emerging?

SWA: It’s interesting, not a single one, but what it has done is provide us with a really good opportunity to slow things down in the procurement processes. We’re working on a couple of projects now where the environmental cost, in terms of the carbon cost of an event, has become an input — a number; a numerical input in the spreadsheet — and added to the quote.

Covid has given us time to slow things down enough so that the environmental effects of these events can be better understood and choices can be made to minimise or at least acknowledge the environmental impact. And it’s the first step of many to being better at making sustainability not just a talking point and a form to fill out in a tender response, but actually part of an evaluation.

AV: So what does that mean for you?

SWA: This is something that we, as a consultants working on these projects, believe we should care about. And if everyone is serious about sustainability in the mission statement of the event, then this is how we back that up.

And then on our side of the fence we need do what we can. For example, why do we need to fly <those> guys from Sydney half way around the world to do <that> event? Can we find someone closer? So there are two sides to that coin.

AV: Does it impact on the conversations with bigger equipment partners in these events, such as L-Acoustics or d&b?

SWA: It’s not for them because they’re already being pushed really well by the EU. And that’s progressive. Every year things get tighter and their focus is on the rules within the jurisdiction they operate.

Plus, the manufacturing represents only a very small fraction of the environmental impact compared to flying four jets full of loudspeakers and lights across a continent to do a gig, because it was confirmed last minute. Sometimes there’s no option but to do that. It’s just about acknowledging what that cost financially and environmentally.

AV: Would you say there’s often been an ‘at any cost’ attitude to big events?

SWA: Yes. Absolutely. ‘Do whatever it takes. We’ll just keep throwing money at it until it’s solved.’ And we’re all in the business of solving problems. That’s why we got into this game. It certainly wasn’t for the money! So if someone presents us with a problem, it’s like Christmas!

AV: You’re confident that sustainability is becoming a real line item in big events…

SWA: It needs to become tactile and needs to become a real thing. Having a statement isn’t enough. It needs to become a number; a part of the cost. It needs to be part of the evaluation, not a fuzzy statement that doesn’t actually feed in in any way. It’s small steps, isn’t it? It has to start somewhere. And I think there are certain rental companies; certain event producers; that are better at it than others, but it’s just steps in the right direction. And eventually when everyone takes a step in the right direction, we’re all better off.


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