On this World Ocean Day, I can feel the tide is turning and we have the Ocean to thank for that. It’s screaming at us. We listened.

We have the Ocean to thank for every second breath we take, for bringing life to earth. And now sustainability professionals have the Ocean’s pain to thank, for switching on the light in the hearts and minds of those with the power to make a change.

I know you won’t have missed it, but the Ocean plastic pollution issue has literally turned the tide for the sustainability sector. We (sadly) now have an issue that everyone can understand, and can immediately see how their own action can make a tangible impact. From CEOs to kids at home, every-single-person can see how they can make a difference.

And that tangible, connected and visible link between them and nature, and our vast Ocean, has done that.

And so now the work begins.

For those of you, like me, who have been working to bring sustainability to life through events, that journey over the past couple of decades as been both a joy and a struggle.

A joy, because when it works, when all your ducks line up – the proof of what you’ve been saying to anyone who would listen, is right there for all to see. The event is clean and green, the event-goers are (usually) happily participating in your well-laid plans, the event sponsors are happy to be able to rub up against the lovely green jewel of your event, you’re making an impact and leaving a positive legacy, and your client or boss is probably happy, though might be too busy to notice… nonetheless.

The struggle has been in being allowed or enabled to do that good work in the first place. You can see it in your mind’s eye, just how you could clean up that event, put it on a wonderful path to sustainability glory, divert all its waste, make it carbon neutral, have everyone running about refillable bottle in-hand, have the community dialled-in and the wonderful local sustainability initiatives become part of your event experience, use the event as a platform for good, change the world!

But all of that, let’s be honest, will cost a little bit. Someone needs to dig into their pocket to (rightly) pay you to help to steer the ship, to do the call-to-arms of all the people that you just know are ready to join you on this mission. Some thinking will be needed and a strategic approach developed. You need to help the event find that heart campaign and magnetism to attract in aligned sponsors and partners, and to switch on your event-goers.

There might need to be a little bit of fattening of the ‘waste management’ line item in the budget so that you can get that back of house MRF you just know will mean success. Some investment might be needed to be made to purchase the more responsibly-produced branding, and anyway isn’t it good that those workers are paid a fair price for their labour? Yes, yes, we want to get off disposables and move to a washable system in the food court. Yes, yes it can be done, even for events with thousands of punters. Yes, yes, it might cost a little bit to set up. But we’re clean and green. Let’s do it! Sign the PO!

Enter stage left the HERO BRAND. Future-thinking companies who know their customers want to buy from brands that are playing their part in a clean, fair and thriving world. Companies that know they must be responsible global citizens. Companies with CEOs that know they have the power to do amazing stuff for our world, and not wait for government to do that work. Companies that want to connect in-real-life with their customers, and throw out their virtual and hollow digital connections. (Thank you LUSH for leading that charge #LushNaked more here).

I have been talking for some time about the power of sponsors and brands to bring sustainability to life within events, and I am thrilled to see a tipping point happening, where HERO BRANDS and purpose-lead foundations are taking their missions and passions to the street – at events, where people get to meet people and talk and get inspired from each other’s stories – where the action really is.

This World Ocean Day comes with the lovely announcement that IKEA has made that connection and tells us of an incredible partnership with World Surf League, to help it eliminate single-use plastic and become carbon neutral, and more. Passionate advocates like Reece Pacheo, head of the Pure programme at WSL have been given a huge boost with this massive global brand enabling an even more incredible impact through surfing.

Passionate and inspired individuals, leading company or family foundations are massive heroes too. Possibly even more than brands because they expect nothing back except the end result of all your hard sustainability work – a fairer, cleaner and sustainable world. An incredible example of this is the work that 11th Hour Racing, Mirpuri Foundation and Ocean Family Foundation did with Volvo Ocean Race during the 2017/18 edition. Find out about the award-winning sustainability programme and their hero foundation partners and hero brands such as Volvo Cars, Bluewater, Stena Recycling and AkzoNobel.

On Earth Day in April this year, The Ocean Race and 11th Hour Racing made an announcement of striking a visionary partnership – the largest of its kind in sport to continue to expand this incredible programme.

With the OCEAN as the catalyst, the HERO BRAND as the enabler, and the power of PEOPLE gathered together at an EVENT … on this World Ocean Day – sustainable event practitioners of the world – the perfect storm has arrived. Strap in, it’s time for you to steer that ship!


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