Wednesday 8 February 2023

Sustainability and events: an opportunity to read about the future of the sector

It has never been easy at the beginning of a new year to give an opinion on what it has in store. The time of the pandemic complicate this even further due to the “rollercoaster” that was created in the market that went from great organic growth (until 2019) to the disaster caused by the restrictions (2020-2021) and finally ended in the “boom” seen this past year (2022).

However, this new start has led the events sector to a state of hyper-productivity, which in turn has highlighted systemic flaws in its production capacity. 2022 has demonstrated that there are problems due to the lack of personnel, especially qualified one (seen mainly when related to an elevated number of commercial and private locations). It has also shown an excessive supply of services and options that have strongly destabilized the market, undermining its solidity and production capacity. 2023 is expected to show the same.

The events market, to make up for a continuous demand for diversity, has developed a myriad of possibilities in decorations, table settings, menus, entertainment services, typographies and so on. Consequently, the creativity of the sector, amplified by social media, has led agencies and suppliers to plan every event in perfect logistical, graphic, and experiential detail. As a result, the supply chain has developed very complex logistics, which require multiple planning steps in addition to the usual ones linked to materials and personnel. Just think about the complexities that can arise from the assembly of a tented structure on public property. Qualified personnel must study the regulations for hundreds of hours, drafting safety projects and plans, to present the necessary paperwork that must then be approved. In addition, many more hours will be required to satisfy the aesthetic and logistical part of the service.

The boom in demand seen in 2022, boosted by the post-covid recovery, led many suppliers to go into over-production by systematically exceeding their production capacity. Those who were not ready to take on such a large amount of work created inefficiencies that strongly compromised the realization of a significant percentage of events. In transport, in Food & Beverage, in the audio and lighting technical departments, in the decoration sector as well as with personnel, most had immense difficulties when trying to put into practice what they sold. This was amplified by the fact that during Covid many professionals went to work for other sectors.

However, 2023 should improve thanks to more medium-long term planning that will put companies in a better position to plan investments, something that is also the result of the profits seen in 2022 and the liquidity loans given during the Covid period. Obviously, this is the case for healthy companies, the others unfortunately risk collapsing in the face of the disproportion between turnover and operating margin. In fact, the latter declined due to the growth in operating and financial costs.

So how can we ensure that 2022 and 2023 become the driving force behind organic market growth?

Environmental sustainability could prove to be the cornerstone of the organic development of the events sector. In the world of events, sustainability can only be achieved by rationalizing logistics, using technology, and optimizing services. We will hardly be able to create a “zero consumption” event, but it is certainly possible to start promoting work methods that reduce the environmental impact of events. This could be done by going back to “decorating” and not redefining locations, by proposing menus that favor local suppliers and products that respect the environment, by favoring transport with a smaller number of larger vehicles and reducing the use of “one shot” (non-reusable) setups. These are all strategies that can help the entire market, both on the supplier side and on the customer side.

By applying these strategies suppliers can give greater solidity to what they offer, precisely by standardizing it and giving greater opportunities to train personnel while increasing the production scale in a linear and lasting manner. In a nutshell, standardizing allows the company to reduce variable costs, consolidate fixed costs and optimize all these when presented with an organic growth in productivity, something obtained mainly due to the greater training opportunities for internal personnel.

For the customer, the process described above can lead to more competitive suppliers in terms of costs as the products and services offered have a longer average life. In summary, this would favor the creation of more professional services at lower prices.

With this I am not saying that the market should opt for a single “mise en place” and pick the same flowers for everyone, but simply that during these particularly difficult times, suppliers, agencies, and customers should feel the duty to find optimal solutions while maintaining adequate service levels. It would be ideal to achieve this, as opposed to the total and complete ultra-customization of events, that ultimately leads to thousands of kilos of wasted materials that are used only once and then disposed of inadequately.

It is up to market players, organizers, locations and the supply chain as a whole to favor the creation of strategies and options that aim at a better and more conscious use of the services offered to clients.

Revisiting the good old rules of hospitality and service, which can mitigate unnecessary consumption of resources that could be used in a more productive way, is not wrong.

Suggesting to the customer that they might allocate the budget to a safer service, on more convenient dates, or even advise them against opting for something unnecessary, is not a sin.

Rationalizing logistics through a choice of tables or chairs that occupy smaller volumes during transport, is not criminal.

Avoiding a floral arrangement that would be looked at by guests for 3 minutes or less, is not a lack of style.

Having only the essential does not mean that something can’t be done, it means choosing not to do something because of a deep understanding of needs and preferences. As Steve Jobs said, “Less is More”.

I have no doubt that these strategies will never result in guests finding themselves hungry after the wedding or with sore legs. Ours is a market of enthusiasts and romantics who love the idea of ​​celebrating great occasions and doing it properly, at the core of it we “depend” on the need to make customers and guests feel good.

I just hope that the “proper” way can start to be a little more conscious and a little less wasteful, especially in the face of a period of great growth in the sector and therefore opportunities for medium to long term stability. I also hope this can lead to organic growth in a sector which I believe still guarantees tens of thousands of jobs.

Edited by Tommaso Corsini