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DRPG: be the sustainable approach

Louisa Daley talks to Kate Halpin, senior event project manager at DRPG, about how the creative experience agency is making its events more sustainable. 

Here at Conference News, it's sustainability month, so what’s better than speaking to an events agency that’s known for its sustainable approach? I caught up with Kate Halpin, senior event project manager at DRPG, to learn about a sustainable case study as well as gain insight into how the hybrid world can help tackle sustainability.

Who are DRPG?

KateDRPG is the first creative experience agency to achieve certification for ISO 20121 and ISO 14001. These certifications, Halpin tells me, are far more than practising what they preach. DRPG must meet certain criteria and ensure sustainability is so engrained in their agency, that it is considered to be the norm. “We can’t let that be just the direction that we go in because it’s ‘good’ to be seen as sustainable. We have a commitment and we signed up to that when we got accredited,” she adds.

Furthermore, the agency’s commitment to sustainability goes even further than the 9-5, Halpin (pictured) reveals. “Because we are so engrossed in sustainability and we enjoy being a part of it, it’s now becoming part of our everyday lives as well,” she says.

Case study: SPARK 

So, how does DRPG implement sustainability into their events? Let’s take its hybrid event SPARK as a case study. SPARK is an annual senior leadership conference for Vesuvius, which was produced sustainably.

Halpin tells me the event was about getting around 160 people all together in a room, as well as globally online. “Those who joined online were from places like China, India, America and Canada – so we were saving on CO2 emissions as there are less flights,” she says.

“As part of the event, the client usually has stands where they put little bits of information from all of their areas on. This year, we talked with them and said, okay, we can do those expo stands and we can pin pieces of paper to the board and give out materials, but do we want to? That was the first conversation we had about sustainability. The client was really open to talking about it because they want to look at how they can make their events more sustainable,” says Halpin.

Olga Klimanovich, group head of communications at Vesuvius, adds: "At Vesuvius, we believe in creating a better tomorrow for our planet, our communities, our people and our customer. Therefore, by organising and working with DRPG on SPARK, it gave us an opportunity to revisit our events’ footprint."

After discussing possible options, DRPG decided on an event app. This meant that instead of delegates coming in and receiving event materials, they instead could access everything on their phones, removing any paper waste. “At the end of each day, we uploaded the event materials in the back end,” reveals Halpin.

DRPG then looked even further and talked with the venue to see what other sustainable initiatives could be implemented.

“We looked at giveaways. Normally at any event, you look at what you can give, and we don't want to just give anything, we wanted to make it work for what we are trying to achieve. So, we gave water bottles to everybody. We said we are going to have no bottles whatsoever on-site. Instead, we said, here's a water bottle for you that is reusable which you can refill at specific locations in the venue. We also had recycling points set up.

“Overall, the sustainable initiatives were really successful. The venue was supportive and actually had a sustainability approach as well. We worked really closely on what they do, to make sure it matches what we did,” says Halpin.

Top 3 sustainable must-haves

Talking more generally, I asked Halpin the all-important question: what are your sustainable must-haves as an event organiser when choosing a venue?

“Our checklist involves things like food, is it locally sourced? At DRPG, we want to make sure that it's not travelling unnecessarily just to be on a plate. Another key thing we look at is a venues waste. Do they recycle, do they recycle even down to the food that’s leftover? Where is that going afterwards? And finally, we consider automatic lights. As event organisers, the last thing we remember to do is turn the light on and off as we leave the room,” says Halpin.

Whilst DRPG has sustainable must-haves, Halpin stresses: “one big thing for us, is that we don't want to be pushing the sustainable approach every time, I think we want to just be the sustainable approach. So, it's a case of clients using us because they know we are sustainable, rather than, what can we do that is sustainable and looking at it from individual options.”

How the hybrid world can assist with sustainability

As we all know, the hybrid world isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it has helped events hugely during the last 18-months – so, can it help the industry with sustainability?

“I think it's a given that virtual events are more sustainable. But we are never going to get to a point where people aren't going to want to meet face to face anymore. So, how can we approach that from a sustainable point of view? Well, for me, its let's make it hybrid. I think that hybrid element is going to be that perfect storm of getting it right,” says Halpin.

"For those travelling to events, we always ask the question of ‘how are you travelling to the event?’ and there will always be the car share option. Don’t just jump in your car and come to the event. Let's see who you can bring with you,” she adds.

So, even if you are attending an event in-person, remember, there are always ways to still be sustainable.