Taking a Bold Stance on Sustainability

BLOG | 5 June 2024

Following the success of Paul’s fireside chat with Maria Olivas De Crombag, VP, Trade Engagement & Brand Experience at De Beers Group, our MD sums up his key take-aways for being a sustainability pioneer.

Paul Godwin | MD | 2Heads

This April saw my first visit to the EventMarketer Experiential Summit, a moment of significant pride for me for many reasons. Not only were 2Heads amongst their peers as one of the Top 100 IT List event agencies, I was also joined by a very special guest for an all-important fireside chat during the conference.

The team has worked with Maria, and the De Beers Group, for a number of years now and the journey we’ve been on together is one of note. From the start, the challenge was how to take a bold stance on sustainability, and the approach was rigorous and uncompromising, proving that events can be eco-conscious at their very core.

To set the scene, De Beers is known around the world for its diamond jewelry, but after nearly 2 years spent curating award-winning events and brand experiences in Las Vegas and Hong Kong, their event organization is also gaining recognition for a brave vision on sustainability.  Our fireside chat aimed to share that brand vision for a more considered future, reviewing challenges and opportunities, and providing tips on internal stakeholder engagement, experience design, material use and carbon measurement.

The Vision

During EMS 2024, sustainability was one of the main talking points and the general consensus was that the industry has a long way to go to understanding what a carbon-conscious event actually looks like. The general trend between event professionals was a desire to know more and do better, a perfect forum for Maria and De Beers to answer the industry’s questions.

Maria is a great advocate for a sustainable solution that can’t be accused of green-washing. De Beers has set the bar higher than most brands, and those looking to emulate their success need to start with the parameters set around their vision, find a partner who shares their aims and avoid compromise as the first response when challenges arise

The De Beers group has gone through a significant evolution as a company. 15% owned by the Botswanan government, the De Beers group live and breathe their ‘Building Forever’ promise. Founded around 4 core pillars; leading ethical practices, partnering for thriving communities, protecting the natural world and accelerating equal opportunity, these goals are actively marketed at their events, and experience design begins with the essence of communicating these. 

Maria’s advice during the chat was to keep true to vision. Make your company’s CSR vitally important not only to our business, but also to your employees and communities. Make sure your events do not compromise, and be proud of your company’s stance when crafting your brand experience.

The Challenges

From a macro level, the challenges facing event professionals on creating eco-conscious experiences are many, and far too varied for us to cover in one session. It is worth considering however, how understanding the main challenges for De Beers Group provide visibility and became the area where solutions were most innovative:

What Does Good Look Like

For Maria and the De Beers Group, the success of their switch to sustainable events can be measured by three key factors:

Physical – By using materials not commonly employed by the industry, and seeking to locally resource, we are collectively make the supply chain adapt and consider new ways of working that are better for all, with a view to bringing costs down on new approaches. Environment design was considered beyond aesthetics; red lines on carbon impact were discussed from day one and materials used were as important as what they looked like.  Considering what happens when elements reach end of life was a key consideration.We took on the practical challenge of creating uniformity of image worldwide, making continuity an important KPI.

Delegate Experience – Defining red lines did not mean the delegate experience design had to be compromised. Clever event technology and narrative-led content can showcase a brand story as well, if not better than physical experiences. There is certainly a need to keep innovating in this area.

Leadership-The De Beers Group attend these events to lead. For them, the most amazing side effect was that other site- holders didn’t just congratulate them on what the events had achieved, but how they could get involved and learn from the De Beers program. The ability to hold meaningful conversations with guests over their community/society awarenesand commitment, was of huge importance to the De Beers team. For me, a key takeaway was that; if the pandemic showed us anything, it is the importance of face to face communications between people, communities and business, and how the subtle interactions between people can make all the difference. 

When considering sustainability, the obvious question is do we need to travel? On a societal level, as long as the benefit of face to face interactions exist, we have to work within that desire and minimize the impact whilst not compromising on brand experience. We need to keep pushing innovation to allow the brands we work with to get the messaging they need to come across whilst giving back to the societies in which they thrive.