The IT-savvy Gen Y is likely to be the players to successfully steer the events industry on the roadmap towards zero waste… as long as they are permitted to do some self-promotion along the way.


As planet MICE continues to revolve it continues to evolve, meaning a burgeoning Gen Y influence into a 21st century of fresh challenges. To be able to embrace this brave new world and judge just how the future might fare under their steer, it is important to gauge whether this generation is geared up for the challenges facing the industry today. A current high-profile global initiative provides an illuminating case in point.

Time to Waste

In February this year, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) published a roadmap to zero waste for the events industry. Setting out a step-by-step guide on how to minimise waste at events, the roadmap was built from the resource management plan (RMP) they developed for the London 2012 Olympics. The success of this initiative was reflected in British Standard BS8901, developed specifically for the Games, becoming international standard ISO 20121 in April 2012, with the explicit aim of globalising and accelerating event waste minimisation through allocating more focus and time to waste.
As the spur for countries to plot their own roadmaps, this new international standard can help the global event industry take a huge step forward in waste minimisation. For this to happen quickly and effectively, however, it will need skilled drivers and co-pilots to navigate the course towards their ultimate destination of zero waste, one that Gen Y will be tasked with leading us to.

“As a representative of this generation, we have already been almost brainwashed about how to deal directly with waste,” Slovenia’s Soca Outdoor Festival director Jan Klavora said. “We were raised like that, something that our parents weren’t. Young people are really aware of using the best materials for reducing carbon waste; we want to use them.”
“One of the themes that come through most with Gen Y is the whole green movement being driven by people of that generation,” University of Greenwich senior lecturer in event management Rob Davidson agreed.

“It’s something that they care about and they like to see evidence within venues of sustainability and recycling, as well as energy conservation and other measures like that. And it’s set to continue, as it’s in their DNA; they’re wired like this.”
Wired genetically as well as technically, Klavora was eager to stress how the IT-savvy side of Gen Y is already playing a major part in indirectly helping reduce industry waste towards its zero target.
“We are already using new technology that automatically brings positive effects to the sustainability of events,” he asserted. “My main focus in organising an event is to include best technology, through which we indirectly reduce some carbon waste. We are also aware that it is a good marketing opportunity to use materials that are carbon neutral; we are not used to having ‘hard’ copies, as we prefer to have information via smartphones or tablets, so this is a really important indirect effect.”
Yet with the technology and temperament in place as a platform to build towards zero waste, Gen Y hasn’t forfeited the pragmatism to identify that an event must remain first and foremost profitable.
“It is also a matter of balancing costs as part of this, but where there is an opportunity and a profit logic for it, I will always strive to eliminate waste and engage environmentally friendly initiatives,” Klavora said.

Driven to make a recorded difference

So, subject to profit considerations the global goal of achieving zero waste in the industry appears to be in safe hands when it comes to Gen Y proactively taking it forward then. Or does it?
“It’s not so clear cut,” Davidson said. “Gen Y likes to be ‘seen’ to be doing green things and you can witness a lot of this on Facebook, for example. So it’s probably less of an altruistic impulse and more of a ‘look at me caring for the planet’ moment.”
“Gen Y is always looking at what they would gain if they do something,” Klavora agreed. “They… we always look at things with an eye to what we would gain. So when we do something good, we will want videos to use as self-promotion.”
In achieving the overall better ends of the industry, however, Davidson considers that as long as it gets to where it needs to be, if it means some self-promotion along the way on Gen Y dominated media then this isn’t a compromising issue.
“If your self-interest is a motivating factor – and it seems to motivate this generation quite considerably, which sets them apart from the 1960s generation – then it doesn’t really matter how we get to zero waste,” he stated. “There’s a motivation to get there and to be seen to be getting there, with a difference that the world will know about the green gestures of waste minimisation and at the same time it will take the industry to its goals.”
“The green theme comes up again and again with Gen Y,” he continued.
“It’s a strong trend and it’s encouraging. The phrases that they keep using are that they’re driven to make a difference and driven to leave something behind.”

The view of industry insiders is that Gen Y has the skill and the will to propel industry changes towards zero waste, as long as there is a bit of licence for self-promotion along the way. Whilst being driven to make a difference, on this occasion we can hope that they may be driven to leave nothing behind but a video or two, which in aiming for zero waste would be mission accomplished.
Planet MICE is on course to become much greener – just stick to the map and follow the navigators of the future.

Rob Davidson will be presenting a talk on “What does Generation Y want from your Association?” at the Union of International Associations’ Round Table from 23-24 October at Singapore’s Suntec International Convention Centre.