Events Council Blog

Insight from a Pacesetter: Jeff Chase

Sep 05, 2018

jeff-chaseJeff Chase, Vice President of Sustainability for Freeman, is the recipient of the Events Industry Council’s 2018 Pacesetter Award for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. He talked with us about his efforts to advance the sustainability cause throughout the events industry.

What would you identify as your greatest contribution to the events industry to date?

I have been around the events industry for over 30 years. I’m thrilled that our industry has seen a lot of improvement, especially in diverting the amount of waste to landfill, even though there is still much to be done. I have worked both sides of event production as show organiser and supplier partner. One of my greatest contributions to the events industry is bringing people together, regardless of their roles in events, to work toward goals that are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

What will you do to continue to make an impact on and a contribution to the events industry?

I am a former minister, so I use those skills to preach the benefits of sustainable events [laughs]. But seriously — I believe in progress, not perfection, so I hope to continue to talk with different event professionals, whether they are Freeman customers or not, on how to create a sustainable events plan or how to bring their established programmes to the next level. That includes other supplier partners such as catering, transportation and venues to address waste, energy and air quality. I hope to continue speaking or guest blogging with industry associations to bring more people into the event sustainability movement.  

What is the most prominent sustainability or social responsibility challenge facing the events industry, and how are you working to address it?

Scalability is one of the most prominent sustainability challenges facing the events industry, based on three integrated factors: First, the business case for sustainability. This is especially true for association planners. Five or six years ago, there were additional costs for eco-friendly building materials and supplies, but increased demand has reduced costs or made sustainable meetings cost-neutral. I continue to advocate changing how we produce events to help organisers make the business case to implement sustainable changes.

 Second, aligning organisational goals and event production. As more organisations adapt company-wide sustainability and social responsibility policies, the events industry has slowly come along. To truly make a difference, we need more planners — both corporate and association — to require sustainability in their RFPs. I continue to encourage event organisers to ask for it, because many vendors already offer eco-friendly options, but only when asked. For example, Freeman recently made Honeycomb, a cardboard substrate, the standard for signage and graphics instead of foam core. That type of shift will reduce the amount of waste to landfill that events generate. My goal is to make sustainable materials and supplies standard operating procedure in every phase of event planning and production.

 Third, changing demographics. There are associations saying that their members aren’t asking for it, so they’re not sure they need to be sustainably minded. Many of these same associations are trying to attract new members. I tell them that young people care about the earth and organisational values and only want to work with associations or be members of associations that share their values. Start showing that you care by what you do at your events, because your event is a window into your whole organisation—it’s a living, breathing thing that says who you are. Even if your current members and attendees are not asking for, your future ones will require it.