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Sustainable experiences — Imagination 2020 trend

23 January 2020
GreenPeace Cafe Glastonbury

As part of our series exploring the major experience trends of 2020, our Head of Connected Experiences, Christophe Castagnera, explains why sustainability is now key.

We are all aware of the conversation around global warming, sustainable materials and energy use. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and, as a consequence, more vocal about the values and practices of the businesses they interact with. While many brands are talking the talk, we all know, actions speak louder than words. Giving customers a direct feel of how your brand is tackling sustainability challenges can be very powerful and is an emerging trend in the experiential space.

There are differing levels of engagement in this trend. At the highest level, many experiences and events are already offering forums to debate sustainability policy or showcase green innovation. Going deeper and we are seeing clients invest time and budget to offset emissions, to reduce plastic waste and to create fully reusable components in their experience programmes. As an agency Imagination has taken solid steps to walk the walk, with initiatives such as upcycling, recycling and using video conferencing instead of flights. In some cases, it’s just one simple action such as banning plastic water bottles, but other brands are making more ambitious moves. And as always, those on the front foot will benefit.

Who did it well?

Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury Festival has been a champion of progressive causes, including sustainability, for decades. However, for Glastonbury Festival to be sustainable, they set out their duty to make sure the land is looked after, especially given that 200,000 people attend each time. The biggest focus is around the principle of ‘leave no trace’ when it comes to tents, litter and equipment. They also focus on reducing plastic waste through reusable water bottles and recycling. Well known organisations such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid are key partners to the festival and ensure the agenda remains sustainable through their festival activations and presence to educate and inform festival-goers.

Walmart and remote training

Whilst the need for face to face engagement in the workplace is still critical for certain workflows, many clients are looking to technology to reduce travel costs and emissions, whilst improving effectiveness. Walmart is now using Virtual Reality training, powered by Oculus Go. After testing, they deployed 17,000 headsets to staff and use over 50 training modules. Similar programmes are being used by UCLA and Harvard Medical School. VR conferencing also opens up new possibilities, this is still in the early stages, but the 5G network, combined with lightweight headsets will signal a huge shift from actual to virtual conferencing and have a significant impact on air miles.

Telstra/Expo 100

Imagination collaborated with Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications provider to deliver Telstra Vantage in Melbourne. This two-day showcase in Melbourne of world-class technology and business solutions brought to life the benefits of Telstra’s new 5G network. Beyond the tech-stories, Telstra invested in a more sustainable experience platform. Initiatives included water refill stations, saving over 7,000 plastic bottles and all un-consumed food platters being donated to charity Oz Harvest. Expo 2020 Dubai set the sustainability bar higher for the Middle East region by offering water refill stations at 7 interconnected festivals in the UAE to celebrate the ‘1 Year To Go’ moment, saving over 5,000 plastic water bottles and ensuring there was no single-use plastic sold at any event.

What to consider — three key insights

  1. Show what you're doing

Global warming is now a top public concern so customers are actively seeking information. Since experiences offer direct contact with them, brands need to communicate their own sustainability policies and initiatives at all B2B and B2C experiences.

  1. Invest in best practice

Given the lack of subsidies to encourage more sustainable events, it falls to brands to dig into their pockets. The rewards for doing so can be high when it comes to brand perception scores.

  1. Be transparent

Some sectors have a far larger task when it comes to a transition to the green economy, in this case, it’s better to level with customers about the challenges and show where your company is headed with a blend of actual and future initiatives. Educating customers will maintain their trust in your brand.

Click here to explore the other major trends shaping the world of experience in 2020.