Sustainable Event Management. The Socio-Economic Challenges of Hosting an Eco-Friendly Music Festival

Bachelor Thesis, 2020

61 Pages, Grade: 1,2


Table of Contents

II List of Illustrations

III List of Tables

IV List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Sustainability
2.1 Definition
2.2 Relevance of the Topic
2.3 Focus

3 Stakeholder Analysis
3.1 Stakeholder Theory
3.2 Concepts of Stakeholder Classification
3.3 Internal Stakeholders
3.4 External Stakeholders
3.5 Stakeholders’ Influence on Sustainable Development

4 Measures for a Greener Festival
4.1 Power Sources
4.1.1 Diesel-Fuelled Generators
4.1.2 Biodiesel and Hybrid Power Generators
4.1.3 Solar and Wind Power
4.2 Waste Management
4.2.1 Waste Reduction
4.2.2 Waste Management and Recycling
4.3 Travel Emissions
4.3.1 Audience Travel
4.3.2 Production and On-Site Transport; Artist and Crew Travel
4.4 Existing Regulations and Best Practice

5 Strategies to Reduce an Audience’s Negative Impact on Sustainability
5.1 Social Marketing
5.1.1 Audience Behaviour
5.1.2 Social Marketing Mix
5.2 Consumer Value
5.3 Manager’s Drivers and Barriers towards Greening: The Mair & Jago Model
5.4 Communicating Sustainable Objectives
5.4.1 Incentives and Rewards
5.4.2 Penalties
5.4.3 Increasing Awareness through Information and Participation

6 Conclusion

V References


With decreasing profits through record sales, artists increasingly depend on live performances and touring. As it is common knowledge that big music festivals often harm the environment, visitors expect event organisers to comply with sustainable measures. Festival managers are, however, restricted in their implementation of eco-friendly practices, as an event is dependent on the interaction of many stakeholders.

Music festivals offer a unique opportunity for event managers to attempt to influence attendee’s behaviour to be more sustainable through their diversity and playfulness. By creating the appropriate framework, festival creators can shift a festival towards sustainability. To do that, they must understand their stakeholders’ values, motivators, drivers and barriers of greening an outdoor music festival.

This paper is based on data derived from existing research and literature in the fields of event management, sustainability, sociology and behavioural research. It illustrates basic greening approaches along with the operational limits of event organisers.

This research analyses the extent to which sustainability at a festival can be managed and how desirable behaviour can be communicated and established.

II List of Illustrations

Figure 1: Sustainability Interactions

Figure 2: Major Stakeholder Roles in Festival Networks

Figure 3: Identification and Categorisation of Internal Stakeholders

Figure 4: Identification and Categorisation of External Stakeholders

Figure 5: Average Carbon Footprint of UK Festivals (CO2e)

Figure 6: Total GHG Emission from Festivals per Year by Activity Source, t CO2e

Figure 7: Tomorrowland Festival Mainstage Area Before and During the Event

Figure 8: DGTL Festival 2019 Material Flow Analysis

Figure 9: Model of Drivers and Barriers of Greening in the Music Festival Sector

III List of Tables

Table 1: Differences Between Traditional and Social Marketing

Table 2: Adapted Social Marketing Mix at a Green Music Festival

Table 3: Holbrooks Typology of Consumer Values

Table 4: Attempts to Reduce Waste from Throwaway Tents

IV List of Abbreviations

CO2 Carbon Dioxide

CO2e Carbon Dioxide Equivalent

CSR Corporate Social Responsibility

GHG Greenhouse Gas

HPG Hybrid Power Generator

NGO Non-Governmental Organisation

WVO Waste Vegetable Oil

1 Introduction

In times of Fridays-For-Future demonstrations and increasing discussions about sustainability, protecting the environment appears to be one of the most substantial current concerns. This turn is visible in the event sector, especially when it comes to outdoor music festivals. While the last decades have shown a drop in record sale revenues (physical and digital non-streaming) by over 50%, the concert and live music industry has increased its profits by more than 40% (Parker 2013, Web). Artists increasingly depend on touring to earn money (see Gajanan 2019, Web).

As an indispensable component of the tourism industry, the event sector is growing rapidly in terms of diversity, size, number and popularity. Nevertheless, there is always a major ecological impact linked to the organisation of an event. As shown by the Global Footprint Network, in almost all European countries, today’s per capita footprint drastically exceeds the respective biocapacities (see Global Footprint Network 2010, pp. 16-19). As a result, event promoters are under pressure to act in favour of greener options. Music festivals are a huge part of the live music industry. Organisers of outdoor music festivals create events for thousands of visitors in nature. While an increasing number of organisers take environmental aspects into account, many events still fail basic sustainability criteria such as transport and waste minimisation, resource protection, re-use of facilities and environmentally friendly power generation (see Getz 2007, p. 316).

Many music festival organisers blame high implementation costs and the lack of control over stakeholders such as sponsors, suppliers and attendees as being the main barriers to greening the event.

This paper aims to analyse existing literature and studies to determine the most efficient approaches to reducing emissions and greening a music festival. It will be disclosed why managers alone only have a limited power to negotiate their events towards sustainability. It will then be analysed how desirable green behaviour can be communicated to decision-making stakeholders and the audience to establish and incorporate green values at a festival.

2 Sustainability

2.1 Definition

Before entering the field of sustainable event management, sustainability must be defined. The term sustainability often is referred to as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1987). In other words, creating the smallest possible negative impact on the world whilst fulfilling current needs. Sustainability is commonly divided into three pillars: social, economic and environmental. These are typically represented as three intersecting or concentric circles (Figure 1). The intersecting circles depict sustainability only being achieved when all three pillars are equally connected. Concentric circles illustrate that society is utterly dependent on environmental sustainability, as social and economic factors are useless if no natural resources are available (see Purvis, Mao & Robinson 2019, Web).

Figure 1: Sustainability Interactions

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Source: Purvis, Mao & Robinson (2019, Web)

Economic structures require social interaction; however, society is not primarily based on trading goods and services but also other factors like communication, art or ethics. Society, on the other side, is entirely relying on the environment. Basic needs like food, water and oxygen or materials we depend on are all sourced by the environment, which is why society can never be a more significant factor than the environment (see Hart 2006, Web). In 2010, a fourth pillar, culture, was proposed at the World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments (see Jones 2018, p. 4). This new pillar was created to celebrate cultural diversity and its role in sustainable human development. The vital importance of environmental sustainability is the reason why this thesis will focus on environmental issues and ecological sustainability but also taking social and economic factors into account.

Sustainable events are not only those, enduring over a long number of years, but the ones that fulfil social, economic and environmental roles that people value (see Laing & Frost 2009, p. 262).

2.2 Relevance of the Topic

Dying trees and underwater vegetation, resource scarcity, natural disasters and species extinction are only some of the consequences of environmental issues humans are facing today (see Wang 2017, p. 974). As proven by scientific evidence, human activity has been changing the climate dramatically within the last 150 years (see Legrand, Sloan & Chen 2017, p. 2). Consequently, more people than ever before are realising the urgency to protect the ecosystem, and green practices have been implemented (see Getz 2007). Music festivals offer a unique space of creativity, enjoyment and freedom. A Deloitte survey of millennials (born 1981-1996) finds out that most value experiences over possessions (Gajanan 2019, Web). At least 45% of the people visiting music festivals are millennials, and 57% of respondents said they prioritised travel and events over owning a home.

Nevertheless, all events generate an ecological impact, and it is the promoter’s responsibility to minimise it. In 2010, most of the major European festivals took place in the United-Kingdom. The ticket price of music festivals in Europe has been increasing constantly, averaging 178,12 EUR in 2018 (IQ Magazine 2019, Web). A 2014 research conducted by Julies Bicycle (the British cultural sector’s leading environmental consultancy) at 13 UK festivals in 2011, 2012 and 2013 attempted to measure the ecological impact per visitor and per day. Every observed festival sold over 20.000 tickets and took place over multiple days. The 2014 research is the first scientific project to gather enough data on recycling and combustibles to provide representable findings. The study’s results were that on average every attendee was directly responsible for the consumption of 0,6L of diesel (15% of it being biodiesel) and 12,5L of water; as well as the generation of 2.8kg of waste (32% of it being recycled) and the emission of 2,3kg of CO2 per day. One audience day is being equal to one person visiting the festival for one day. If the festival was a three days festival, it equals three audience days and all factors need to be multiplied by three to illustrate the visitor’s impact. For these numbers, biodiesel and recycled waste were considered zero carbon. Water represents water consumed and not waste water (see Julies Bicycle 2014, Web). These numbers show that the impact of each visitor of major music festivals on the environment is tremendous, which is why public pressure on festival promoters is increasing. Promoters can, more or less easily influence many factors of pollution. In contrast, the biggest challenge is to pass on the challenge to different stakeholders of the industry, notably sponsors and visitors.

Musical events, especially outdoor music festivals, will increasingly be evaluated by their implication of sustainable development measures (see Getz 2007, p. 316). In this paper, the terms “green” and “green event” will be used in order to describe a musical event, having a sustainability policy or incorporating sustainable practices into its management and operations (see Laing & Frost 2009, p. 262). The Artists Project Earth UK suggest that events should lead the way and demonstrate how sustainability at events look like. By creating the essential framework, audiences can connect with it. They consider that people being left alone with the issue, think it is too difficult and elaborate, and that promoters need to guide the way to make it as easy as possible for attendees to consume in a sustainable manner (see Artists Project Earth UK in: Jones & Scanlon 2010). If visitors perceive the implementation of sustainable practice too challenging, commonly they will not attempt to change their behaviour (see Henkel & Dietsche 2013, p. 229).

2.3 Focus

Cultural celebrations such as festivals, carnivals, and the arts and entertainment in general (mainly concerts and theatrical productions) are subsumed in the literature on cultural tourism (Getz & Andersson 2008, p. 2). In this study, the focus lays on music festivals, as large outdoor festivals are particularly growing in popularity (Anderton 2009). These have unique characteristics and can be considered a specific subset of festivals. Music festivals represent a different sort of event than a concert, as these often take place over multiple days and can involve the majority of the visitors camping on site. Due to the expectation of a varied line-up, some festivals may specialise on a specific genre such as rock, electronic or Latin dance. Others incorporate activities beyond the music itself, such as workshops following the specific theme of the festival. This type of festivals makes a sizeable economic contribution through ticket sales as well as through food and beverage sales, revenues growing every year. In 2019, the top 10 highest-grossing festivals worldwide (two of them taking place in Germany) generated almost USD 140million (Pollstar 2019, Web). With an estimated market value of 1.7 billion Euros in 2019 and a forecast of nearly 1.9 billion Euros in 2023 (10.8 billion in Europe), Germany hosts Europe’s leading live music market. Although all European countries forecast figures show growth, no market will see an increase as high as Germany (see IQ Magazine 2019, Web). The growth can be explained by the decreasing sales of physical records on a market dominated by music streaming, where artists need to perform live to make money. Music festivals represent a considerable proportion of Europe’s live music scene, the potential, however, for the environmental impact of any large gathering of people in an outside space is given. As most studies have been analysing the British and American market, this is where most numbers in this document will refer to.

As Stephanie O’Rourke, David Irwin and Joe Straker (2011) observe, “water, waste contamination, air and noise pollution, energy consumption and impact on flora and fauna are key environmental impacts; while congested roads unwelcome overcrowding of campsites and pressure on local infrastructure are examples of key social impacts” (p. 342). Following this, outdoor music festivals always have an impact on the environment. However, with the right management and motivation, music festivals are also at the vanguard of promoting sustainability, especially those taking place in open spaces. Many festivals organisers use their profile and popularity to deliver an environmental message. As stated by Mark Pedelty (2012): “drawing connection between music and environments is not an unnatural act. The unnatural act is assuming that music is somehow separable from the context in which it is produced and consumed”. With other words: it is an obligation for music festivals to protect the environment in which they take place.

Some initiatives can be taken by managers directly, but as they are not creating the music festival on their own, they must find ways to communicate with stakeholders and influence their behaviour towards sustainability. But before that, stakeholders must be defined and identified.

3 Stakeholder Analysis

3.1 Stakeholder Theory

A stakeholder can be defined as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm’s objectives” (Freeman, 1984, p. 25). In the case of a music festival, it includes every factor involved in the organisation and execution of the event. Festival organisations cannot produce the whole event alone but need the assistance or support of many stakeholders (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 113). Stakeholder theory implies the relationships between the organisation and the stakeholders as well as the interaction between the different stakeholders (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 105). Among the stakeholders, some partners are beneficial to the festival organisation because of the funding they may add to the event, their unique skillset or the resources they have available (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 106). Festival management studies recognise the importance of stakeholder theory. To ensure its success, various stakeholders of the event need to agree on the purpose, benefit and execution of an event (see Laing & Frost 2009, p. 262). Festivals offer great potential because of the variety of cooperation between all kinds of persons and groups sharing common goals (see Getz & Andersson 2010, p. 534). Based on its authority in the festival production, the festival organiser can be regarded as the stakeholder having the most influential power position. Its power is, however, limited as it depends on other important actors holding crucial resources. Multiple researchers have already attempted to classify stakeholders using different schemes. Some frameworks base on stakeholder’s power in the decision-making process, their organisational influence, their legitimacy, the role they play or even the market in which they serve (see Van Niekerk & Getz 2016, pp. 421-422). According to Larson (2002, p. 135), some actors are considered to be replaceable while others are irreplaceable. Stakeholders like food vendors or artist do not necessarily have to be identical every year and are thus referred to as replaceable. As a music festival typically takes place at the same location for each edition and the municipality is an essential and irreplaceable factor. Some semi-permanent contractors like beer breweries or long-term sponsors may also count as irreplaceable for a certain number of years (see Larson 2002, p. 135). Larson notes the additional presence of ‘free-riders’ (p. 126), the latter being companies or organisations profiting from the music festival outside of the festival grounds, at their premises and without being involved in any decision-making process of the festival. Hotels, restaurant or local shops can, for example, be considered as ‘free-riders’ as they usually do not collaborate or interact with the festival organisation but still benefit from the event at their own premises.

3.2 Concepts of Stakeholder Classification

In a conceptual model by Reid and Arcodia (2002), stakeholders were divided into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’. Primary stakeholders represent all actors being actively involved in the organisation and execution of the festival and on which the festival directly depends: all involved employees including volunteers and interns; as well as audience, sponsors, suppliers and artists. Secondary stakeholders would be local authorities, host community, local business, media and tourism organisations.

Getz, Andersson and Larson (2007) also attempted to classify festival stakeholders based on a study in two Western societies being Canada and Sweden. For their research, interviews with managers or senior festival managers were performed to find out about different stakeholders, their importance and power on the decision-making process. Stakeholders were allocated in the following categories: “facilitators” providing resources and support to the organisation; “regulators” like government agencies, enforcing rules and regulations; “coproducers” are other independent organisations and persons who participate in the event (i.e. restaurants or broadcasters); “allies and collaborators” such as professional associations and tourism agencies; and those “impacted” by the happening, mainly the audience and the host community (pp. 113-120). These stakeholders interact with the festival organisation and may also interact with each other, as visible in Figure 2. The model reflects the dynamic nature of stakeholders and supports the idea that roles can change over time (Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007).

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Figure 2: Major Stakeholder Roles in Festival Networks

Source: Getz, Andersson & Larson (2007, p. 109)

The study aimed to rank all stakeholders according to their importance from a festival management perspective. Therefore, the organisation is the centre of the representation in Figure 2. In four out of seven interviews with the managers from Calgary, Canada, the audience was named as being the number one most important stakeholder (see Getz & Andersson 2008, p. 11). The reason for that is that in commercial festivals, the audience usually is the primary source of revenue. In non-commercial festivals, it is the main reason for organising the event (see Gets, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 108). The study was used as a base for further studies by Getz and Andersson in 2010. The researches adapted their interviews as a questionary and expanded the study to more countries and another 193 festivals (p. 537). The results were similar, although more representative. Venues and locations, local government, and paying customers were stated to be the most important stakeholders (p. 539).

3.3 Internal Stakeholders

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The number of internal stakeholders mostly depends on the size of the event. For small festivals, it can be just one person. In contrast, bigger festivals separate their roles and usually have numerous people being involved in various aspects of the event (see Jones 2018, pp. 71-72). Each festival has ‘owner’, which often is a non-profit organisation with several members and a board of directors or investors in the case of a profit-oriented festival (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 113). Even privately-owned festivals that are produced by a for-profit business are likely to be influenced by a range of external stakeholders, especially funding and regulatory bodies (see Getz & Andersson 2010, p. 534).

In a 2016 study conducted by Van Niekerk and Getz, 59 festivals in the United States responded to a questionary about their stakeholders. The main aim of the study was to determine, characterise and classify stakeholders from a multifaceted approach. In the course of the study, all internal stakeholders have been most mentioned and considered as the most important stakeholders for the organisation of the festival (p. 427). Universally spoken, internal stakeholders are employees, owners/shareholders and senior management. As adapted in Figure 3, Van Niekerk and Getz attempted to differentiate between different stakeholders by categorising them. The classification is a synthesis of previous research in the field of festival research and an attempt to create a theoretical framework of identification and differentiation of stakeholders. The latter are split into “universal stakeholders” and “festival-specific stakeholders”. The subcategories in the model were ranked in accordance with the importance given to them by the festival organisers.

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Figure 3: Identification and Categorisation of Internal Stakeholders

Source: own illustration adapted from Van Niekerk & Getz (2016, p. 428)

Jones (2018) used a different approach by separating internal stakeholders into “whole of event lifecycle stakeholders”; “at-event internal stakeholders” and “other” (p. 72). Of all festival-specific internal stakeholders, volunteers have been considered to play a vital role in the execution of a festival. Even though volunteers do not always take part in the creative or organisational process of a festival, many managers do rely on their workforce. They are highly dependent on them (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 113 & p. 119). Festivals imply unique stakeholder challenges, as the organisation must expand periodically in terms of staffing, logistics and marketing. Commitment and skillset must be re-evaluated at every episode, as not all staff members take part continuously. Over the year, senior management and permanent staff are the only constant participants in the decision-making process.

Sponsors provide essential resources and services to the event organisation. Nevertheless, the threat of withdrawal or attempt to deploy need to be managed and an inter-dependency could be achieved (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, pp. 119-120). Sponsorships within the concert and festival industry have remarkably grown over that last decades, doubling from $547 million USD to $1.17 billion USD from 2003 to 2010 only (Glassett 2014, p. 7). Sponsors appear in both Figures 2 & 3 as some sponsors may also have a significant influence on managerial operations and can be either internal or external. Sponsors are also part of the “facilitators” which are non-participating providers of financial resources or in-kind support (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 115).

3.4 External Stakeholders

Figure 4: Identification and Categorisation of External Stakeholders

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Source: own illustration adapted from Van Niekerk & Getz (2016, p. 428)

On the second graphic by Van Niekerk and Getz (2016), several external stakeholders have been identified and illustrated. The researchers grouped the stakeholders into traditional, “universal” categories that can be divided into many components. Vendors at the festival, especially food vendors, can be considered as both customers and suppliers, as they usually pay for their spot at the festival. Other suppliers typically cause costs, which is why a common strategy is to get them to become sponsors of the event (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 117). Most named stakeholder “artists” typically includes not only the musicians but also their entourage, namely managers, agents and tour support.

Authorities, previously categorised as “regulators” in Figure 2, have a tremendous impact on a festival’s organisation. In essence, they regulate activities like sound, light, pyrotechnics as well as traffic, chemical use and multiple other aspects (see Jones 2018, p. 77). Authorities automatically are in a power position, as they are the ones to grant licenses and festivals are more or less dependent on the local government of the city, they take place in. Police and politicians are the most powerful as they decide if and how the festival is taking place or not (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 117). As the local community typically elects the local government, this stakeholder should not be neglected. The acceptance of the “impacted” can contribute to the success of the event. Large festivals attracting high numbers of visitors over multiple days typically affect or disrupt the daily life of the local community (see Jones 2018, p. 80). Some festivals tempt to give out free tickets to residents or actively involve them or their business in the execution of it (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 118; Jones 2018, p. 80).

In comparison with universal stakeholders, one must point out the fact that “competitors” such as other festivals had close to no relevance for the festival managers (Van Niekerk & Getz 2016, p. 427).

It was previously assumed that older and long-established festivals would reduce their dependency on stakeholders over time (see Getz & Andersson 2008, p. 11). That was not the case, dependence was proven to be a possible weakness or threat and that mutual dependency over time (committed stakeholders) was positive for the longevity of the event (p. 12). In contrast, one-time event projects have to work harder in order to establish legitimacy when it comes to their essential stakeholders (see Getz & Andersson 2008, p. 9).

3.5 Stakeholders’ Influence on Sustainable Development

Festivals are not produced by only one organisation, but by networks of stakeholders that must be managed effectively by the festival organisation (see Getz, Andersson & Larson 2007, p. 121). Without actively communicating the aim of creating an eco-friendly music festival and gaining the support and engagement of all stakeholders, festival managers cannot achieve sustainability. Since the latter are very dependent on the cooperation of all different stakeholders, it is interesting to investigate what the best way is to engage them. Event planners need to be ready to provide enough information supporting the need and desirability of a green event (see Laing & Frost 2009, p. 262). Only if promoters are armed with sufficient information and can highlight the positive effects, they will be able to convince stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders are making what Jones (2018, p. 71) calls “buying and building” decisions which need a certain level of expertise and awareness to make expedient and target-oriented decisions. Any personnel need to be briefed in order to positively affect an event’s sustainability and create a shared goal (Jones 2018, p. 72-73).

Subcontractors and suppliers such as caterers, food vendors as well as labour-force such as security, technicians and cleaning have their own managers and internal goal setting. It is, therefore, even more important to include them in the vision of a green festival and establish solutions they are able to deliver to support that vision (see Jones 2018, p. 74). Anything that is sold at the event reflects or should reflect that. It is essential to work with food stalls and non-food traders on the greening process of their offer (see Jones 2010, p. 51). Some promoters have already noticed big landfill waste reductions by introducing a compulsory “compostable packaging only policy” for their onsite food suppliers (see Brennan et al. 2019, p. 260). It has also been proven that with the right approach, sustainable materials save both money and unnecessary waste (Glassett 2014, p. 16).

Topics like the products used by stakeholders and their waste management need to be reviewed, along with products purchased by third parties on your behalf (see Jones 2018, p. 76 & p. 229). A supplier code of conduct can be useful for that purpose. Festivals may set sustainability criteria in the form of a checkbox or as questions to pre-evaluate suppliers working at the event (see Jones 2018, pp. 230-231). Positive and negative aspects of each supplier can be ranked in the form of a transparent scoring and weighting model, including some mandatory and other preferential requirements related to the supplier (see Jones 2018, pp. 232-233). Some festival organisers created a contest where vendors providing at least one sustainable meal could be voted as their favourite by attendees, the winner receiving a reduced vendor price for the next episode (see Studarus, L 2019, Web).

Sponsors are brands that typically use events for promotional reasons, as a marketing tool (see Getz & Andersson 2008, p. 8). As they often provide a large cut of the event’s budget, sponsoring companies can have a considerable influence on the event. Events with a strong environmental and social reputation should be a highly attractive partner for brands that are trying to position themselves as sustainable (see Jones 2018, p. 78). Festival managers must,, however, be careful when selecting potential sponsors, as companies with a bad ecological image may affect the overall credibility of the event. In the research by Getz and Andersson (2010), the vast majority of respondents did not want to rely on financial sponsors as it may lead to dependency, or goal-displacement to please financiers (p. 551). Sponsors are in a high position of power due to their financial contribution to the event. In exchange, they can require sustainable practices, offer solutions to sustainability impacts and can support green development (see Jones 2018, p. 79). Local electronic music festivals may, for example, have their shuttle bus sponsored by a local society, reducing costs and enhancing the green image. If an organic brand sponsors cleaning products to be used at the event’s bathrooms, they are at the same time promoting their use by event attendees at home (see Jones 2018, p. 80).

It was previously mentioned that governments giving out licenses have a tremendous impact on a multitude of organisational processes of the event. Brennan at al. (2019) observed that different government regulations in the United-Kingdom have already led to green success. The Scottish government introduced “Zero-Waste regulations” with fines for failure to comply in 2014, placing an obligation on commercial bodies to separate recyclable materials such as plastic, paper, card, metals and glass (see Brennan et al. 2019, p. 260).

This said, shifting a music festival towards sustainable development can only work if all stakeholders are identified and actively engaged in the vision. Each decision-maker must be committed to greening the event (see Jones 2010, p. 45).

Festival managers are dependent on the participation of their stakeholders. Commitment building is a strategy creating mutual dependence between festival organisations and their stakeholders (see Getz, Larson & Andersson 2007, p. 119). Festivals should continuously seek to improve their product through innovation and creativity in order to evolve over time and satisfy their stakeholders (see Getz & Andersson 2010, p. 550).

4 Measures for a Greener Festival

Music festival managers who are aiming at creating an environmentally friendly event are facing a considerable number of challenges. Many managers fear increasing costs related to eco-friendly investments. However, changing the factors that are the most harmful to the environment can result in substantial ecological benefits and may even lead to cost reduction. In the following, basic managerial measures with a severe impact on the greening process of the event will be presented. Onsite waste, because of its high visibility at a festival, tends to the focus of change, although power generation and transportation are much more significant contributors to a festival’s greenhouse emissions (see Brennan et al. 2019, p. 273). As it is visible in Figure 5, the average carbon footprint at UK festivals mainly consists of emissions from audience travel, followed by energy generation and waste disposal (not counting supply chain impacts such as artist, crew or contractor travel, food and drink production, or embodied energy in the materials used and consumed onsite).

Figure 5: Average Carbon Footprint of UK Festivals (CO2e)

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Source: adapted from Powerful Thinking (2018, p. 25, Web)

4.1 Power Sources

A music festival is often considered as an escape from daily life. To enhance this feeling, many promoters choose a location that is as remote as possible. Selecting an event site in nature, far off any burden of the day-to-day life might be a romanticised idea – but it makes the organisers’ task much harder. Providing constant and reliable power supply at the event site is one of the biggest challenges in festival management and, at the same time, a massive part of the festival’s budget (see Jones 2018, p. 117).

Frequently, the cheapest and also the most sustainable source of power is grid connection if a green tariff is opted (see Powerful Thinking 2013, p. 7). Unfortunately, if the event takes place at a destination that is too far away from a city or town, extensions to the local cabling system can be extremely complex and costly. Installing a renewable power system on the site is a significant long-term investment, which is why only a few festivals such as Melt! or Glastonbury chose to do so.

To make the outdoor event more sustainable and simultaneously more lucrative, managers have to increase the efficiency of the devices and power sources (see Jones 2018, p. 117). Most festivals favour temporary power sources like generators. To be able to select the most suitable source of energy for an event, the first step should be localising and estimating where and how much energy is required. It is fundamental to identify potential rush hours as well as high consuming devices and equipment such as lights, sound systems but also suppliers’ equipment from stage construction to catering. As cooling and heating systems often consume the most energy, it is essential to know precisely what equipment is going to be used and how many cooling units are genuinely required.

4.1.1 Diesel-Fuelled Generators

The most commonly used source of temporary power are diesel-fuelled generators. Simplified, these are typically consisting of a diesel engine and a power generator, transforming mechanical energy, the rotation of the shaft, into electricity. The generator is connected to a tank that is consistently providing a certain amount of fuel (see Advanced Diesel Engineering LTD 2020, Web). Diesel generators are considered as a very reliable source of energy, as they do not require a high level of expertise or setup time and secure the power demand of the site as the tanks are regularly filled up. Nevertheless, this type of mineral diesel generator is responsible for the highest output of carbon emissions of all common temporary power types, emitting on average 2.69kg CO2e per litre (see UK Government 2019, Web). CO2e describes different greenhouse gases (GHG) that are converted into a common unit, representing the equivalent global warming impact of CO2.

To understand these figures, the negative impacts of CO2 and the use of fossil fuels need to be explained. Over the last century, human activity of burning fossil fuels has been changing the earth’s natural greenhouse effect. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by more than a third (NASA 2020). Gases like CO2, methane, nitrous oxide among others block heat from escaping the atmosphere and force global warming. By burning carbon-based fuel, carbon is converted to carbon dioxide and released in the atmosphere (Forest Research 2020, Web). An equilibrium can be created by vegetation, as help regulating the climate when absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

As we are witnessing a high level of deforestation, the number of trees is not sufficient to balance the released amount of greenhouse gases (GHG). Some musical events try to reduce the emissions and opt for carbon offsetting, which consists of paying money to support a project that reduces GHGs.

The same way some airlines offer this possibility, the carbon footprint is calculated and balanced, one should make sure to decide for a transparent and verified organisation to support. There are several organisations engaged in carbon compensation. This way, the GHG-output is compensated by the planting of the trees absorbing the equivalent amount of CO2 (see Fischer 2014, p. 52). This practice will be discussed later in this chapter. However, diesel is made of cruel oil, composed of carbon and hydrogen, and is being gained from offshore and onshore wells. It is not only emitting compensable GHGs when being burned but is also causing water and air pollution and land degradation when being extracted (see Denchak 2018).

Besides the already mentioned adverse impacts of diesel in general, The Power Behind Festivals Guide (Powerful Thinking 2013, Web) entails a research conducted by De Montfort University. The researchers found that all generators monitored at eight outdoor festivals were used under capacity for specific periods, some operating entirely under 25% load. In order to avoid damage to the engine and provide the highest possible efficiency, it is recommended to run the generators between at least 60-75% of their maximum rated load, 80% being the optimum. Using generators below that level leads to a high amount of fuel consumption for a low output of energy. Bad consulting and the fear of choosing the wrong generator are to blame for promoters playing it safe and opting for much bigger generators than necessary. The incoherent input to output ratio is responsible for higher fuel consumption and lower efficiency. The study mentioned above also showed that the used equipment could have handled more than double the capacity needed. One of these UK events had even used a generator supplying the main stage that was eight times larger than the peak load (when headliners are playing with a maximum level of sound and lighting). Greener Power Solutions (2020), a Dutch business group, also has been monitoring generators at music festivals, concluding in similar results as 80% of generators run under 20% capacity, and 69% are at least two times more powerful than necessary. As a result of that, festival organisers should plan, predict, monitor and control the energy consumption at the event as it saves fuel, money and emissions.


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Sustainable Event Management. The Socio-Economic Challenges of Hosting an Eco-Friendly Music Festival
University of Applied Sciences Saarbrücken  (Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften)
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This thesis is also available in German.
Tourismus, Eventmanagement, Tourismusmanagement, Sustainable Events, Sustinability, Event Management, Music Festivals, Festivalmanagement, Sustainable Management, Social Marketing, Soziales Marketing, Sociology, Mair, Jago, Holbrook, DGTL, Incentives, Marketing, Sustainable Festival, Green Events, Green Festival, Circular Festival, Circular Event, Climate Neutral, Circularity, Concert, Concert Management, Sustainable Concert, Green Concert, DGTL Festival, Greener Festival, Greenwashing
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Paul Schäfer (Author), 2020, Sustainable Event Management. The Socio-Economic Challenges of Hosting an Eco-Friendly Music Festival, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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