Sustainable Management

Making a festival environment-friendly starts with sustainable management. Sustainable decisions equally consider financial, logistic and environmental aspects. This may initially cost additional work, maybe even additional expenses will be made and it demands know-how. But often, sustainable management will also lead to cost efficiency, e.g. by reducing energy consumption or transportation costs. And with a clean image, your festival will become increasingly attractive for potential sponsors.

Before starting, make a list of the environmental measures and actions your festival is already implementing. In most cases, you will notice that your festival is already active in environmental managament to some degree.

1. Preparations

In order to succeed with the environmental work, there are some things that need to be in place – before you get started:

A dedicated management: An involved management with a strong dedication to environmental concerns is a prerequisite for success, and also a crucial motivating force to involve other employees within the organisation.

Environmental manager: One person should be in charge of the environmental efforts and head the practical work. This person should ensure that environmental considerations become a natural part of the event as a whole. The environmental manager should be highly dedicated to environmental concerns and also have thorough knowledge of every part and aspect of the entire event.

Working group: Large events may establish a separate working group for environmental concerns which advises and discusses special measures. The group should be comprised of members from all the main working groups at the event, e.g. the management, technical, rigging, security, sales/purchasing and marketing/sales/PR, and preferably they should include the head of each of these groups. 

Time and money: It is important to allocate enough time in the starting phase. Functioning information routines, training and integrating the environmental efforts in already existing work routines are very important. Include the environmental work in job descriptions and other documents on work tasks. 
The environmental manager will need a small but independent budget, e.g. to purchase equipment, to implement measures or to seek external support. Read more on financing environmental measures here.

2. Goals 

As soon as your environmental manager is in charge and a working group is established, the following points become important:

Good information routines: It is important to create an understanding of why you want to carry out the environmental work, and thereby motivate a collective effort.
Information should be provided to everyone that is affected: the management, employees, volunteers, sponsors/partners, sub-suppliers and last, but not least, the artists as well as the audience. Read more on communication here.

Motivated employees and volunteers: Good communication is important in creating involvement. During the event itself you should also be out talking to the employees and the audience about the environmental measures. Consult them on the implementation of the measures (practicability, audience satisfaction) and involve them in finding even better solutions.

Goals: Setting long- and short-term goals for your festival’s environmental performance is very important for measuring the success, motivating all employees and communicating your efforts. Your goals should be SMART:

S pecific – Describe your goals clearly, leave no room for misunderstanding.
M easurable – You must be able to monitor if the goals really have been reached.
A ccepted – All workers must be familiar with the goals and motivated to give their best.
R ealistic – Goals must be ambitious but reachable.
T ime-limited – Set deadlines, as it contributes to driving the work forward.

3. Implementing Environmental Measures

When your festival’s environmental goals are clear, you should start thinking about tangible measures:

Prioritising: Even though your to-do list might have become quite long by now, don’t go ahead and start doing everything at once. Now is the time to prioritise! Even though there might be a lot of measures you find important and wish to work on, it is best to limit the work to just two or three main areas.You may start with the measure:

  • that is most important
  • that your festival has already made a beginning
  • that is the easiest to accomplish
  • that has the greatest effect
  • that you all agree upon
  • that you would like to work on the most

Action Plan: Make an action plan on the basis of your goals and your chosen measures. This will provide a good overview of what must be done, when and by whom. 

The plan of action must contain:

  • Concrete measures – what is to be done
  • Manager – the person in charge
  • Deadline – when the measure is to be accomplished
  • Potential expenditure and gain

During the festival: Conduct an inspection of all areas during the festival, both when rigging up, during the event, and when rigging down. The environmental manager must supervise and check that all environmental measures are working as planned. 

4. After the Festival 

After the festival, evaluating and measuring the results will be most important for prioritising next year’s measures as well as for internal and external communication.

Monitoring and evaluating results: To assess the profitability and environmental effectiveness of the measures and to be able to plan any further environmental work, you will need to monitor the results of your measures on the basis of two conditions: 

The situation as it was before the environmental measures were implemented.

The goals that were set for the environmental work.


After the first measures have been carried out, the environmental work should become an integrated part of all operations. You have incorporated a system that makes the environmental work run more or less independently. Now might be the time to focus on other things, perhaps areas that weren’t prioritised the first time around. In this way, environmental thinking will gradually permeate every aspect of the event.

5. Communicating and Financing Environmental Measures

Communicating your environmental efforts is fundamental for success. You can benefit from involving four major target groups through different measures:

The audience: Most environmental measures also raise audience satisfaction (e.g. efficient waste and transportation management). Tell the crowds what you are doing (without lecturing!), maintain an information stall where the interested can be satisfied.

The media: Your reputation with local authorities and other stakeholders (e.g. environmental organizations) will rise if you communicate your efforts publicly.

Sponsors: Many sponsors are interested in profiting from your good environmental reputation. Let them know that your environmental measures are an added value!

Suppliers: Communicate your goals and measures to your suppliers, they may have know-how, expertise or new technologies to share with you.

A partnership with an NGO can raise your festival’s image and reputation with audience, sponsors, authorities and the media. Apart from monetary benefits (audience satisfaction, new media platforms, new sponsorships), the partnership can also take a lot of pressure off your back regarding environmental issues as the NGO will stand up for you in public and thus will also share responsibility for your actions. 

6. Partnerships for the Environment

Partnerships between large public events and environmental organizations appear to be at odds with their respective societal and environmental goals and roles. The paradox of music festival – NGO partnership is inevitable given that it brings together the apparently competing agenda of conservative organizations and events with a widespread environmental impact.

There are a few dangers when music festivals and NGOs get together. NGOs risk jeopardizing their legitimacy. Festivals risk wasting resources. There are also risks for the partnership – that the music festival simply reaps the reputational reward without making serious efforts to achieve progress. For the festival, it is undeniable that partnering with an NGO has positive effects on its image. However, if this benefit is misused and not underscored by a willingness to actually work with the NGO towards shared goals, it will quickly lose its value.

Recent examples show that significant gains for both can be achieved. Some key success factors have been identified in the past:

The festival must be serious about raising its environmental profile.

The NGO must be able to maintain clear accountability to its own key stakeholders and must maintain its independence from the festival partner.

The „rules of engagement“ need to be clearly agreed at the outset.

Individual participants must be sufficiently senior to have their organization’s mandate and be able to take decisions without constantly having to refer back.

The people involved must trust each other. 
Goals must be ambitious but reachable.

Finding the right and trustworthy partner to build a lasting relation is a key factor to successful cooperation. Your well-established NGO partner should have a good reputation, media credibility and experience in working together with business partners.
Already, some festivals have gained experience in this field. Find out more about their examples here. 

7. Management Checklist

Download Checklist Management