• November 1, 2019

Case Study: Sustainability at D&AD Festival 2019

Case Study: Sustainability at D&AD Festival 2019

Case Study: Sustainability at D&AD Festival 2019 1024 683 micebook.

The annual D&AD Festival is the UK’s largest event for global creative talent. Over the past few years, sustainability has been a key focus for the association, including reducing the event’s environmental impact. Led by head of sustainability Emmeline Skelton, the D&AD has made huge progress, recording the lowest CO2 emissions per person yet at this year’s event. Here, we here we share the association’s case study of sustainability at the D&AD Festival 2019, which features some great best-practice examples for event planners interested in being more sustainable…


As a non-profit advertising and design association, all D&AD’s surpluses go straight into programmes such as New Blood, inspiring the next generation of creative talent and stimulating the creative industry to work towards a fairer more sustainable future. We put sustainability at the heart of decision making, including environmental, and are committed to transforming the company as a whole in order to reduce our environmental impact.

In 2015, we pioneered a series of creative events aimed at raising awareness around climate change. More importantly, we benchmarked D&AD’s environmental performance against the industry average. Our initial Environmental Audit reported that the carbon footprint of D&AD Festival 2015 was 15 times higher than the head office’s annual environmental impact.

The contributors to the overall greenhouse gases produced from D&AD Festival included Travel, Energy, Waste, Catering and other Suppliers. However, sustainability at D&AD extends further than that. The festival is an opportunity to bring the Community together to apply their creativity in solving the challenges our industry faces.

Since 2016 our aim has been to reduce D&AD’s carbon footprint by building a more sustainable festival.


With around 139 flights, including 88 long-haul, travel contributed greatly to D&AD Festival’s carbon footprint in 2019. Air travel is usually the largest component of the carbon footprint. A single return flight from London to New York contributes to almost a quarter of the average person’s annual emissions. The easiest way to make a big difference is to go by train or not take as many flights.

Reducing our travel carbon footprint is the biggest challenge we face. D&AD Festival relies on the attendance of creatives from around the world, to judge the D&AD Awards and enrich the creative industry with their foreign and diverse work. However, we are in the process of implementing an action plan for future festivals, addressing this issue. For example, rewarding festival attendees who travel by low emission means, such as flying light in economy class, on the latest planes, offering greater overall fuel efficiency.

In the meantime, we assessed our policies, staff responsibilities and procurement, even the carbon footprint of local travel and everyday commuting. D&AD staff are now staying locally during the festival and carpooling when travel to other venues is required.


As the second biggest factor, energy contributed to 2.9% of D&AD Festival’s carbon footprint in 2019. We planned energy requirements carefully, in advance, for both heating and cooling, and power supplies for operations. To decarbonise heating, we elected not to power the diesel generators used in previous years.

In 2019 the weather was in our favour — therefore we didn’t have to rely on additional heating, just the body heat of our 3,800 visitors. In 2019 our visitor number rose by 53%, combine this with the addition of an extra stage and the electricity usage was up 20%.

However, the increased number of visitors offset the new stage, resulting in less CO2 per head.


An area in which the festival doesn’t perform well is waste. We are in the process of developing an approach to design out waste to landfill. The average festival event in the UK recycles 32% of their materials. This is something we are aiming to improve upon in years to come.

Due to the limitations of the venue in 2019 specifically it was difficult to effectively treat the waste created. This resulted in a less than satisfactory outcome and will now be one of the key areas of focus for all following years of D&AD Festival.

We are always looking to source sustainably, using reclaimed, recycled or upcycled materials.


When it comes to eating sustainably at a festival, all the same real-life principles apply: organic, local, reduced food mile and vegetable-focused meals are the most sustainable.

When selecting suppliers for the festival we focused on three key areas: sourcing of the food, food packaging (including the cutlery and service ware) and waste management. These guidelines helped us to work with eco-friendly companies, as well as increase the level of our own recycling, cutting down on waste.

We chose to work with Get Stuffed Catering for a number of their sustainable credentials. For example: using 100% organic or free-range meat and 100% sustainably sourced fish. Working with smaller, independent companies also provides greater transparency and allows for sustainable decision making to happen at every step.

The use of independent didn’t just stop at meal times, we also improved the credentials of our snack, caffeinated and soft drink options by sourcing from smaller, far more environmentally friendly brands. The Kalimera food truck opted to serve their locally sourced food without the use of plastic containers. We chose fruit as a healthy packaging-free alternative to crisps. Dappa helped us beat the mid-afternoon slump with their vegan ice cream.


The suppliers we work with are key to creating a sustainable and successful festival. We built sustainability requirements into the procurement process. We designed a questionnaire and tailored the questions to the types of service or goods being supplied to the festival. For example, we would ask our suppliers questions about their approach to waste and whether the lighting suppliers use LEDs.

Our suppliers can be broken down into three main categories:

* Production companies, where we made sure the suppliers used energy-efficient lighting and sound equipment.
* Venue hire, where we explored event impacts e.g. energy, water and waste and what environmental practices were already in place at The Old Truman Brewery.
* Event crew, that also enriched our local community by working with Connection Crew to contribute 141 ‘ex-homeless hours’ working at the festival.


We put sustainability at the heart of all our exhibits, talks, masterclasses and events. D&AD Festival sees sustainability integrated into everything we do. From simple environmental changes such as using less plastic, through to facilitating conversations on the future of sustainable packaging design.

Our impact within the community isn’t directly measurable, but the lack of hard figures doesn’t deter us from continuing our work in these key areas:

Brand activations have a huge impact on the overall message that D&AD Festival sends out. By working closely with selected sponsors, we can do a lot to highlight environmental issues.

D&AD Festival 2019 programme included a session on ‘Creativity and Sustainability in Advertising’ where Naresh Ramchandani questioned whether now was the time to introduce a ban on advertising products that harm our planet. This was one of ways that we can give sustainability a platform.

Our three-day Exhibition highlighted the conversation of environmentally friendly design: Sustainable Packaging Design, Sustainable Product Design and Creativity for Good all showcase the most outstanding work that can drive real change.

But we don’t stop there. By working with our local community all year round, we are helping shape future talent by promoting and stimulating creativity as a driver of economic and social good.


The D&AD Festival is an opportunity for creatives to come together and use their collective skills to solve sustainability issues. This in itself is a unique opportunity for the creative community to work on the sustainability agenda.

Our initial environmental audit reported that the energy emission of D&AD Festival 2015 was 15 times higher than the head office’s annual environmental impact. Launched in 2016, our sustainability policy set out to add sustainability to the core of D&AD Festival. Now in 2019 we’ve had the lowest CO2 emissions per person yet and we’ll continue to refine our efforts. In 2020 we aim to focus our efforts on waste management and further reducing our carbon footprint.

Click on the links within this article to contact or view the micebook profiles on any of the venues, hotels or suppliers mentioned. Alternatively, search all our Sustainability, eXperience and Destination guides for ideas on where to take your next event and create your own inspiration board…

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