As part of our Better Business series to share best practice around and inspire positive change, we catch up with Sarah Yeats, MD of Sledge, on the agency’s sustainable journey so far, and how it has made sustainability a core part of the services it offers to clients…
Sledge has built up a reputation as a business that takes sustainability seriously and won the Best Sustainable Event Solution Award at the 2022 micebook V Awards for its work on The Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue, an initiative from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the COP26 Presidency.
MD Sarah Yeats says it was working on the COP26 project that acted as the catalyst for the agency to accelerate its sustainability journey. “Working with a government department that really knows its stuff, on a project that aimed to spread the message about the impact of deforestation, gave us the opportunity to get quite deep into the topic and understand the depth of the crisis,” she explains.
“We learnt so much and realised that sustainability goes way deeper than reusing and recycling, and that every single decision you make really does affect so many people. It made us recognise how much we care and that there is a lot more we can do. It was that education piece that got us going.”
Sledge is on a journey to see how and where it can make more of an impact, practice what it preaches and become a benchmark business for sustainability best practice. It has signed the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge, which requires organisations to publish their pathway to achieve net zero by 2050, at the latest, with an interim target in line with the Paris Agreement’s requirement to reduce global GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 – before the end of 2023.
The agency is also a member of industry sustainability body isla and is using its TRACE tool to track and report carbon emissions of client events. Yeats says that although the agency was already engaged with sustainability, getting to the stage they are at now as a business has required a mindset change from the top down that doesn’t prioritise profit above all else.
“We had that conversation as a board. We knew that it was a given that we wanted to do it, it had to be genuine. Sustainability is too important to simple be a ‘tick box’ exercise that we incorporate into our pitches and briefs to show that we adhere to set standards, to win new business,” says Yeats.
“We have changed how we work as a business, and we have a clear roadmap in place that looks at all the UN SDG commitments and how we impact on each of those levels in our own operations, across our client work, and in our personal lives as well. It’s about thinking differently, doing good wherever you can, and always considering what more can we do and how can we do better.”
When it comes to getting clients on board, Sledge now builds sustainability as a standard cost within the budget as opposed to being an optional line item that clients can pick and choose whether to include. “It is part of our account and project management, just like creativity is, and it’s about demonstrating to clients the benefit of that path. We look at every brief with our sustainability hats on and present it back to our clients as a solution. We work with some big-name corporate clients that have their own sustainability policies, so this can help them internally by giving them added value that they can report back in.
“When you start breaking it down, it sparks that creativity piece and becomes quite fun. Sustainability is often not thought about creatively, but it does allow us to use our skills as creatives to think differently about what we do.” Yeats adds that the agency carefully considers the clients and suppliers that it chooses to work with: “It makes you think twice about the briefs that come in and ask ‘what does this say about us, and does it adhere to our values? It’s not just about profit.”
She is passionate about sharing best practice and believes the global MICE industry can learn from each other, collaborate and share best practice to all do more and be better, which is why she attended our first micebook Ventures and will be joining us at Ventures Chapter II in June. “It’s important that we keep having that conversation and being more vocal about all the things we are doing and helping each other.”
Ventures Chapter II takes place on 5-7 June at Birch (Selsdon). Find out more and sign up here