Festival goers fly the flag for sustainability

The public’s prioritisation of environmental policies overshadows other ethics-based issues, such as a festival’s philanthropic efforts, says the October 2018 UK Festival Awards Census.
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With the effects of the climate emergency becoming increasingly apparent and severe, the UK festival market is responding by implementing all manner of policy measures and, where appropriate, demanding more from its attendees.

In addition to the discrete efforts of individual events, a number of industry-wide initiatives have recently gained traction, such as the Association of Independent Festivals’ Drastic on Plastic campaign – committing its 60-plus signees to entirely forgo their use of disposable plastics by 2021. Similarly, Powerful Thinking’s Festival Vision: 2025 pledge aims for a 50% reduction in the industry’s greenhouse emissions by 2025, and implores operators to ‘provide leadership’ to that end for ‘concessions, the supply chain, contractors, charities and brands’, which will have an inevitable effect on festival organisers and sponsors alike.

This concerted push from organisers carries with it implications for food & drink traders, along with sponsors, of course, as does the level of demand for action from consumers. New research from CGA reveals attendees’ attitudes towards sustainability in live events, as well as their preferred modes of transport to festivals.

Surveying approximately 6500 festivalgoers in the October 2018 UK Festival Awards Census, the findings reveal that 72% of festivalgoers claim to care about the environmental impact of festivals, although only 24% said they’d be more likely to attend a festival if its carbon footprint were demonstrably lower than its competitors’.

The public’s prioritisation of environmental policies overshadows other ethics-based issues, such as a festival’s philanthropic efforts (40%) and commitment to social justice (22%).

Extinction Rebellion climate crisis protests in London this week

Perhaps owing to the ever-increasing abundance of media coverage pertaining to climate change, as well as the escalating efforts of direct action groups such as Extinction Rebellion, a clear majority of festivalgoers said that they cared more about sustainability in 2018 than they had the year prior. There was a slight but notable gender imbalance when it came to the extent that those worries had heightened, with 67% of males expressing an increase in concern, as opposed to 76% of females. When broken down by age range, 60% of 18-24 year olds and 61% of 25-34 year olds reported a developing sense of eco-consciousness, contrasted against 47% of over 55s.

Contrary to received wisdom on how indifference towards the climate comes with age, CGA’s findings demonstrate that older consumers place a higher expectation on festival organisers to reduce their event’s environmental impact, and care more about the level of waste a festival leaves in its wake. 92% of over 55s agreed with the phrase ‘I expect all of the festivals that I attend to tackle their environmental impacts’, falling to 78% of the 18-24 range. 82% of over 55s are troubled by the wastage associated with festivals, whereas only 71% of 18-24s say the same.

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84% of festivalgoers travel to festivals by car – with 45% of those surveyed sharing with two or more people, 30% with one other person, and 9% driving alone. 26% travelled by train, and 12% by coach. 10% walked, indicating a small but not insignificant affinity for local festivals.

Younger consumers are more likely to opt for public transport; 40% of 18-24 year olds travelled by train, a number that declines linearly with age, resulting in only 13% of the 55+ cohort doing the same. It is unclear whether or not this relates to each age range’s level of concern for the environment; it may be down to lifestyle factors such as prioritising comfort & convenience, plus the likelihood of having the means to drive. All in all, 53% of festivalgoers estimate that they travel between 0 – 100 miles for festivals each year. In spite of organisers’ best attempts to alleviate their onsite footprint, the fact remains that audience travel accounts for 80% of the industry’s annual CO2 emissions.

CGA will be presenting further findings from their research on this subject at The Showman’s Show on October 16, as part of the Festival Vision:2025 session, as well as at the AFO Conference on November 11.

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