Q&A on Corporate Social Responsibility in the Festival Industry

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Dan Rose of Event Insurance Services on corporate social responsibility at festivals

Dan RoseFestival season is in full swing, and organizers about the world are considering new ways in which they can improve their relationships with the community, increase their economic benefits and reduce their impact on the environment.

At Event Insurance Services, we’ve conducted some research on how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can help festival organizers and business owners in general increase sustainability while attracting a wider audience to their event. We have summarized the key findings from this research and analysed the fascinating insights into the industry.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
Event Insurance Services defines Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as “an initiative or strategy a company adopts in order to assess and positively improve their effect on the environment and social well-being of the wider community”. Any strategies implemented are completely voluntary and unregulated, meaning that the festival/organization is going above and beyond what is required of them in order to "own up" to their social responsibilities.

The guidelines for any business, organization or festival implementing CSR strategies are known as the "ISO 26000," which have been issued by the International Organization for Standarzation. The ISO 26000 acts as a guide to teach users how the implement their CSR strategies effectively. There is, however, no certification offered for organizations using these guidelines or implementing strategies.

Are there financial benefits to CSR?
It is quite common for festivals implementing CSR activities to see a financial gain for their efforts. Some 83 percent of festival organizers told us that their CSR activities do have a positive effect on their bottom line as their reputation was enhanced and they were differentiated from competitors.

CSR activities also strengthen business relationships with the local community, which can then result in better rates for goods and services required at the festival. There is also the added benefit of free PR, as media coverage of festivals campaigns spreads the word about the great work being done. While CSR activities are not directly implemented to make profit, the added benefits they provide result in financials gains.

How are festivals and shows using CSR already?
Corporate Social Responsibility is not a new concept in the festival industry, with big-name festivals such as Glastonbury and Camp Bestival already having CSR engrained into their festivals' culture.

We carried out in-depth research and spoke to several festival organizers to find out how they were using CSR within their festivals.

Through the research, we discovered that 66 percent of festival organisers found CSR to be a high priority to their festival, and 86 percent said that the biggest benefit from their activities was improved relationships within the community.

How are festivals engaging the community?
There are many strategies that festivals use to engage the community, which is one of the most important aspects of CSR. Glastonbury is a great example of a festival striving to involve the local community, as they offer free tickets to local residents as a sign of goodwill. They also put a lot of time and effort into improving the local community by renovating local buildings, pathways and facilities.

Not all festivals have a big enough budget for these activities, however there are plenty of other options. We spoke to one local festival organizer, who said: “We involve the community in as many activities as possible. We give generously to charity and provide free sessions for young people to get involved in sport for free. We also celebrate with a family fun day at the end of the sessions, where we support local businesses through trade and by inviting them to attend.”

How are festivals reducing their environmental impact?
U.K. festivals are responsible for 14 kilo-tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, with 70 percent of carbon emissions resulting from attendees travelling to and from the event. There are many strategies festivals are using to cut down on these emissions.

For example, Camp Besitval have a partnership with Big Green Coach, which tries to cut down on the number of vehicles travelling to the festival while pledging to protect 5 square feet of Amazonian rainforest for every customer they take the Camp Bestival.

We also spoke to the organizer of Farmfestival, who said they are “increasing levels of recycling and trying to use local contractors to cut transport costs and environmental impacts.”

How are festivals handling their economic responsibilities?
With festivals adding millions of pounds to the U.K. economy every year, CSR activities can help to ensure festivals are going above and beyond their economic responsibilities.

This involves ensuring staff and performers are reimbursed appropriately for their services. This is an extremely relevant point in the literary festivals industry, as some literary festivals are refusing to pay authors for appearing at their events, which has caused quite a stir and casts those festivals in a negative light, thus reducing their number of attendees and authors willing to participate.

Glastonbury is another shining example of a festival owning up to its economic responsibilities by investing in the local community, donating huge amounts to charity, and boosting the local economy by partnering with local businesses.

What is the best way for a festival to approach CSR?
Being armed with a full knowledge of what CSR is and how other festivals are using it is the first step, now you need to think about how your festival should approach CSR and what will benefit your audience the most. First you will need to assign a budget to your CSR activities. This will ensure you have the resources to carry out your activities but also gives a restriction to what you do to ensure you don’t go overboard and end up negatively impacting your finances. Next you will need to decide what you are going to focus your efforts on. Try to choose an activity that is aligned with your festival values and get all of your staff members involved. As long as your team are on board you are likely to succeed in your CSR endeavours. Finally, you should ensure you appropriately promote your CSR activities. This way, you will receive the maximum benefit from these activities.

Corporate Social Responsibility is a hot topic right now, and when done correctly can have massive benefits to your organization.

Dan Rose is a director of British-based Event Insurance Services--celebrating its 20th birthday this year--which specializes in insuring events. Dan has been with the company for nine years and has long been a festival-goer himself.

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