Future ethics: Going above and beyond in events and exhibitions


Future ethics:

Going above and beyond in events and exhibitions


Let’s open this blog by asking a few questions:

  • What does it mean to do the right thing in business?

  • Is it about meeting all your legal and voluntary commitments?

  • What about being nice to your people?

  • And how does it relate to pricing, procurement and contracts?

We’ve been pondering all these questions at Ignition lately. We’re already well-known for our commitment to sustainability: we were founded on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle in an industry that, at the time, had more of a ‘build and burn’ approach to materials. But we know that there’s more to doing the right thing in business than sustainability: so over the coming months, we’re going to be viewing our work, our industry and business in general from an ethical standpoint.

Before we embark on this journey, we thought we’d share with you the six key elements that we’ve examined so far.


1.      Compliance is not enough

A key principle of ethical business is that you have to go above and beyond the call of duty – legal compliance is definitely not enough. The list of voluntary commitments organisations can sign up to is vast and varied: from ISO standards to fair trade certifications and living wage commitments, to name but a few. But once you’ve met all the criteria, it’s tempting to assume that you’ve covered all the bases. In a changing world, no scheme can possibly cover every single eventuality, so you have to ensure that as a business, you are always asking not ‘Are we allowed to do this?’ but ‘Should we do this? Is it right?’


2.      Be a positive part of the system

Each individual event, exhibition or meeting is created by a mini eco-system of suppliers all coming together to deliver a short-term goal. Ethical companies should choose to be a positive force within that system: fostering collaboration, sharing resources and learning, and supporting each other to deliver the best quality experience possible, rather than acting as individuals focused solely on their own remit.


3.      Ethical business models

Is it time for shareholder capitalism to evolve? As we explore the notion of ethical business, we see a wave of interest in business fairness and models that challenge or change the traditional approach. From purpose-led businesses, to different ways of measuring success such as the Triple Bottom Line, all the way to completely new models such as B Corporations, people are exploring ways of doing business that don’t mean sacrificing one set of stakeholders for another.


4.      Data data everywhere

So much attention is focused on the future of technology that it’s easy to overlook the ethical challenges already facing us today. As regulation plays catch up with the technical possibilities, it is our ethical standards that will determine how we address them. For example, how would it change events and exhibitions if we collected no data about delegates at all? And what about machine learning, chatbots and facial recognition: how transparent should we be about using these tools, and how can people opt out?


5.      If diversity is being invited to the party…

…inclusion is being glad you’re there. How do we go further than just accessibility and concessions to making our workplaces really suit all abilities and working styles? And what about our events? A busy exhibition hall can be exciting to one person but a sensory overload to another. Some delegates may feel most comfortable chatting to someone on stand, while others may prefer to take material to read later, or engage with a chat-bot rather than a person.


6.      Environment and sustainability

Finally, one of the things we’ve learned in the past 11 years is that running a sustainable business is never over. The good news is that we’ve come a long way already, but with just 12 years left to avert a climate emergency the stakes couldn’t be higher. So we’d encourage all our colleagues, friends, clients and suppliers to become advocates for sustainable events: question and research everything; demand more of us, and of the industry, and think differently. Together WE CAN DO MORE because as Greenpeace puts it, there is no Planet B.


Want to join the conversation? Do drop us a line: the more heads the better.