A year of measuring our (carbon) footprint. 

An update from Charlie Cotton, eCollective

What we did: 

Over the last 12 months, we have measured the total footprint of the business. Sounds simple but it’s actually quite complex for an events organiser like Raccoon. The main reason: nearly everything has a carbon footprint. So measuring a business that brings thousands of people and products together under one roof, in multiple different places, can be a challenge. 

The challenge was accepted but it does come with a caveat, we don’t have all the answers yet. But we wanted to share the good, the bad and the ugly with you in order to be transparent. We also wanted to encourage others to start their own decarbonisation journey. 

The climate crisis is very real and has a hard deadline, so the need to act now has never been truer. 

(I joined Mike at COP 26 back in November where Raccoon was part of an industry initiative to get all event businesses committed to becoming Net Zero. If you want to start but are not sure what to do, sign this – it’s a great place to start.)

What’s included: 

  • The Office
  • Working From Home
  • Business Travel
  • Our Websites
  • Our Merchandise
  • Our Events, which included: 
    • The Venue
    • Our Suppliers
    • The Exhibitors
    • The Visitors

The calculations are thorough, but not perfect – there will be things missing that we’re looking to include in the future, such as staff commuting. There are also areas in which we are looking to improve data, from how exhibitors get to events to what is the exact carbon footprint of the hotel Mike stayed in back in March. 

The challenge here is to quickly and pragmatically get our measurements as accurate as possible. After all, we want to spend the majority of our time working on reducing our footprint rather than measuring it. In the years to come, the aim is to strike a healthy balance between the two. 

The results: 

The total carbon footprint of Raccoon Events in 2021/22:  741 tonnes of CO2e. 

The plan:

Now we have a measurement, we can set a target.

The plan is relatively simple:

In 2020/21, the average carbon footprint per visitor was: 20kg of CO2e. 

The target for 2021/22 is to hit 18kg of CO2e if not lower.

How we are going to do that:

The only plus side of nearly everything having a carbon footprint is that there are plenty of actions we can take to reduce the total footprint.

However, we have limited time, so the plan for this year is to focus on the few changes that we believe will have the biggest impact and won’t hinder the customer experience. This is where the measurement stage becomes really important. 

As the data suggests, we will aim to make it easier for visitors to arrive on low carbon forms of transport, but we will also work with venues, exhibitors and venues, as well as looking internally. 

One example of a step we’ve already taken is removing carpets from shows. The reasoning is that it has a high carbon footprint, it’s expensive and we believe we can find better alternatives. This one change could reduce our footprint by up to 6%. 

Where we need help: 

The vast majority of Raccoon’s footprint comes from the visitors and exhibitors. We are going to reduce barriers for these groups to make carbon action easier. But we cannot force them to change. That is why we need collaboration. We will only be able to have events that do not damage the environment if we all play our part. 

If you want to help, but are not sure what to do, please get in touch. 

What we need to improve: 

This really is day one of the climate journey. A good sustainable strategy is one that never ends, we will be constantly looking to improve. We have some measurements, we have a plan but there are so many ways in which we can improve. From the data we use, to how we communicate, we are fully aware this is going to be a learning curve. 

As an example, we previously thought the carbon footprint of carpets was relatively low. That was until new data came to light and we had the horrible realisation that we under-calculated their footprint. This will happen again and we have included a small buffer into our calculations to cover for anything else we have potentially not fully included by mistake. The aim of this blog is not to say we are perfect, but to be transparent about what we are and what we are not doing. 

Reading this, you may have suggestions, if you do, please do let me know, we want to be better. 

Carbon Neutral & Net Zero

One area of confusion I have seen in the industry is knowing the difference between carbon neutral and net zero. 

If a company states they are carbon neutral, typically they are carrying on with business as usual and once a year paying a small sum of money to an offsetting company. 

If a company states they are aiming to be net zero, they are making changes to how they operate so that their very existence results in less emissions going into the atmosphere. They will keep on reducing their carbon footprint year on year until it is near impossible to reduce it any further. At this point, they will pay for offsetting projects that actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.  

Zero emissions are what the world needs so encourage your company to do the same. 

This graph kind of shows the difference in emissions between carbon-neutral and net-zero. 

Away from Carbon:  

Raccoon is a high growth company that brings together people from all over the world, to encourage more time outdoors and active lifestyles. The UK, and the rest of the world, needs this. Getting outside, climbing a hill, getting a sweat on is good for us and it is likely going to be a very low carbon activity compared to alternatives. The more we connect with nature the more we feel inclined to save it.

With this in mind, Raccoon has a responsibility to get those who wouldn’t normally consider heading into the woods out exploring, using events to create a ripple effect of positive change. 

Similarly, I have loved seeing some of the exhibitors they have invited to events. Making sure that the companies who have access to this community are communicating the same important message is imperative. 

A great example is an organisation such as Rerun: 

“We collected five-ton rubble bags of unwanted kit, which is brilliant. Even more brilliant is the wonderful conversations we had with the running community and the chance that gives us to illicit change in them. Lots of runners were really interested in our home trainer fixing hacks and I hope a few will go back and prolong the life of some of their shoes. We would love to continue to partner with you in upcoming running shows.”

Raccoon Events ditches aisle carpets in net-zero pledge

Raccoon Events, the award-winning health and well-being events company behind shows such as The National Running Show, The National Cycling Show, The National Outdoor Expo, and The National Snow Show, has announced it will remove aisle carpets from all future events.

This is the first of many initiatives from Raccoon Events as they strive to become net-zero by 2025, announced by CEO Mike Seaman at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021.

Mike commented: “When I announced our ambitious target at COP26, we were still in the process of having our carbon footprint measured. This is an in-depth analysis of all areas of our business to identify where we can make carbon reductions, and I’m thrilled to see we could save over 15,100kg CO2 e just from removing aisle carpets from our shows!”

Although they can be recycled, it’s not easy, and the carpet industry still produces significant carbon emissions. Mike explained: “We initially looked at recycling, but from manufacturing to installing and removing the carpet and then transporting it from venue to venue, it still added up to a significant footprint. So in the end, we decided to get rid of them completely.”

“Of course, we’re looking to our venue partners to come up with a sustainable yet comfortable alternative to make sure our visitors still have a great experience,” he added, “we’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with but in the meantime we will be pushing forward to remove all aisle carpets at our shows..”

To measure its carbon footprint, Raccoon Events partnered with ecollective, a carbon emissions analysis firm. Charlie Cotton, Founder of ecollective, said: “When you think of carbon footprints and emissions, you normally don’t think of carpets, but to tackle the climate crisis, no area of a business should be out of scope. When we worked through the data and presented it back to the Raccoon Events team, the numbers spoke for themselves.”

Raccoon Events set up a Sustainability Working Group to work with suppliers and exhibitors to reduce their carbon footprint. Event carpeting was one of the first areas they focussed on.

Matthew Lambert, Director of Operations at Raccoon Events, said: “When we got the data back from ecollective, we jumped at the chance to make a real difference. So when visitors flock to the National Running Show South in May, they’ll take part in a much more sustainable show experience. Not only have we removed aisle carpets, but our ambassador teams all wear T-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles produced by our partners Scimitar.”

“In addition, we removed over 20,000 plastic merchandise bags, discouraged the use of single-use printed materials, and swapped our printed show guides with a digital alternative. We even replaced our VIP gift bags with ones made from sustainable and biodegradable jute.”

Raccoon Events is calling on the rest of the event industry to follow its lead and assess their supply chains. Matt continued: “We want to challenge every supplier and partner to join us in focusing on minimising their carbon footprint and offsetting any emissions that can’t be reduced. We’ve also given our visitors the option to offset their emissions from travelling to the venue. We want our guests to feel confident that whenever they visit one of our events, it’s as sustainable as we can make it. Even down to the (lack of) carpet under their feet.”

Raccoon Events sets out ambitious net zero plan at COP26

Raccoon Events’ CEO Mike Seaman spoke at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference on Wednesday (10 November), setting out a pathway for a more sustainable industry. Speaking at the event, Seaman put forward a strategy that emphasised the need for forward motion and a conscious approach to meet the industry’s net zero aspirations.

Raccoon Events, which employs 22 staff in the UK and US, has set the ambitious goal to get the company and its UK and US events to net zero by 2025. Seaman spoke as part of a panel discussion about the JMIC event industry net zero pledge and explained that the first step in the company’ process was to set up a sustainability working group comprising internal and external organisations including ecollective, sustainable travel partner Ecolibrium and Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol). Together the consortium is working to assess and reduce the environmental impact of Raccoon Events’ own business practices, its suppliers and exhibitors and to develop tools to support visitors in reducing their environmental impact before exploring offsetting opportunities.

Speaking at COP26 Seaman set out that the company is currently finalising the ‘measurement’ phase of the plan: “It’s quite frustrating as a small business that just wants to act, but actually the measurement phase is the most important and we have put a lot of time, effort and money into measuring the total impact of our events. We’ve now measured our first two events and are already actioning the ‘reduce’ part of the strategy.

Seaman continued: “There is a lot of fear out there – fear of costs and fear of getting it wrong. This can sometimes cause paralysis – if something feels too big and too hard then it’s almost impossible to tackle. I certainly don’t have all the answers and as a business we’ve had to accept that whatever solution we come up with will be an imperfect one. But we didn’t want to sit still either, so we made a collective decision that we would just start, do something now, learn as we go and keep evolving.

“What we have learned so far gives us insight that we can share with our suppliers and stakeholders so that we can follow a pattern of measuring and then reducing the impact of our actions. We then develop a process of continuous improvement, every year measuring and reducing until we get to 2025. Once we get to 2025, we will then offset whatever the remaining balance is, but we continue the process of measuring and reducing every year and the hope is that we continue to reduce the amount we have to offset.”

Seaman continued: “I’m sure our strategy isn’t perfect and the danger of speaking on a platform like this is that people might pick holes and criticize the mistakes you make along the way. That is inevitable but my main focus is to create a business that has an ethical consideration for the planet and I think we are starting to get towards that.”