Last year one of the less positive take-homes from Cannes Lions was the sheer volume of disposable single-use plastics floating around the Palais and the Croisette. With work like Palau Pledge and Trash Isles taking centre stage and earning award after award, it was jarring to see the fridges full of plastic water bottles. High profile industry figures took note – Cheil’s Global CCO Malcolm Poynton shared his thoughts
on Little Black Book.
It’s to the organisers’ credit that they’ve taken the criticism on board and are starting to do something about it
. This week they revealed Deloitte Digital as their first official sustainability partner. Deloitte will be providing delegates with a reusable glass Closca water bottle and there will be refill stations around the Palais.
The bottle situation will be the most visible change but, says Cannes Lions MD Simon Cook, there are also a number of other measures being implemented.
“I think probably the thing that’s going to be most prominent is the partnership with Deloitte digital and it just means that every delegate will have a water bottle that’s not plastic and completely recyclable. It goes from that very prominent thing right down to things like in the exhibition now every single board is 100% sustainable and can be recycled so at every level we’re trying to achieve that or embed it in what we do,” he says.
Delegates bags will be made of biodegradable materials and they won’t be full of reams of paper this year.
The organisers are describing this as a ‘multi-year initiative’ and they’re clear that while they’re determined to reduce the environmental impact of the event, they can’t tackle everything at once.
“I think the thing we have to accept is that like with any company it’s a bit of a journey. There’s so much that you can do and we’re just trying to make sure that this year we’re making a really good first step and continue to do so for years to come,” says Simon.
In terms of content, issues of climate change, biodiversity and the social and business implications of environmental damage look likely to be a recurring theme too. Last month the Extinction Rebellion
targeted the advertising industry in an open letter and after Cannes the UK industry will get together to hold a summit on the topic too.
"I think it’s going to be a really big topic on the stage this year. We’ve got something called the CMO Growth Council and that was established in 2018 at the festival. That’s 25 CMOs coming together to talk about some of the barriers to growth that they’re experiencing and one of the priorities that they’ve identified was around society and sustainability. And so with that theme being so prominent and being on the lips of everyone here, we also need to respond to that as a festival and that’s what we’re doing.”
That the organisers are starting to address the issue reflects a broader conversation about the environmental impact of major events. Glastonbury has banned the sale of plastic bottles and earlier in the year Hasan & Partners helped a client create a music festival entirely powered by renewables
There are still plenty of tricky pollution problems to solve, not least the giant carbon footprint generated by the thousands of attendees flying to France (and we’re just as guilty of contributing to that as anyone else). But it’s a start and, as the proverb goes, the second best time to plant a tree is today.
“We’re really happy about it. Sometimes when you make a first step like that, people can be quite harsh on you and say it’s not enough, I think our message is that we are trying to make first steps and we take advice from many different people and we’re very privileged that we’ve got so many people to give us insight,” says Simon. “We’re listening and we’re responding and we’ll continue to do that into next year, 2020 and beyond. It’s just nice to have some starting points and a few initiatives in place.”