A Sustainable Case Study The PraxisAuril Conference 2022

In Dec 2021 the Brighton Centre sales team attended the ABPCO (Association of British Professional Conference Organisers) Festival of Learning. Within the festival a sustainability session was led by the team at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) on creating the framework to host COP26. This was by far the biggest challenge a UK conference centre had ever faced to host the largest international sustainability conference in the world.  Of course, all possible resources and support were focused into this conference to make it a success in the UK particularly in the wake of Covid and the impact this had on the UK events industry.

Fundamentally however, their main framework came from looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals. What is clear within these goals was that their sustainable focus was very much on creating a long-term impact within the communities we exist in. Within the events industry we have long used the buzz word ‘legacy’ to encourage association conferences to use their events to leave a long-term positive impact in the locations they hold their events. When considering this framework, it is evident that sustainability and legacy should work hand in hand.

As a local authority run organisation, we realised that our strengths were in the very nature of our objectives. To serve and create long-term sustainability for our local communities and that our sustainable practice should always come from that point.

We therefore developed our CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives by focusing on the five UN Sustainable goals that we felt we could have the most impact on. We then used that as our framework for sustainable good practice within conference and exhibition sales. The five that we have focused on are: 

  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health & wellbeing
  • Sustainable Cities & Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Life Below Water

We have put this framework into place and while we cannot directly have an impact on the sustainable practices of our conference organisers. We have made it our mission to signpost at every opportunity way’s that conference organisers can collaborate with local stakeholders to plan sustainable events that leave a positive legacy in the city.

In 2021 the PrAConf22 approached us to ask how we could support them in their mission to put sustainability at the heart of their event. This was their first conference since the Covid pandemic and they wanted it to be impactful and leave a legacy in a city and venue that would equally embrace a sustainable legacy.

From the very beginning therefore they shortlisted Brighton because it is one of the greenest cities in the UK.  Brighton City Council was the first council in the UK to declare a climate emergency and to work towards carbon neutrality by 2030.

Then approached our colleagues at the VisitBrighton Convention Bureau  with a commitment to work with the city and community from day one. The VisitBrighton Convention Bureau is a free venue finding service which sits under Brighton and Hove City Council. Therefore you can be assured that if you are using them as your conference agent, they will be un-biased and their service is part of the overall city strategy to use business tourism as key driver towards investment in the local economy. PrAConf22 collaborated with VisitBrighton Convention Bureau from the very beginning drawing on local expertise to understand issues that were important to the local community and making sustainable decisions that worked alongside them.

PrAConf22 was a three-day conference consisting of plenary, parallel sessions, exhibition area a welcome drinks reception and gala dinner with pre-dinner drinks and a last day grab & go lunch. 467 attendees from around the globe and it was their largest ever event. 

Working collaboratively with PrAConf22 the Brighton Centre used the model of the four of UN Sustainable goals to create a framework on the delivery of this conference those of; Zero Hunger, Good Heath & Wellbeing, Sustainable Cities & Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production and they applied these CSR initiatives to their conference as follows. 

Sustainable Cities & Communities

From the very beginning the choice of destination for the PrAConf22 conference was strongly influenced by how they could collaborate with the destination to ensure that all decision-making put the local community first.

Zero Hunger

The Brighton Centre introduced them to The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership. The Brighton & Hove Food partnership are a non-profit organisation that support thousands of local people facing a cost-of-living crisis. They not only help to provide food but also run cooking classes, encourage, and teach about healthy eating, growing food and creating less waste. PrAConf22 decided to ditch their regular gift bags and instead donate on behalf of each delegate to the Partnership. This raised £500 which has gone towards one of their initiatives Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens. It was important that every delegate was pulled into the sustainable objectives of the conference and felt empowered by the sustainable legacy that they could personally leave in the city.

Health and Wellbeing & Life Below Water

As an international conference PrAConf22 specifically looked for destinations that gave their delegates a sense of place within their physical environment. Brighton is not only a coastal destination but also a unique UNESCO Biosphere. PrAConf22 were drawn to venues that took a pro-active approach to their natural environment.  The Brighton Centre organises beach cleans twice yearly to encourage staff and stakeholders to take personal responsibility for the impact created by events in the city.

Responsible Consumption and Production.

PrAConf22 measured waste throughout conference and worked closely with in-house caterers Be Seasoned to create a zero-food waste event. All food & drinks were carefully measured with 0 lunch bags leftover.

Delegates again were empowered to consider the personal impact they made both to the community and the environment. Lanyards were encouraged to be returned so they could be re-used and 70% were given back after conference. Name badges equally were compostable and 95% of delegates took their badges home to green compost bins.

Lessons Learnt from this Case Study

  1. Collaboration is key

    To create a truly sustainable event PrAConf22 had to consider all the stakeholders involved in the conference. Tourism including business tourism can be the biggest economic driver in a destination. Therefore (as in the case of Brighton) events can create huge positive multiplier impacts on a community. Equally the negative impacts such as environmental damage can be just as impactful.

    For PrAConf22 their focus of carbon off-setting had to be the local community and from day one they worked with local experts to create a sustainable event.

  2. Empower delegations

    It was important to PrAConf22 that ticking the sustainability box did not become tokenism. Sustainability had to become part of the delegation culture. To this end they gave their delegates personal responsibility to consider the impact of their carbon footprint; to consider travel arrangements, the impact on the local community and environment and how they could make a difference in reducing overall waste.

  3. Sustainability & legacy go hand in hand

    In the past we have always discussed legacy and sustainability in different contexts. The knowledge that we take from using the 17 UN Sustainable goals as a model for sustainable events is that they can be viewed as one and the same.

    In 1987 the United Nations defined Sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    In considering how to off-set carbon to create a sustainable conference, the Brighton Centre’s collaborative work with  PrAConf22 did exactly that. They sought to create a long-term sustainable impact from their conference by working with & towards the benefit of the local community. They also wanted to set a foundation block for subsequent events to build on. Their actions have set a precedence to pass on to future delegations and conference organisers to ditch the gift bags, in their words ‘leave love not detritus’. 

The impact

The good practice that was applied in this conference has been used as an example within industry press of how other associations can implement sustainability within their events by engaging with local stakeholders and council bodies in turn increasing the value of events to local communities:


Brighton Centre for the PrAConf22 Conference was shortlisted as Sustainable Conference of the Year in the ABPCO Excellence Awards this year for our work. The shortlist was of three conferences was of extremely high calibre against The International Soil Association and of course COP26.

Watch our nomination video

Although COP26 won the award we are proud to sit within such prestigious company. Our nomination stands as testament to the power of how with a shift to a sustainable cultural mindset, powerful change can be made that creates a long-term sustainable impact on local communities. Our framework of using the UN Sustainable Development Goals in a collaborative way with our stakeholders will increase the value that conference events have in the city and in turn help to decrease and off-set the negative impact of their carbon footprint on the city.