Supplier Earth Day Case Study: 5 Steps to a Cleaner Event Space

From beef to beehives, The QEII Centre’s sustainability journey

Built in 1986, leading London events venue, The QEII Centre, was not originally constructed with sustainability in mind, but in recent years the team has been working diligently to rectify this. And while not perfect, the venue has successfully implemented wide-ranging initiatives to progress its pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. To mark Earth Day, an annual event celebrated every April 22nd that focuses on environmental protection, James Bogle, head of marketing and communications, The QEII Centre details the top five sustainability practices the venue uses to help them run the centre, and its events, in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

1. Planet vs Plastics

This year’s Earth Day theme is planet vs plastics, and this is one area where large-scale venues like QEII Centre can really make a difference. On a typical day the facility may have several thousand people in the venue, all of whom need to eat and drink. “We made the decision several years ago to eliminate single use plastic throughout the centre, including straws, cups and bottles, which saves a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste from landfill,” says Bogle. “Instead of plastic, we use re-useable and recyclable aluminium cans, glass or ceramic jugs for milk and all our food is served in sustainable food boxes.”

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2. Planet-Friendly Catering

Food can be an incredibly impactful area when it comes to sustainability. That makes the catering company a convention facility chooses a crucial partnership. QEII works with a catering company that prides itself on delivering exceptional quality food which not only tastes great but is good for the planet too. “Our in-house catering company, QEII Taste, by Levy UK + Ireland, was awarded the Sustainability Award for Catering at the London Venue & Catering Awards in 2023, and has implemented a wide range of climate initiatives to achieve by 2027, with over half of its goals already accomplished,” says Bogle.
QEII Taste provides all clients with sustainable menu options as standard to ensure environmental considerations are embedded into every event and to help organizers understand what sustainable food choices are available. This is supported with the use of climate labels to highlight environmental impact.
According to Bogle, QEII now has a 50 per cent plant-based food and beverage menu. “Beef has been removed from our menus, all our deserts are plant-based, our produce is as local and seasonal as possible, and we are working to cut food waste by reducing the amount of food produced by three quarters. This is as well as using offcuts in the staff restaurant and sending plate waste for composting,” he says.

3. Busy Bees

One of the highlights for Bogle within the venue is its beehives. In 2022 the facility partnered with BeesMax (a not-for-profit organization dedicated to reversing the decline of the UK bee population), to install a hive of 10,000 bees in its fourth-floor garden area. The hive enables the QEII Centre to help conserve the honeybee population, support rewilding, raise awareness among visitors, and encourage them to engage in learning, begin conversations and feel inspired to act.
As a result of the hive’s success, an additional colony of 10,000 bees were rewilded to Buckland Lakes in Surrey (from the original colony of 10,000). “An added perk of keeping bees is that we now produce our very own honey – 200 jars of QEII honey were produced in 2023,” says Bogle.

4. Wish You Were Here

An inescapable fact of holding a conference or convention is that people need to travel to get to the venue. The QEII Centre is lucky, as London has some of the best transport links in the world, and is a short walk from several tube and mainline stations. “We do encourage visitors to use public transport wherever possible, and provide directions to tube stations, details of our electric taxi partner and walking options on the website,” says Bogle.
For attendees that are environmentally conscious there is a Santander Cycle docking station with public bicycles opposite the centre. The facility has also made bicycle racks available to employees in the garage.
The facility also makes it easy for meeting and event planners to do site inspections without physically being at the centre. “Potential clients can conduct a 360° virtual tour, instead of traveling to and from the venue, enabling them to ensure we have the perfect space to meet their requirements while having a minimal impact on the planet,” says Bogle.

5. Powered Up

With over 7,000 square metres of space to light and heat, energy efficiency is incredibly important both from a cost and environmental point of view. “We monitor our water and energy usage on an annual basis and have installed measures throughout the building to try to reduce our energy use, including motion sensitive LED lighting, and motion sensor taps and toilets,” says Bogle.
While there is still work to be done, the QEII Centre has made great strides on its journey to net zero. “As a large-scale conference venue, there will always be certain restrictions from a sustainability point of view, but we’ve found that by playing to our strengths, not being afraid to take some risks, and influencing the things we can change, we’ve had great successes, and have inspired some of our clients to start their own sustainability journeys, too,” says Bogle.

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Photo: QEII Centre

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