Big event falls victim to global financial woesNovember 2008
One of the largest and most ambitious corporate responsibility events ever planned has had to be postponed because of the financial crisis, say its organizers.
The international Business and a Sustainable Environment (Base) event was originally due to be held this month at London’s 10,000-capacity Excel centre, but it has been put back to 14–15 October next year.
Base was billed as a huge gathering of supply chain, CSR and sustainability professionals in a combined conference, exhibition and trade show. Corporate sponsors were asked for up to £15,000 ($25,900) each, while exhibition space cost £430 a square metre and tables at the conference dinner were £2000 each.
However the UK organizer, Meetings of Minds, said it had decided on postponement because of the financial crisis.
The company explained: ‘As the credit crunch hit earlier this year, it became clear that the fundamental business of selling space and sponsorship was becoming more challenging. While we could live with slow sales, when we began to get cancellations... we knew the hill was becoming too steep for us to climb.’
The organisers said they had received many expressions of interest and could have staged a smaller event, but did not want to compromise their grand vision. ‘If we don’t deliver an event and a conference which delights and inspires... then we would rightly be charged with being charlatans, in it for the short term,’ they said.
The company said it will continue to devote three full-time staff to the project.
Base has attracted significant support from businesses and civil society groups. Eighteen organizations had committed themselves as ‘founding partners’, including Barclays, Boots, Grant Thornton, Kraft, Royal Mail and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. All 18 have representatives on the event’s advisory board, which is chaired by Tom Burke, Rio Tinto’s sustainability adviser.
Advisory board members include the former UK environment minister John Gummer, the Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne and Charles Secrett, former executive director of Friends of the Earth. Associate partner organizations include the Sustainable Development Commission and Tomorrow’s Company.
One figure close to the venture told EP: ‘It was tempting to go ahead regardless but it was a wise decision to postpone. It wouldn’t have been worth screwing up a good idea by trying to keep it going against the odds this year.’
Although Base has blamed economic conditions, it has also been trying to buck a long-running trend away from large showcase events in the field, several of which have suffered as delegates demand more specialized gatherings (EP6, issue 10, p5).
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