SUSTAINABILTY IS GOOD BUSINESS: That was one of the messages imparted during a panel discussion entitled “Sustainability: How to Act Locally With Global Impact.” Pictured are moderator: Kristen Fulmer, vice president, head of sustainability, OVG; Hooman Shahidi, CEO and Co-Founder, EVPassport; Sean Moore, vice president, brand partnerships, Minnesota Twins; Ashley Gladney, Sustainability Program Manager, Charlotte Convention and Visitors Authority; and Joyce Szudzik, vice president, marketing, Acrisure Arena. (VN Staff)

Panel Covers ‘Local Action, Global Impact’

Sustainability is more than a buzzword throughout the live entertainment industry and VenuesNow Conference attendees heard from four executives in a panel discussion titled, “Sustainability: How to Act Locally With Global Impact.”

Sean Moore, vice president and head of brand partnerships for the Minnesota Twins, said he’s been in his current position for just a couple of years but he’s watched closely over the last decade how partnerships have become more meaningful and environmental awareness has been a big part that evolution.

“I’m immensely proud of our industry as a whole,” he said.

Panelist Hooman Shahidi, CEO and co-founder of EVPassport, an electric vehicle charger company, said he’s also proud of the work his company is doing to push sustainability forward.

“Planet Earth is a very dear place for us. It’s a home that we all share,” he said. “So, our efforts and everybody’s collective efforts here on this stage of looking out towards something special and meaningful. That’s what we’re striving for.”

Ashley Gladney, sustainability program manager with the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention and Visitors Authority, which includes Spectrum Center, home of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, said the authority began rebranding its sustainability committee during the pandemic.

“We had some downtime, we had some things that we’ve been doing previously, mostly to compost, and recycling, those kind of low level things,” she said. “We (now) have one person in every department in our buildings, our partnership, our marketing, our operational side, our engineering side, our event side, our guest experience, all meet once a month. We started discussing what we want in our building to be, long term plans, what are the things we want to see, how could we become a leader in the Southeast in water, in sustainability.”

Gladney said Spectrum Center is planning long-term construction and sustainability is being built into the plans.

Joyce Szudzik, vice president of marketing at Acrisure Arena, said that was the case when the 11,000-seater opened a little under a year ago.

“It’s given us the benefit to work together with the different vendors to optimize it,” she said. “And since we’re still kind of in that one-year period: How can we adjust it? What’s working? What’s not working? How can we work together to actually make the lights a little bit more efficient, the water use a little bit more reduced — being able to spot the different items throughout the building. It’s a very clean build. And it’s mall, but it’s mighty. It has an immense amount of sustainability built in that the normal person wouldn’t see as you’re going through there.”

Moderator Kristen Fulmer, OVG vice president and head of sustainability, said that it doesn’t just take people with sustainability in their titles to have a sustainable impact.

“It’s really everyone working together listening to sustainability experts like Ashley, but also leveraging your voice to share that message,” she said. “That’s a similar kind of recipe that you can take back to your organization. So oftentimes, and someone just said to me a few minutes ago, sustainability is seen as a added cost, but really, it can be good business.”

A final takeaway from the panel was to start small, but start somewhere on your venue’s sustainability journey.