Products of Change


Fri 29 Sep 2023 | by Rob Hutchins

BLE 2023 | Event director Ella Haynes on BLE's strive for sustainability

Building on the advances in sector sustainability the team behind Brand Licensing Europe have been bringing to the London show in previous years, BLE 2023 marks the launch of the Green Pavilion - an area launched in partnership with and curated by Products of Change - to showcase the brands and companies pushing the envelope when it comes to sustainable development in consumer products. Ahead of next week's big event, we catch up with BLE's Ella Haynes, event director at Global Licensing Group to find out what else those on the sustainability trail can uncover at the show. So, Ella - previous year's have seen BLE host some big moments for sustainability in the licensing industry. What can we expect from next week's event? Well, for a start, you lovely people at Products of Change will be running sustainability clinics and round tables/workshops that are free for visitors to attend. The Green Pavilion is basically the hub where visitors can start their sustainability conversation, whether that means simply becoming part of the community or learning more to drive real change. On the third day of BLE (Friday), we will host our day of purpose. This is the second year we have run this and it exists to showcase our commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and to spotlighting meaningful change across the industry, whether that’s innovation, initiatives, or individuals. This year, we are connecting our day of purpose to our partnership with Diversity Org, which is an Informa-led collaboration we have launched under the brand Diversity Bridge and sees Diversity Org working with Informa across a range of events introducing low-income students to new industries and career opportunities. How will you guys be encouraging visitors and exhibitors to adopt more sustainable habits and again build on those instilled last year? We have partnered with The Wombles (first time BLE exhibitor this year!) as our official sustainable travel partner and have been working with them to encourage visitors to use more sustainable travel options to come to BLE. There has been an increase in comms about our Better Stands Initiative, which is part of Informa’s FasterForward programme, and that encourages our exhibitors to use more sustainable materials and lighting on their stand, to avoid single use plastic and to recycle and reuse their stands from year to year. We have a whole team of people who will go around all the BLE stands and vet and mark them against our criteria. We have also been talking to attendees about how they can reduce their impact, as we do every year – whether that’s through travel choices, using refillable water bottle and coffee cups, focusing on wellbeing and getting their steps up or taking time out through the day, using recycling bins correctly onsite and more. In additional to educating visitors, we monitor how they travel to/from BLE and survey them to evaluate the scope of their carbon reduction given they will be having so many meetings in one place at one time. When we look at Informa’s FasterForward initiative – and we touched on this in the Expo interview – what is BLE doing to deliver on the targets and ambitions? Our overall aim with FasterForward is to help businesses have a more positive impact through their sustainability programmes and everything else they do. For BLE, that’s about how we run our Sustainability Fundamental Reports; we score each show against these, and we have just had a new layer of scores added that focus on ‘Connecting the Disconnected’, which is why we are working with Diversity Org to reach more communities not currently known to our market sector.  Okay, so tell us more about Diversity Org, this sounds very interesting and pretty vital for the development of the industry... Of course, through the Diversity Bridge initiative we will be bringing 60 low-income students to BLE this year, introducing them to the licensing industry and career options and pathways that exist in our sector to give them information and ideas that will spark innovation and excitement in them. They are all at that age where they are about to decide whether to go into the workplace or further education and this initiative enables them to meet people in the business to find out how they made it  The students will be invited to a careers panel featuring Steve Manners, Ruth Golightly, Carter Brown and Will Stewart, a networking panel and a show tour, with 15-miniute stop offs at Natural History Museum, Paramount, Hasbro, Penguin Ventures, and Beanstalk. We know that most people who work in the licensing industry currently have fallen into it, which only makes it harder for young people to know how to get that break. This initiative means we can connect with people who have no idea about the world of licensing nor who could readily access it – i.e. we can connect the disconnected – and help them understand how to have those initial conversations, who do you speak to, what do you say, and so on. In the US, Informa has even taken on some of our Diversity Bridge students on internships or offered work experience. What are you setting out to achieve with this partnership and what do you hope this will bring to the licensing industry as a whole? It’s about broadening the voice of licensing and reaching new communities who wouldn't and don’t know what licensing is. It’s about introducing more talent to the industry across the board, which could have a massive impact in the future. Ella, looking at individual impact – I have tried and failed to swap out meat from one dinner a week. I will try again though. Might be easier to just cycle everywhere. What ‘sustainable habit’ have you attempted recently?  I always have a 2L water bottle with me at work now and I would never buy single use plastic in shops. I can drive, but I choose to use public transport or walk whenever I can. I also love charity shop shopping and using sites like Vinted to buy and sell pre-loved clothing, I love the idea that I’m not the last stop on the journey, that those clothes will be used again and again. How would youlike to see perceptions around sustainability shift? How does the licensing industry make this a fun endeavour to pursue? The biggest thing for me is understanding the impact we can have as individuals and as organisations across the globe. We need to continue having honest and open conversations and access to resources to help us all make those changes, including frameworks like the one from Products of Change and Kids Industries, which are designed to help people to start that journey and understand what the steps will look like along the way.