Ahead of the Curve: Exploring the Future of Sustainable Brand Experiences

Q&A with Project Director, Vicky Nutt

In the world of BIGGER and BOLDER, it’s quite surprising to see the experience industry adopting a ‘less is more’ approach in recent years. From cutting down event waste to reducing carbon emissions, event professionals are answering the call for memorable experiences with a lighter environmental footprint.

As agencies continue to navigate their sustainability journies, it’s clear that this isn’t just a passing trend, but a continuous commitment to their people, brands and planet. 

As a founding member of Isla, Smyle proudly maintains ISO 14001:2015 (Enviornmental Management) and ISO 20121:2012 (Sustainable Events) certifications and continues its journey carbon neutral and B-corp status. From experience design to delivery, Project Director Vicky Nutt shares Smyle’s unique sustainability journey and visions for the future.

What is Smyle’s sustainability commitment?

Our commitment is rooted in our vision ‘to lead in sustainability management, amplify positive change through engagement with all interested parties, innovate best practice and leave a meaningful legacy.’

This vision ensures our core values and aspirations will continue to align with the expectations of our clients, partners and wider community and hold us accountable as a forward-thinking and responsible organisation. Moreover, it inspires us to strive for excellence and leave a lasting legacy we can be proud of.

We’re in the process of understanding our baseline for 2023-2024 to formulate a plan to hit 50% reductions in emissions by 2030 and ultimately be net zero by 2050. This vision will guide our commitment to ensure Smyle not only hits our long-term goals but leaves a positive impact on the world.

How do the agency’s environmental goals guide its resource and material choices?

As we work towards zero waste to landfill by 2030, we’re taking a much harder look at our approach to suppliers, materials, and waste management.

Sourcing sustainable materials and resources can feel daunting at first due to limited availability or higher costs, which is why we have begun engaging suppliers at the contractual stage. Smyle works closely with suppliers to overcome these constraints and ensure a reliable supply of sustainable options.

Transitioning to more sustainable options may initially seem cost-prohibitive, but in many cases, can lead to long-term savings. For example, investing in energy-efficient equipment or reusable materials can reduce operational expenses over time. By getting the data and collaboration commitment from the offset, we can rate our suppliers and materials to ensure they meet our standards.

We are also aware that a big proportion of emissions comes from using toxic materials, and have invested in the materials council to test new project items and their longevity. By taking a mindful and selective approach to our suppliers and resources, we’re another step closer to meeting our goals for 2030.

How does Smyle engage clients to meet sustainability goals?

Engaging clients to meet sustainability goals requires a combination of education, collaboration, and innovative solutions. Aligning values and producing projects with low environmental impact will always be a top priority.

Our collaboration with Meta at the World Economic Forum is a great example of how sustainable design doesn’t have to mean compromise. Together we developed a comprehensive strategy that kept sustainability at its core with a first-of-its-kind two-story pavilion that was as beautiful as it was responsible.

Collaborating with clients who share our values and are up to the challenge has led to some of our favourite thought-leading projects.

How will the agency’s sustainability efforts evolve in the next few years?

Looking ahead, I’m proud of Smyle’s journey in sustainability. We’re making strides in minimising our environmental impact and engaging stakeholders. Moving forward, I hope we continue to build on these achievements and strive for even greater impact and influence.

I’m particularly excited about finding opportunities to innovate and pioneer sustainable event management practices. Imagine if we could develop new technologies or methodologies that revolutionise the industry, making events not only more eco-friendly but also more engaging and memorable. Whether it’s through leveraging renewable energy sources, implementing zero-waste strategies, or creating immersive virtual experiences, there’s immense potential for us to lead the charge in redefining what sustainable events look like.

By working together with industry peers, policymakers, and advocacy groups, we can drive systemic change and create a ripple effect that extends far beyond our operations. While the path ahead may not always be clear, I’m confident that with our passion, creativity, and dedication, Smyle can continue to push boundaries, inspire others, and make a meaningful difference in the world of sustainability.


Navigating Davos: Elevating Your Brand on the Global Economic Stage

By Cassie Barnes, Client Director at Smyle

As I reflect on my 13th year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s fascinating to witness the evolution of this global gathering. The change is not just in the scenic Alpine backdrop but in the very fabric of the forum itself. Davos has grown, with every nook and cranny presenting an opportunity for real estate and the once tranquil promenade bustling and expanding year after year – a true testament to the event’s undeniable significance.

However, the expansion has come with its fair share of criticisms. Some argue that Davos has become too vast, with fundamental players choosing to keep their distance, fearing a dilution of the intimate and impactful sessions that were once the hallmark of this gathering. 

The spectre of “conference fatigue” looms large. Yet, in the midst of these concerns, there is a compelling counter-narrative: Davos provides a structured platform to accelerate collaboration precisely at a time when global challenges demand urgent attention.

As many big names returned to Davos this year, we observed a significant trend in brands expanding their physical footprint. Take Neom, for example, which seized the opportunity to occupy four shopfronts, amplifying their visibility in a prime location. It’s a strategic move that elevates brand presence and underscores the ever-growing competition for attention in this bustling environment.

The landscape of Davos is also witnessing a shift as the crypto sector makes its mark. Companies like Ripple, Coinbase, and Circle are increasing their representation, reflecting the industry’s growing influence on the global economic stage. The discussion is no longer limited to traditional sectors; Davos is becoming a hub for conversations around the transformative power of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Sustainability remains a paramount topic for business leaders, and those who take tangible actions are ahead of the competition. The Davos stage provides a unique opportunity for brands to showcase their commitment to environmental and social responsibility, aligning with the growing demand from consumers for purpose-driven business practices. At Smyle, we have worked hand in hand with our clients to communicate their commitment to environmental and social responsibility, positioning their brand in line with purpose-driven practices.

One of the most resonant themes this year was the call for collaboration to drive fundamental change. Companies increasingly recognise the need to work with competitors on shared initiatives, understanding that collective efforts can expedite progress in solving global challenges. With its promise to transform roles and boost performance, the new era of Gen AI adds another layer to the conversations permeating Davos.

As we navigate this congregation of ideas and opportunities, success in Davos requires more than just a physical presence. Brands must be strategic, innovative, and purpose-driven to stand out in a crowded market. It’s about leveraging Davos’s unique platform to engage in meaningful conversations, showcase initiatives, and forge partnerships that transcend industry boundaries.

Davos is not just a forum; it’s an ecosystem of ideas, collaboration, and change. The key to success lies in embracing the evolving nature of this global gathering, staying true to one’s values, and actively contributing to the dialogue that shapes the future. As we continue to witness Davos’s dynamic transformation, let us seize the opportunities it presents and collectively strive for a better, more sustainable world.


Why you need to start planning for the World Economic Forum 2024 now, and what to expect once you get there

By Cassie Barnes, Client Director at Smyle

It was a pleasure to be back amongst the snowcapped Swiss mountains of Davos for the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) recently following its return to original programming in January. WEF is one of the most important dates in the calendar for over 2,500 political, business and academic leaders who descend on the small town every year.

Traditionally seen as an opportunity to discuss pressing geopolitical, environmental and societal issues, WEF has expanded in recent years to include more activations outside of the main congress and security zone. As a result, more global firms are bustling for space along the main promenade to capture the attention of those moving between meetings. 

Alongside a host of prestigious attendees and speakers such as Greta Thunberg and Idris Elba, Davos is arguably the only occasion that hundreds of the most influential people on the planet are together in one place. So it is an opportunity to network, stake your claim as a global player and rub shoulders with the top decision-makers in the world. 

But what does it take to activate your brand at WEF? Following the 2023 forum, we pulled together some key insights:

Global Economic Instability

In keeping with the global belt-tightening happening at the moment, we saw smaller, and in some cases more humble, pared-back activations. At a time when big multinational firms, especially in the technology sector, are cutting budgets and jobs, extravagant builds and champagne evenings would send a conflicting message.

That said, cutting budgets doesn’t mean cutting quality or impact. A considered approach wouldn’t be compromised by a directive to pare back. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced team, brands can still achieve a premium activation and an experience that aligns with their objectives.


With sustainability, a core ESG target for most businesses, the approach and design of temporary spaces need to reflect this commitment. Short-term builds at the top of a mountain are, understandably, seen as not very sustainable, but WEF offers a global platform to illustrate a bold commitment to accountable production. Our collective responsibility to show considered maintained progress in this area is vital. 

At Smyle, we have been working with our clients to create an approach to delivering sustainable experiences worldwide. Having provided numerous custom builds in Davos since 2015, we’ve been working on gathering a set of baseline metrics that inform our choices for a sensitive, creative approach and insights that allow us to develop a detailed plan for the future. 

Sustainable design doesn’t mean compromise; it can be as beautiful as it is responsible. 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Much like sustainability and ESG, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has taken a centre focus for consumer-driven businesses. So we saw CSR get the attention it deserves at Davos this year with the poignant “Pride on the Promenade”. Accenture spearheaded the campaign to create greater visibility for the LGBTIQ+ community – celebrating progress and serving as a call to action for the work left to do. The initiative saw participating activations light up their exteriors with a rainbow on Wednesday night. It was undoubtedly a stand-out moment for WEF to see the injection of colour along the promenade and how it represented the support and advocacy required for this important message.

The whole occasion was a great example of big business recognising that change in society must come from the top and how this multicultural Forum opportunity can provide a platform for CSR campaigns.


The Davos landscape provides a prime opportunity to focus on conversations that matter. The cross-collaboration nature of the Summit is at the heart of the experience for businesses focused on keeping WEF’s key issues at the forefront of discussions, with multiple opportunities for meetings, networking and talks. 

With many businesses focused on centring their strategies around the right conversations and hosted discussions that spark collaboration, brand-owned spaces must be designed to enhance collaboration. These high-level opportunities remain critical for business impact, and we saw many of the activations provide inspiring spaces that encouraged this.

Future Trends

Metaverse was the word hot on everyone’s lips. For the first time, WEF built a ‘Global Collaboration Village’ in the metaverse as a platform for more efficient collaboration between world leaders. Up and down the promenade, almost every activation had strong messaging around this topic as businesses looked to showcase their approach and steps to integrating VR headsets and mixed reality into the everyday. 

The message was loud and clear, virtual reality and the metaverse aren’t going away. The sooner leaders and businesses start investing and getting to grips with the technology, the better. We don’t see it as a replacement but rather an evolution in how business is done and builds are designed. The future is already here, and the best companies are getting a seat at the table early.

2024 Is Already in the Planning

The Forum has just wrapped, and the final boots on the ground departed, but planning for next year is already well underway. Due to the size of Davos, prime locations are hot property as there is limited space. Most businesses will already be in the process of booking and planning for 2024. 

If you are considering taking your business to the World Economic Forum next year, one question you need to consider is: Why do you need to go? What do you want to achieve? Who do you need to meet? It could be because you want your seat at the table on climate action, or you have cutting-edge technology you want to get in front of investors. 

If you know the ‘why’, it’s probably time to start looking forward to January 2024 and investing in some snow boots.


How Can Event Industry Leaders Be the Change in the Climate Fight?

Every year, COP shines a light on environmental and sustainability issues that really should be in the limelight all year round. Unfortunately, failure to meet targets, cutting corners on green policy and the very real effects of climate change don’t go away when the conference of world leaders ends. Sadly, now that the two-week fanfare has finished, the green agenda is on the back burner for many governments, especially those not immediately impacted by climate change.

You would be forgiven for thinking that COP has become a pointless vanity photo opportunity for politicians. Even Greta Thunberg skipped it this year as she claimed it is a forum for “greenwashing”. The harsh reality is that we don’t have time to wait for presidents and prime ministers to trickle down tangible and detailed green goals, so businesses are having to do it themselves.

As business leaders, it is within our gift to drive the journey to sustainability and act as frontrunners in the battles against climate change, pollution and the crash in bio-diversity. In the absence of strong leadership from governments and policy, we must lead the charge. 

Even the theme for Earth Day this year, ‘Invest in Our Planet’, was a clear cry to action for leaders who hold the power and purse strings.

I have been in the communications industry since the late 1980s and have witnessed first-hand the accelerating interest in sustainability policy. Change is happening, and new regulations are helping to set standards, like in 2012 when the London Olympics gave us ISO20121, our guide to sustainable event management.

More broadly, the industry has taken matters into its own hands with the creation of isla, an independent body founded by event professionals and industry leaders to provide practical guidance and support on environmental issues. TRACE, created by isla, is an excellent example of taking ownership of the challenges we face. The tool is the definitive carbon measurement platform for sustainable events.

As CEO at Smyle, I am responsible for ensuring our green agenda sits front and centre alongside our commercial and community goals. So in 2012, we set up Planet Smyle to internally champion and drive for sustainable solutions in our home operations and to help clients with sustainability recommendations. The agenda for Planet Smyle has strengthened in recent years to drive The Smyle Group through carbon neutrality to net zero in steps from now to 2030.

A big driver for businesses taking ownership of environmental goals is consumer activism. Recent reports suggest that when brands take action on societal issues, customers are at least four times more likely to buy from them. For example, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard ‘gave away’ his company to the earth, promising all profits would go into the fight against climate change. The move aimed to challenge the notion that corporate goals other than profit will just confuse investors, wrote Patagonia’s board chair, Charles Conn, at the time.

Time will tell if Chouinard and Conn’s move is effective, but for now, the company’s wheels are still turning. Twenty years ago, Patagonia was the first fashion brand to re-sell its own pre-owned products, something that is much more commonplace now. 

Measuring sustainability at events, with tools such as TRACE, is a sensible way for clients to show their stakeholders that they care, thus improving their relationships. But also to protect themselves against potential backlash – although that depends on how ‘green’ the event was! For organisations to improve their sustainability goals, they need to know where to start. It is up to them if they share the results of their sustainability measurements, but it’s impossible to see if they are getting better or worse without some starting data.

One thing is clear: we are past the point of delaying action. It will be too late if we don’t take drastic and immediate action to limit our carbon emissions and make our events and experiences more sustainable. So whilst the global top dogs move on to another conference in their private jets, sharing sound bites and nodding along to the stories of drowning communities, we need to be the change. Leaders should lead by example, and what better place to start than with the greatest challenge facing humanity?


Sustainability + Smyle

It's part of our DNA

In 2012, we became one of the first UK agencies to gain ISO 20121 certification – event sustainability has been an important part of our culture ever since.

But, we know there’s still work to be done.

In 2020, we committed to becoming the most sustainable creative agency in the world and set ambitious targets. We’re raising our game; defining a new business as usual – which means every Smyle activation now includes core sustainability practices.

Our in-house squad of sustainability changemakers – critical to achieving our mission. 

A dedicated team, drawn from across the agency, inspiring and empowering every Smyler to transform the way they work. By doing so, we will drive the change needed to translate sustainability objectives into reality.

Our Goals

  • Carbon neutral home operations
  • Carbon neutral campaign activation
  • Zero landfill waste
  • Activations measured with TRACE
  • Climate positive mitigation

Our sustainability policy supports these goals, ensuring we play our part, are socially conscious and have a positive impact in all we do.

See also

Country House

The Lockhouse,
71 Mead Lane,
Hertford, SG13 7AX

Town House

Albert House,
256-260 Old St,
London, EC1V 9DD


Studio 105, SeeSaw,
86 Princess Street,
Manchester, M1 6NG


Suikersilo-Oost 22,
1165 MS Halfweg,