Senior figure from food giant Nestle to take centre stage at Yorkshire-based Visual Media Conference

Sustainability needs to be looked at holistically with businesses having to consider the economic and commercial impact as well as the environment, according to the curator of an upcoming creative and digital industry conference.

Robert McClements, who is president of regional sector organisation Creative Digital Industries (CDI), believes sustainability is “often ill defined”.

Robert McClements, who is president of regional sector organisation Creative Digital Industries (CDI), believes sustainability is “often ill defined”.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he said: “We’ve got to be sure that when we’re talking about sustainability, it’s economic and commercial for businesses.

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“That doesn’t mean to say we’re going to ignore environmental sustainability because the two things have to go hand-in-hand.”

The Visual Media Conference (VMC) is returning for its eighth year and will once again be a virtual event.

Mr McClements is the curator of the event, which this year has a theme of ‘Sustainability through Innovation’.

“It’s a very rounded approach to trying to present something which is a holistic view,” he added.

One of the speakers at the event is going to be Stefan Casey, who is the York-based innovation lead for multinational food giant Nestle.

“He is the man who has been leading their transition from plastic wrapping to paper,” Mr McClements said.

He added: “We’ve got innovation in terms of print manufacture, technological innovation in communication and everything that goes in between.”

The format for VMC this year will be different to last year. Instead of events all taking place on one day, they will be spread out across three days. It will run from September 21 to 23.

The reason for the change is Mr McClements is conscious of ‘Zoom fatigue’ with a large number of people only interacting through video calls over the pandemic.

VMC will be presented “like a TV schedule”, he says, with people able to cherry pick events that they may find interesting.

While this year’s event is going to be fully remote with a combination of live and pre-recorded sessions, Mr McClements believes there is still a “real appetite” for a return to in-person events.

He said: “We’re planning that 2022 will be an in-person event. We will have learnt from what we are doing at the moment.

“In addition to the physically located event, we’ll continue to stream it and find a way to be able to incorporate this into a hybrid event.”

The switch to online has got even more international eyeballs on the event. VMC had already begun to attract international speakers prior to the pandemic. Mr McClements hopes to harness the lack of geographical restrictions going forward.

He said: “I feel the conversations that I am having now are more frequently international.

“Everything that is happening in the region has been opened up because it’s just a function of life now.”

There have been attempts in the past to persuade Mr McClements to move the conference to London but he has resisted because the president of CDI says that he is “passionate” about showcasing the region.

Mr McClements added: “It does provide that showcase to the world. The fact that we have been able to break free of the geographic boundaries means that I can run it and still do that without losing what we’ve been able to do.”

Adopting video conferencing for the event has seen Mr McClements come full circle. Back in 1997 he was running a pioneering MBA module with BT on video conferencing.

“It’s incredible for me to see just what has happened with the developments now,” he says.

Alongside Mr McClements, regular speaker and supporter of the event, Sir Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, will be opening the conference again this year.

The Visual Media Conference brings the digital and print industries together to delve into trends, technology and innovations affecting both industries.

Registrations are open for the annual free event, hosted by CDI, which is a member of BPIF (British Printing Industries Federation).

Robert McClements said: “We’re trying to expand the boundaries of the event in terms of the number of days, the amount of content and the accessibility.”

The objectives of VMC are to “educate and entertain”.

He added: “I hope people will take away some practical solutions that they can apply in their businesses and be able to share best practice from speakers around the world.

“I hope we’ll be able to present it in a way that is entertaining and that they will enjoy. Hence the idea of a TV schedule to make it accessible.”

Visual Media Conference brings the digital and print industries together to delve into trends, technology and innovations affecting both industries.

Registrations are open for the annual free event, hosted by CDI, which is a member of BPIF (British Printing Industries Federation).

For more information on speakers and registration visit: www.visualmediaconference.com