Creating lasting legacies


Matching creative local talent with client Corporate Social Responsibility objectives

Written by Alexandria Cain

The city of Sydney is at the centre of Australia’s startup scene, supported by a vibrant 
ecosystem that includes ICC Sydney. This environment encompasses tertiary institutions such as the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), incubators and venture capitalists.The links between this growing and innovative community are a part of the city’s fabric that delegates value and seek.

Given ICC Sydney’s position at the heart of the city’s innovation ecosystem and a global connection platform, the venue is uniquely placed to support the local startup

community, the largest in the southern hemisphere.

A partnership with UTS is central to this. The two organisations worked together on Sydney Innovation Stories, which showcases a number of the startups the university supports through UTS Startups. With 452 early stage ventures and counting, it is the largest community of student-launched startups in the country. Some of these early-stage ventures are featured across 15 digital screens along Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Boulevard, stretching the length of the venue and with content managed by ICC Sydney.

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Sydney Innovation Stories is part of ICC Sydney’s Legacy Program. This industry leading offering connects clients with many different communities across Sydney and beyond into regional New South Wales, supporting them to make a lasting social, environmental and economic impact. The program has five streams: First Nations, Environmental Sustainability, Creative Industries, Innovation and Entrepreneurs and Generation Next.

The Legacy Program supports ICC Sydney’s clients to achieve sustainability goals for their events. It also ensures event benefits are spread much wider than they would have been in a more traditional approach to event management. With the lead-time for most major conferences beginning up to five years in advance, clients are encouraged to consider their event’s legacy as early as possible in the planning process. 

Murray Hurps, UTS’s first Director of Entrepreneurship, notes ICC Sydney is considered to be a meeting place that brings many thousands of people together, which is a tremendous resource for new businesses. “There’s an incredibly vibrant startup scene in Sydney, with 3,000 people working in Sydney Startup Hub within a few minutes of ICC Sydney and over 800 working from the UTS campus next door. ICC Sydney is an asset that’s much more than just a place to hold conventions. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with an incredible startup ecosystem as well.

”Hurps says importantly, Sydney Innovation Stories will help local startups connect with potential investors and customers. “Having access to inspirational, technology-driven companies enriches the environment for delegates, and for the startups — everybody wins when the right ingredients can be brought together.”

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Moreover, he says its physical location also supports the city’s startup ecosystem. “It’s surrounded by some of world’s leading educational institutions. It’s also right next to the CBD and the financial sector at Barangaroo.” It makes it easy for conference organisers to attract people to their events and provides more value to them once they’re at ICC Sydney. “Australia is one of the safest and most enjoyable places anywhere in the world to pursue almost anything, including entrepreneurship,” he adds.

ICC Sydney CEO, Geoff Donaghy explains an innovative mindset not dissimilar to that of a startup’s is vital to the convention centre’s DNA. “Our policy is to make constant small improvements. We say if it’s not broken, let’s break it. We never assume something that worked last year is going to work next year. So we’re constantly examining, innovating and improving. Many times, we’ll come up with exactly the same solution as what was 

already in place. But we’ve reached that conclusion by analysis rather than omission. That keeps us ahead of the game. Sydney is known as Australia’s global city. But we have to work very hard to keep ourselves there, which is why innovation is so critical.”

An important part of ICC Sydney’s ecosystem is its relationship with the Committee for Sydney. CEO Gabriel Metcalf says the multi-space venue has cemented its place as an integral part of Sydney.

“It’s an incredible example of a beautiful, high-quality public space. It’s a part of Sydney where you can always find people spending time in public enjoying life. Everywhere you look there are people walking, sitting on benches, talking and going to lunch. It’s a place where people hang out.”

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The Committee for Sydney is a public policy research organisation that advocates for greater Sydney to move into the future. ICC Sydney is a member of the committee and one of its innovation fund partners. This is a group of the most significant businesses in Sydney that support the committee’s research program. 

“ICC Sydney is an enormously significant partner for us. Part of what we’re trying to do is to help Sydney stay connected to leading world cities. ICC Sydney is engaged in very similar work. It brings the world to Sydney so the city can remain globally connected and constantly refreshed with new people and ideas. It’s part of the way Australians can overcome the tyranny of distance,” Metcalf says.

“It’s extraordinarily integrated into the life of the city because people who live and work in Sydney go to ICC Sydney all the time to attend events, workshops and performances. It’s not just for visitors,” he adds.

Metcalf says one of ICC Sydney’s strengths is the way it uses its resources to drive economic outcomes for Sydney and New South Wales. For instance, it only sources wine from NSW. “It’s a tangible example of how Sydney’s prosperity can be shared across New South Wales.”

This is also part of the environmental sustainability component of ICC Sydney’s Legacy Program. 

“Both environmental and social sustainability strategies are in focus. Clients are supported to activate streams of our Legacy Program that provide tangible results that help reduce emissions, reduce waste and positively engage Australia’s First Nations, the next generation of the brightest minds and industry leaders,” says Samantha Glass, ICC Sydney’s Director of Communication, Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility.

Our Legacy Program Guide includes comprehensive checklists clients can use to make

sure their event is as environmentally friendly as possible. It encourages organisers to consider things like using LED lights in stands and to erect signage to remind guests to recycle bottles and paper.

As well as supporting outcomes for customers, ICC Sydney has its own environmental credentials. For instance, the building boasts incredible solar power capabilities, with a 520 kilowatt photovoltaic array, the largest in any Australian CBD. This powers around five per cent of ICC Sydney’s electricity. There’s also a 200 kilolitre rainwater tank which supplies rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushings.

One of the ways we are continuing our commitment to water conservation and reducing plastic bottle usage is through our partnership with Sydney Water. ICC Sydney recently achieved a milestone by reaching two million plastic water bottles saved through this partnership and by changing our event operations. 

A responsible approach to waste management is another area of focus for ICC Sydney, with the aim of making continuous small improvements.

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“We discourage the use of coffee cup lids from our coffee house stands. We offer lids made from sugarcane which are biodegradable but also encourage our customers to opt for reusable cups instead. We’ve removed individually-wrapped mints from meeting rooms and we place notepads and pens at the back of the room to minimise their unnecessary use, which tends to happen when they’re in the middle of the table,” says Glass.

“Little steps when combined can make a huge difference when it comes to minimising waste. It leads to a reduction in the volume of waste we create and allows us to divert a significant amount away from landfill.

ICC Sydney also supported the ‘Sydney’ doesn’t suck’ campaign by removing plastic straws from the venue. 

In acknowledgement of its industry leading efforts on sustainability, the venue was awarded the UFI Sustainability Award 2020 for its waste management program and also recently achieved the prestigious Silver Certification from EarthCheck, the world’s leading environmental certification and benchmarking program for the travel and tourism industry.Finally, ICC Sydney has a commitment to supporting First Nations people. It was the first convention centre in Australia to launch a Reconciliation Action Plan.

“We believe we have an obligation to acknowledge and celebrate our First Nations people and their culture and we encourage our clients to take the same approach. We can connect them to the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council to organise an Elder to make a spoken Welcome to Country. We can also help them to organise a cultural performance at the beginning of their plenary session. For virtual events, a pre-

recorded Welcome to Country delivered by an Aboriginal Elder can be embedded into the digital experience. We encourage our clients to leverage the relationships we have with First Nations performing groups such as KARI, whose singers provide a moving and contemporary experience,” says Glass.

Taken together, the Legacy Program, Sustainable Events Guide and focus on startups, all serve to cement ICC Sydney’s position as one of the most innovative convention centres not just in Australia but in the world.

Says Hurps: “Sydney needs a vibrant convention centre that brings people from all over the world into the city. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to show off the incredible things happening in Sydney. ICC Sydney is essential in this process.