With the climate crisis ever more evident in the news and society, sustainability is now an essential factor for all organisers when planning an event. Not only is it their responsibility but the ever-changing dynamic of attendees has also played a huge role with the requirement to provide sustainable options. Deloittes Global Millennial Survey in 2019 highlighted that climate change is the greatest concern for this group, which by 2024 is expected to be the largest group of business travellers globally. For every event held there are several ways that it can contribute to climate change and with the deadline of 2030 for the United Nations Sustainable Development goals to be met, there is only 10 years left for organisers to get into action. Fortunately, there are several ways that organisers can engage with sustainability, not only for the benefit of the planet but to build reputation and growth (CWT Future Trends Report).

How changing locations and options can ensure a sustainable event

Choosing an event location has now become even easier following the creation of the GDS-Index, an industry collaboration between IMEX, MCI and ECM. This report recognises sustainable practices in business tourism in cities and ranks destinations across the globe for their sustainability, helping organisers pick the right city for their event. As well as location, items that are provided for events such as badges, brochures and stationery can all be offered with an eco-friendly alternative. Attending industry events has also highlighted that the requirement of sustainable items has filtered down from organisers to the suppliers. Nearly every company you speak to has a sustainable option for their product, meaning there is the choice available in the marketplace for every event organiser.

The responsibility lies with all parties

ICCA describes that the responsibility not only falls with organisers to be making the correct choices but for suppliers to be able to provide the solutions they are seeking. As well eco-friendly solutions, the food waste created from hotels and venues is a key factor to be considered. As anyone who has attended an event knows, the food provided is often a buffet and therefore likely to incur wastage. The Too Good to Waste Report conducted 79 interviews to focus on the best practice with managing this. It notes that at present only 3% of venues confirm that they frequently get concerns over food waste expressed to them by association organisers, however when associations were questioned directly 52.5% of the study group stated they take it very seriously. The document details several ways that both the Kitchen Production can be managed, how logistics can be organised and how the leftover food can be reused or redistributed. To see the full report, it can be downloaded from the ICCA Website by clicking here.

But we can’t afford to provide eco-friendly alternative’s?

The biggest barrier to entry for providing these sustainable options can often be the cost involved of the alternatives, especially when it comes to non-for-profit organisations. ICCA reports that changing organisations and their delegates visions to help achieve these goals is imperative, it is the collaborative process to shift engagement of all parties involved whether it be by increasing event prices or seeking cost comparative options. The MPI now even provide courses in improving event sustainability which can then be passed on to others, it is the awareness of what is happening and what can be done that is key.

So, the question is what things can we do now to make our meetings more sustainable?

Lodging Magazine states that partnering is key and ensuring that attendees are aware of environmentally friendly initiatives or alternatives available to them. We have compiled a short list of things as an organiser you can do now to ensure your meetings are sustainable:

  1. Use recycled materials where possible for all items, also ensuring that these can all be recycled following the event. If items can be recycled provide clearly marked bins at the event venue to encourage delegates.
  2. Change from paper to digital! With the increase of technology within events, add show guides and programmes to an app or website instead.
  3. Change to paper badges or ones made of recycled and recyclable materials.
  4. Remove event specifics from logos where possible so items can be reused for future events.
  5. Incentivise your delegates to travel by public transport and use gamification points as an incentive. If international also ensure there are direct flights to your chosen location.
  6. Work with the venue to see what green alternatives they can offer and how they can reduce food waste.
  7. ..be proud! If you are using sustainable items and incentives, shout about it and let your delegates know. It only increases awareness and event reputation!

With every event the responsibility for sustainability lies with all parties involved from organisers, venues, suppliers and the attendees themselves. There are obstacles that will get in the way but the only way to achieve a full sustainable event is to have awareness and synergy between all parties. With just a decade left for the UN Goals to be met, now is the time for change.

Author:Anna Hellawell, Account Manager, MICE Concierge. 7 years’ experience of working in operations and with our corporate and Association clients.

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