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Creating sustainable events

Corporate meetings, conference planning, and sustainable events are a large part of business, providing employees, customers, partners, and the supply chain opportunities to build meaningful relationships, share knowledge, innovate and grow.

Event management companies like Event Travel Management (ETM) (CTM’s specialist event management division) are positioned to assist customers in delivering more sustainable event and travel choices that support people, communities, and the environment.

Sustainability solutions such as the CTM Climate+ program assist customers to better understand the impact of their travel and also provide solutions to reach climate neutrality goals by offsetting the carbon emissions created by their business travel activity.

Sustainability has increasingly become a global focus. More than 400 companies signed a pledge at 2021’s Davos World Economic Forum to decarbonize by 2050. This number comprises some of the biggest companies in the world, and smaller companies are making similar commitments. Organizations are reviewing their policies and processes to encourage more sustainable choices and practices.

While the thought of arranging an event that meets organizational sustainability strategies and policy might be overwhelming, small and manageable actions can go a long way to protecting the environment, supporting local communities, and also may save organizations some money along the way.

Good planning and event design

Using an event management company will ensure expert advice, strategic event planning, and event design to meet the requirements of the organization. However, in the discovery phase of planning, organizations must be clear on their sustainability goals and what they wish to achieve.

A more sustainable event design may require consideration of where and how an organization wishes to host its events. Should a central venue location be selected? A consideration might be to host outdoor breakout sessions to reduce electricity use, for example.

Selecting suppliers that fit with an organization’s sustainability policy will be of importance. Where organizations have had established relationships with suppliers but no longer align, a consideration of sourcing new suppliers may be made.

Going digital (pending the demographic of your audience) may be part of an organization’s preferred delivery method. Using online registration and communication platforms is more sustainable, cost-effective and will save delegates time and eliminate paper printouts.

Creating sustainable events involves event planning and preparation. An event management company like ETM can assist in carefully examining all areas of an event to determine how it can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, including location, transportation, and food.

Selecting event partners

An event’s carbon footprint can be reduced by looking at some of the big decisions in the event planning process, like where the event is held.

According to a recent Global Business Travel Association sustainability report, 74% of respondents rank both investing in more energy-efficient technologies and phasing out single-use plastic products as the most impactful way for their suppliers to improve their environmental performance.

Further to this, the 2022 CTM global customer survey revealed 72% of respondents say having access to supply chain sustainability strategy information in the coming 12 months is important – very important, and 57% seek environmental sustainability features when selecting airline, hotel, and car rental providers. As such, organizations may wish to make event sustainability a requirement when venue sourcing, selecting sponsors, or associated event partners as part of the event’s overall sustainability goals.

The ultimate goal for organizations may be to have all stakeholders aligned in their sustainability efforts. This will help create a more seamless experience where organizations are not the only ones contributing toward more sustainable corporate meetings and events.

When procuring event partners, questions to consider might be:

  • Does the hotel or venue have programs in place that reduce water usage or use renewable energy?
  • Does the venue have accreditation for sustainable events like ISO 20121?
  • Does the venue have a recycling program? Are they paperless? Is there natural light and ventilation?
  • Does the accommodation allow for opting-out of housekeeping services, and do they support local or sustainable businesses?
  • Does the city you choose impact your carbon footprint because of the carbon intensity of the local power grid or the availability of public transportation in the area?
  • Does the catering use the least amount of packaging possible?
  • Is there an opportunity to support the local community by using local, high-quality food?

Find ways to reduce food waste

Having sufficient catering is always of importance, ensuring delegates are energized to learn, network, and be engaged through the duration of the event. However, there are considerations to make that will assist in reducing food wastage.

Partnering with a venue that has already established sustainable practices will make catering easier. This way, they may already have recycling or composting programs in place. In cases where the venue does not have such programs established, there may be an opportunity to donate to a local food donation program (in accordance with food and health regulations). Check with the venue as they may already work with local charities, including food banks or social enterprises.

Another consideration around food is to order local food. While it will not reduce waste, it is a better option not only in terms of environmental responsibility but also in supporting the local economy and offering a local experience for your delegates, especially for international visitors.

Reuse and recycle

Recycling is not new and is a big part of sustainable living and something that can be easily implemented into an organization’s sustainable event strategy. For things like lanyards and signs, organizations may wish to avoid personalizing them where possible so they can be reused for future events. That way, this reduces waste and saves money and time.

Banning single-use plastic can be applied to menu choices with minimal packaging, ideally supplied in biodegradable or recyclable containers. With many more sustainable products available, whether it be biodegradable or bamboo, for example, there are sufficient options to reduce your event’s carbon footprint.

Recycling education for delegates can also be carried out by inserting notices in event programs or listed digitally. Placing clear signs on bins and communicating where and why to recycle will make it easier for delegates to know what to do and where to go. Having dedicated stations to collect recyclable materials will mean that after the event, recycling will be easy and prevent wastage.

Other areas of consideration might be:

  • Encourage delegates to refill water bottles through drinking water stations
  • Use compostable items and reusable crockery for take-away options
  • Ensure any packaging the food arrives in is recyclable
  • Ensuring an ethical supply chain and materials with the smallest carbon footprint.

Conference tote bags have historically been filled with plastic promotional items and use energy and resources to produce, only to be discarded in rubbish and end up in landfills. Organizations need to think about what they want to achieve by providing tote bags. For those that do decide to provide them to delegates, consider providing reusable branded tote bags, recycled notebooks, plant and seed packets, reusable cups, and mugs. This also provides opportunities for extended brand awareness through repeated use.

Organizations may also like to refrain from date stamping any of the items for longevity and future use. To ensure the promotional suppliers are using ethically sourced materials that are environmentally friendly, a recommendation is to ask what social and environmental certifications the suppliers have.

Reduce carbon footprint

The global pandemic has cast a spotlight on sustainability where travelers believe sustainable travel is vital, and 61% say the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future. There are more sustainable options for organizations to consider when it comes to transportation, whether it be land or air, and this may result in reducing the carbon footprint.

  • Should delegates require transportation while at the event destination, there are options for eco-friendly car rental, such as hybrid or electric vehicles and public transit.
  • Ride-share services are another great way to lower carbon footprint and cost wastage by allowing delegates and colleagues to travel together and reducing the cost of travel. CTM’s ride-share tool alerts colleagues of ride-sharing opportunities based on their travel itinerary.
  • Select a venue and accommodation that are within walking distance or a venue with onsite accommodation to eliminate ground transportation.
  • An event management expert like ETM can coordinate flight arrival and departure times, enabling group transfers and thereby limiting the amount of ground transportation required.

In the CTM 2022 global customer survey, 71% of respondents said their carbon footprint will be an important to very important consideration for their travel program over the next 12 months. ETM and CTM have partnered with South Pole, a leading project developer and global climate action expert. Through this partnership, organizations can offset their carbon footprint against a range of global climate action and sustainability projects with the CTM Climate+ program.

Did you know?

  • Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are being produced and used in commercial flights every day. Since December 2019, more than 215,000 commercial flights using SAF have been performed, 40 airlines have SAF experience, and there are 6 billion liters of SAF in forward purchase agreements (source: IATA).
  • Delta Airlines was the first to sign a multi-year SAF agreement with CTM. The three-year deal will reduce lifecycle emissions by 209 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 256 acres of US forests.

ETM works with organizations to consider the logistics and environmentally friendly practices suitable to their event needs and objectives to ensure they get the most out of their event while meeting their sustainability goals. The shift towards greener business events and practices provides an opportunity for all key stakeholders to work together proactively in achieving sustainability goals.

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