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6 steps to achieve more sustainable meetings & events

September 08, 2022


By Katherine Bell
Director, Global Process & Implementation for CWT Meetings & Events

We recently published a blog on best practices for hosting a sustainable event. The conversation continues to gain momentum, perhaps more so than ever before and we have the pandemic to thank for that. The volume of waste from personal protective equipment (PPE) alone is absolutely staggering plus we have seen how much our climate benefitted during the lockdowns. 

Like many businesses, we are seeing volume pick up again which is truly wonderful to see. Face-to-face meetings and events have rebounded sharply — 65% more by mid 2022 versus 2021 — whilst virtual event volumes have scaled back by 70% in the same timeframe. However, I’ve found myself wondering over the past few weeks whether the pandemic has really helped change behavior for the long term. Have you tried to meet up with friends and discovered the next available weekend is 5 weeks away or beyond? Doesn’t it feel like we have just reverted to 2019 ways of doing things without really stopping to breathe and think about whether there could be a better way?

So how then do we really adopt a way of working and meeting so that sustainable practices become habitual? This is something our clients are looking for too – how to make long term, meaningful change. Here’s some food for thought: 

  1. Company sustainability goals need to be infiltrated through every department and team, so it becomes part of day-to-day business culture. We have seen sustainability questions in RFPs for years, however often the individual meeting owner does not seem as engaged and the budget can get in the way. Start small, and build upon your strategy. 
  2. Look beyond the agenda of your next meeting. What behavior is it driving? What is the purpose of the overall trip? More people are choosing to trip batch, which may well save cost but also may make for hectic itineraries. Make time to see the place that you have travelled to and meet the people. Make memories with your team beyond the office or conference room. Your attendees will thank you for it.  
  3. Encourage sustainable behavior from the outset and throughout the event communication campaign and onsite. Look at more sustainable travel routes or methods. Can you encourage your attendees to car share? Are your flights using sustainable aviation fuel? What about having attendees share what greener behaviors they are adopting in their personal lives?  
  4. Decide what carbon emissions you want to measure and do that consistently across your programme of events so you have a baseline you can then improve upon. Metrics for measurement vary greatly globally and the industry lacks standardisation in this area. This is gradually getting easier with more accessible emissions calculators which is good, but then challenge what you are going to do with the output. Share ‘visual guilt’ with the attendees rather than just a number of tonnes of CO2 as this will be more meaningful and generate positive action. Publicise what projects have been supported through offsetting measures.  
  5. The M&E supply base needs to shout, and I mean shout, about their eco-credentials. That info needs to be readily available to those sourcing suppliers for events so that this information can be visible to decision-makers.  
  6. Consider the circular economy in every element of the event planning process. Where have items come from? Where will they go afterwards? Can they be re-used or shared with the local community?

There’s still a long way to go for the industry to adopt a more consistent approach. However, by working with clients and suppliers on overall sustainability aims of events from the outset (however small to start with) and continually coming back to them through the planning cycle will ensure a positive output and one that can be continually improved upon. 

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