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With Gifting, It’s the Eco-Thought That Counts

Surveys show that attendees are paying more attention to the environmental impact of the gifts they receive from event hosts and sponsors.

With the shift in the way we connect and collaborate over the past year and a half, another change happened that was just as consequential: In 2020, the reduction in business activity worldwide resulted in a temporary environmental reprieve. 

On every continent, people saw less smog and more wildlife. And while the reprieve was short-lived, it left a lasting impact—73 percent of people surveyed by Boston Consulting Group reported heightened environmental awareness in the past year. And it’s quite possible that this wave of eco-awareness will last long after the pandemic, becoming part of the new normal for business events no matter whether we gather in-person, online, or both. 

The Dawn of New Attendee Demands
Environmental awareness might also translate into action: 95 percent of the BCG survey respondents were actively contemplating how their individual actions are contributing to environmental degradation—and 87 percent expect their concerns to be reflected in the products and services of the companies with whom they conduct business. 

Not only have sustainable offerings become an expectation, but they’ve also had a significant impact. Consumers associate environmentally and socially responsible purchases with feelings of happiness, well-being, and loyalty. According to a survey by Capgemini Research Group, 77 percent of brands that focus on their sustainability approaches reported an increase in customer loyalty, and 63 percent say they saw greater revenue as a result. 

Having lived through a once-in-a-century crisis where we were reminded not only of environmental issues but also of the interdependence of communities, planners should consider that the sentiments of many businesspeople have shifted. 

Giving Gifts Your Organization Can Stand Behind
Fortunately, many gift vendors are making it easier for event organizers to make good choices with their sustainable branding efforts. For instance, planners can search for a Certified B Corporation to partner with for smaller giveaways as well as more substantial gifts. A “B-Corp Certification” indicates that the company has been audited to the highest global standard for sustainability. The certification involves factors related to both planet and people, ensuring that a vendor operates in an ecological and socially responsible manner across every aspect of its business—from staffing to supplying to final-mile delivery.

Gifts are a critical avenue for event hosts to connect with attendees. But the post-pandemic consumer is socially aware in more ways than one, and hosts must take this into consideration early on in the planning process to make sure they meet attendee expectations and, as a result, their organization’s gifting objectives. 

Tara Milburn is the founder and CEO of Ethical Swag, a Certified B Corporation that conducts sustainable branding through personalized promotional products.

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