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Event Sustainability Efforts Are Lackluster, Survey Says

A new report from Ovation Global doesn’t pull any punches: The momentum behind the industry’s carbon-reduction initiatives is slow.

Meeting professionals are not doing enough to reduce the carbon emissions of meetings and events. That’s the bottom-line assessment from Ovation Global DMC, reporting on the results of its recent survey of event planners and suppliers.

Survey participants were largely from North America and Europe, while about a quarter responded from South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia/Oceania. A majority, 68 percent, were event planners.

What Ovation found was a “concerning reality” that the industry has a long way to go when it comes to measuring carbon emissions of events, working with sustainable suppliers, and making efforts toward net-zero emissions such as selecting sustainable venues, using renewable energy, and offsetting unavoidable emissions.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, as the saying goes, and Ovation found that only 33 percent of respondents measure the carbon emissions of the events they organize. While that number has likely seen progress over the past decade, there is a lot of room for improvement.

In fact, when asked what percentage of their current business events actively focus on lowering carbon emissions, almost two-thirds described it as minimal—just zero to 15 percent of their meetings have that goal:Ovation chart.png

Another lagging sustainability effort is prioritizing vendors who are working toward net-zero carbon events through means such as improving waste management and using renewable energy. Ovation’s survey reveals that only 14 percent of respondents say their organization mandates the use of vendors actively working towards net-zero carbon events.

However, more than half of respondents are making some effort: 52 percent selected the response, “Occasionally. We’re still implementing these measures” when asked about mandating sustainable vendors. Only a third said they do not mandate it.

Despite the lackluster sustainability efforts documented in the survey, Rutger Hoorn, vice president of sales & strategic partnerships at Ovation, remains optimistic. “We believe that the events industry has the power to be a catalyst for positive change,” he said. “By embracing sustainable practices, event organizers can not only reduce their environmental impact but also inspire others to follow suit.”

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