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Julia Spangler, Sustainable Events Consultant

An Insider’s View of 2021: Event Sustainability

Julia Spangler makes the case that focusing on health and safety at events doesn’t mean planners need to forget their sustainability goals.

MeetingsNet asked 21 events-industry thought leaders to weigh in with their predictions and perspectives for 2021. Find all the commentary here.

Julia Spangler

Sustainable Events Consultant

With all the concerns around the pandemic and new health and safety guidelines for meetings, many event professionals assume that sustainability simply isn't possible right now and should not be one of their priorities. However, that couldn't be further from the truth.

A Kearney survey conducted in spring 2020 showed that the pandemic had not lessened the concern that Americans feel for the environment. In fact, nearly half of respondents reported being more concerned about the environment now than they were before the pandemic.

As the meetings industry recovers, we need to be in tune with the values of our attendees and stakeholders. The world is more complex than a single issue. Yes, coronavirus is an immediate threat to our health, but at the same time the dangers of climate change and pollution also threaten our health and stability. These problems don’t take turns, so we can’t focus on only one and hope the other one takes care of itself.

Planners who make sustainability a core value of their planning process, hand-in-hand with health and safety, will give their attendees peace of mind that their events are both safe and sustainable, and that their solution to one crisis is not contributing to another.The shift to hybrid and virtual events will continue to play a major role in 2021. Less travel yields a variety of benefits that planners should embrace: health and safety, accessibility, and sustainability due to the reduction emissions. Local and regional “hub” events conducted in person can also provide such benefits, and I foresee these growing in popularity as well. 


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