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Only 9 Percent of Companies Set Sustainability Targets for Meetings

Meetings management lags travel management in terms of sustainability efforts, but companies often ignore both departments in their carbon-reduction goals. Is there an opportunity for planners to make an impact?

What if your meeting department was delivering carbon-emissions reductions and nobody noticed?

According to a study by the Global Business Travel Association and meeting technology company Cvent, a majority of companies are committing to specific sustainability goals, but many haven’t assigned targets for business travel or meetings—two carbon-heavy business activities.

In early 2022, the GBTA and Cvent surveyed 167 travel and meeting managers across 13 countries in North America and Europe about their sustainability activities. While 55 percent reported that their organization has a company-wide carbon-emissions reduction target, only 23 percent has a target for business travel specifically and just 9 percent have a target for company-hosted meetings and events.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA, sees a chance for leadership in the gap. “Corporate travel managers and meeting professionals have a tremendous opportunity to be drivers of change and evolution as more companies prioritize sustainability,” she said. “They can provide the expertise and guidance to help bring more environmental sustainability to their employee travel and meetings.”

And the need is even greater for travel and meeting executives in North America, where only 14 percent report specific carbon-emissions reduction targets for business travel, and only 6 percent have them for meetings

However, even without a company-directed target, respondents revealed a strong drive toward change. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) say sustainability is at least a moderate priority for their travel programs (that includes 41 percent who say it is a top priority). And for meeting management programs, 65 percent say sustainability is at least a moderate priority (including 29 percent who call it a top priority)

On the meeting side, sourcing sustainable suppliers is becoming an important early step in the planning process. Forty-four percent of respondents who send out meeting request for proposals include sustainability-related questions “most of the time” or “all of the time.”
The study also uncovered organizers most common sustainable practices:
• Providing shuttles from the venue to hotels or other off-site events (40 percent)
• Communicating with attendees about public transit (34 percent)
• Serving locally sourced food (32 percent)
• Using recyclable packaging (31 percent)
• Replacing plastic cutlery with real flatware (30 percent)

GBTA and Cvent reported their findings during an online event that can be viewed on-demand.

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