There’s still a lot standing between current meeting practices and a sustainable meetings industry, most notably financial and workforce resources, stakeholder commitment, and the gargantuan carbon impact of travel. But one thing that is not missing: good information.
The Events Industry Council, an umbrella organization for 30 event-industry associations, has made sustainability a signature focus. Its Centre for Sustainable Events has a sustainability certificate program, educational resources, and sustainable-event standards for seven industry segments: event organizers, accommodations, venues, destinations, food and beverage, audiovisual and production, and exhibitions
Also impressive is the Joint Meetings Industry Council’s work to rally the global events industry around the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative. Launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November, signatories pledge to reduce their global GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and to work with suppliers and customers to drive change. The movement has already grown to 195 signatories from around the globe, plus more than more than 110 supporting organizations.
Additional education, inspiration, and guidance come from organizations such as the Society for Sustainable Events; consultants specifically focused on meeting sustainability, such as MeetGreen, Honeycomb Strategies, and Julia Spangler, to name a few; and the meeting-industry media. (MeetingsNet’s sustainability section is here.)
The newest resource is a white paper from BCD Meeting & Events released this week. The 23-page “Sustainability Guide for Meetings & Events” is, as it notes, “not a comprehensive guide to sustainable event planning.” Rather, it raises issues and provides some tangible ideas for moving forward: “Our hope is that it will spark more conversation and innovation around crafting greener meetings.”
The paper focuses on three areas for planners to prioritize—CO2 emissions, food and waste, and paper and plastic—with a discussion of ways to reduce in each of those areas (starting on page 15) being a highlight of the report.
Having third-party planning companies dedicated to sustainability is critical. Client expectations around events’ carbon impacts are changing fast. Host organizations’ planning partners need to be ready to meet them at this juncture with established principles and practices for sustainable meeting management.