There are a lot of misperceptions around what it means to create sustainable events and the value of doing so. Here’s a look at five that I frequently encounter and a look at how meeting planners can re-evaluate their own meeting goals to become more sustainable.
- Planners often see sustainability as one dimensional—that it’s either about protecting the environment, saving energy/paper or having a CSR project during an event. But sustainability is much more than any one of these objectives.
- Sustainability is often viewed as an operational burden, another thing on a to-do list that is already laden with obligations from sponsorship generation to content development. However, the opportunity is really to use sustainability as a catalyst to bring an organization’s values to life. For a medical client, this may revolve around wellness and health, which is then complemented by good environmental practice rather than the other way round.
- Planners and suppliers often imagine that events need to be zero waste or venues should be zero carbon. I don’t find this a realistic measure. The first goal should be to reduce the impact. It could be a 20 percent or 50 percent reduction, but starting with zero impact is not realistic. It’s like trying to sprint before you learn to crawl.
- Carbon offsetting is NOT a sustainability strategy. It’s a tool in the toolbox, and it should never be the first place a planner starts. We are in the decade of sustainability precisely because we are consuming too many resources and polluting our environment. This cannot be rebalanced solely by investing in carbon credits. We must first try to reduce our impact and then as a last solution offset what can’t be reduced.
- Planners may think that sustainability isn’t important to their clients, attendees or vendors, but we’ve really reached a tipping point in the industry. The volume of corporate brands requesting commitment to their CSR principles, including sustainability, is booming. It’s only going to get more robust as they mature and focus deeper into their supply chain.