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What Do Sustainable Events Look Like?

What is Sustainability in the Events Industry?

The rise of sustainability in the post-pandemic era

Sustainability is a hot topic generally but especially within the events industry. Indeed, one of, if not the biggest trend engulfing our sector is the sustainability movement.

Some will argue we are somewhat late to the party when it comes to reducing carbon footprints. They’re not wrong.

As an industrialised, technologically advanced nation, we have been all too aware of the effects of climate change. And although ‘events’ doesn’t top the table for the most polluting industries, it is still responsible for a significant amount of waste and carbon emissions throughout the world.

Taking the first steps towards sustainable practices in event planning and delivery

So, we know that our industry doesn’t exactly boast a brilliant track record when it comes to eco-friendliness, and anyone who has worked in events management for longer than three (very significant) years can certainly vouch for this.

Wasteful practices are inherent in event experiences, from travel, catering and print to electricity usage and noise pollution. Yet there has been a definite sea change in recent years, and it appears that there is now only one direction of travel.

Eco-friendly events manager

This is essential if we want to continue providing services to the environmentally conscious.

So, how are events organisations trying to turn the tide and become more ethically green?

There are many ways in which events companies are trying to or have indeed been forced to change their practices to meet sustainability targets. This reflects a genuine shift away from previously ingrained attitudes around minimising environmental impact.

The forced move to virtual or hybrid event experiences during the pandemic is probably the most significant transition to more sustainable event practices that the industry has or will ever witness.

By far and away the most environmentally damaging are those practices synonymous with larger, global events.

Large Event - Sustainability

Of course, there is a heavy reliance on technology when delivering outstanding virtual events, and some businesses are going a step further to ensure that they invest in greener technology.

Another initiative that businesses like ours are adopting is the formation of strategic partnerships with climate focused organisations and networks such as Isla . These companies work with events agencies, brands, venues, and in-house teams to help facilitate positive changes focused around creating a zero waste, 100% renewable and carbon-free future.

A familiar focus topic still firmly in the spotlight is the use of plastic free items for catering and digitised event assets such as tickets. While a continued reliance on plastic for a range of core event assets proves there is work to be done on this front, there has been an undeniable shift.

Raising awareness of environmental issues and trying to attract the ‘conscious consumer’ to events is also helping organisations to implement their policies ‘on the ground’ at live events, and via the virtual and hybrid event formats.

Learning the art of sustainability with best practice industry standard initiatives is becoming ever more popular with the creation of industry shows such as ‘The Sustainable Events Show’.

It is therefore clear that the events industry thought leaders and trailblazers can influence a great deal of change by actioning the above examples. Not only that but by prioritising the environment over profit, raising awareness of issues and sourcing greener materials. This and adopting much needed event format changes such as virtual or hybrid approaches. The key is doing so whilst still delivering those memorable and engaging event experiences to audiences.

The risks of greenwashing in the events industry

While many companies are embarking on their sustainability journey and are genuinely seeking out ways that they can make a real difference and reduce their Carbon Footprint, there has sadly been a rise of what’s known as greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing technique used by businesses to persuade the public that they are committed to sustainability in their practices, products and policies. The reality is in fact very different.

This is a dangerous practice fraught with risks of exposure and failure to deliver on critical sustainable objectives. In some cases, this threatens long-standing relationships with customers that are environmentally conscious.

As the old saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’, and the events industry has a duty to prove the sceptics wrong. Demonstrating our values and committing to sustainability is the best way.

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