A three-dimensional look at sustainable events

Expert Opinion
A three-dimensional look at sustainable events

Leaders of industry association IACC, and thrive! meetings & events, discuss how to successfully deliver sustainable events.


Achieving truly sustainable events requires focusing attention on three key pillars.

The first is economic impact – using the assets of a company efficiently to ensure profitability over time. The second is social impact – a community focused approach that includes employee welfare, fair trade and community engagement.

The last is environmental impact – making responsible decisions, such as sourcing local and seasonal produce, to reduce an organisation’s negative impact on the environment.

According to meetgreen.com, the typical attendee produces 1.89 kg of waste per day, 1.16 kg of which goes directly to landfill. This means that over a three-day long event, 1,000 attendees typically generate 5,670 kg of waste.

Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC (pictured left), says: “It’s very common for us to think about saving the planet when hearing the word ‘sustainability’, but this is about so much more than the environmental impact of our events. Economic impact and social elements of our events and businesses contribute heavily to sustainability as well.

“More events are choosing to showcase their leadership and innovation in the market through implementing sustainable practices for diverse reasons. For some, it’s the right thing to do. Others want to engage with attendees who share the same sustainable goals and morals by tapping into their emotional intelligence. Others see the opportunity to save money through reducing water, energy and waste costs. Other do it for the economic benefits they can bring to areas and communities by holding events there, such as creating new jobs and skills for people they employ or for volunteers. For others it may be part of a requirement for a tender or to attract sponsorship for the event.

“Irrespective of the reason, there are certainly plenty of benefits from incorporating sustainability into your events. In fact, every business in the 21st century should demonstrate the good they’re bringing to the world. Our 2019 IACC Meeting Room of the Future report revealed that 44% of respondents believe ethical operations and sustainable practices will be one of the most important elements for venues by the year 2024. We’re expecting this to become an even bigger focus as a result of the high-profile climate awareness campaigns that are gaining traction across the globe.

“Event buyers of today are looking for smart, forward-thinking destinations and venues that can meet their requirements; for venues that can showcase exciting, local, fresh foods, and for suppliers that understand their commitment to recycling, energy emissions, water usage and waste, and who champion and provide high-tech innovation.”

To ensure it delivers a sustainable event itself, IACC has entered a review process with Events Industry Council (EIC) using its 2019 IACC Europe Knowledge Festivalas a case study in being the first to attain the EIC Sustainable Event Standards certification. The certification body will be looking at various aspects of event planning and performance of the Brussels event, including innovation in operations, F&B offering and waste management.


Lotta Giesenfeld Boman, IACC Europe President, comments on the initiative: “Sustainability is not just about replacing plastic straws, it’s about wider venue operations, management and ethos. With some venues being in the infancy of their sustainable journey, and others having already come a long way, we can learn a lot from each other.

“This is why we decided to focus our upcoming Europe Knowledge Festival programme around the theme of sustainability. We want to inspire and support all our members to take action towards preserving our environment, promoting a healthy, inclusive society and supporting thriving economies and communities that their events impact. It is important for us to lead by example and demonstrate how delivering a sustainable event can be achieved, while providing our 130+ delegates with actionable takeaways.”


Tracy Stuckrath of thrive! meetings & events (pictured top), who is set to deliver two workshops focussed on sustainability during the Brussels event, comments on sustainability trends she sees emerging: “The sustainability trend I see emerging very rapidly  is the increasing number of people following a plant-based diet. More and more people are choosing to eat a more plant-based diet and avoid food products with artificial ingredients and GMOs. As an industry, we need to reinvent the vegetarian, vegan and other ‘free-from’ foods that we have tried to offer to really embrace the opportunity to create healthier options for our attendees and the planet.

“During the ‘Food Rules’ session at IACC Europe Knowledge Festival, we’ll discuss food laws in Europe and how they impact food and beverage offerings at events, as well as legal and ethical responsibilities organisers must follow with regards to F&B. During the ‘Sustainable F&B’ session, we’ll provide solutions for conference centres to provide more sustainable events through the F&B they source and serve, including how to reduce food waste, a huge challenge that the industry is currently facing.”

The IACC Europe Knowledge Festival is designed to educate and inspire through highly engaging workshops, ranging from open forum debates, to campfire session, experiential learning and cultural education, all of which will appeal to the diverse learning styles of attendees.

Topics covered during the 2019 event, which takes place from 4-6 October at Dolce La Hulpe in Brussels, Belgium, include wellness, food & beverage, technology and digital trends, meeting room design, marketing and sustainability in the events industry. To view the entire event programme and to register, visitiacconline.org/events/iacc-europe-knowledge-festival.


IACC is the industry’s leading association for small to mid-sized global meeting focused venues. thrive! meetings & events is a food & beverage consultancy.

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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