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EventDecision’s Matt Grey outlines some actions required for making better sustainability decision in the event industry:


Over the next three months we’ll be seeing a lot about sustainability.

We’ll watch as governments announce ambitious targets and policies, as scientists broadcast some dire statistics – and as brand after brand launch their consumer sustainability campaigns.

Agencies large and small will strive to create and deliver events at net-neutral, building back greener, better and innovatively sustainable.


At the start of November, the COP26 meeting takes place in Glasgow. COP stands for Conference of the Parties and it’s the 26th meeting. We’ll be hearing about the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. And what the world needs to do going forward.

This is a big deal.

Almost three-quarters of the world economy is now covered by net zero targets. Major shifts include clean energy being now the cheapest source of power in most countries and many of the world’s car manufacturers are shifting to EV and hybrid models. This is clearly good news. Yet there is a lot more work to be done, as the events sector is only too aware.

How can events contribute?

Due to public, industry, investor and stakeholder demands, our industry is under pressure to drive forward a sustainable agenda. This is welcomed – after all, other industries such as automotive are significantly ahead of us.

Events has no regulatory framework and the ‘I was there’ perception of some large in-person events has only very recently been forced to change.

Many organisations have sprung up to push sustainable agenda in event planning. Mostly focussing on the environmental aspect of event delivery, these range from companies supporting the re-use of event collateral to not-for-profit industry associations, task forces and ‘sustainability leads’ in virtually every brand and agency.

Every Request for Proposal issued by corporates and associations should now include sections dedicated to the sustainability of services requested.

Not least the sudden shock of Covid-19 pushing the whole industry digital within a few short months – now presenting us with the greatest opportunity of all to build sustainability into our own decision making. We can do this with hugely positive outcomes for the brands we represent.

What now?

Buyers, please heed the advice of sustainability consultants. They are there for you, to help you make better decisions in delivering events with reduced associated emissions. There are emerging protocols and guidance for your specific industry or sector.

Venues, work towards and achieve those all-important environmental credentials. While before, our clients were looking only at location, availability and price, more and more your green credentials will count towards better decisions being made client-side.

Agencies – you are the creative driving force. Increase engagement live and online and keep delivering the most awesome range of captivating events – but sustainably.

So what’s missing?

What do we gain if all this is not measured? Measuring events is not always simple. Each event, venue, destination, country and supply chain will have wildly varying emissions profiles. Reporting in a meaningful fashion can be problematic.

However, an accepted unit of measurement already exists, more often than not, tonnes of CO2; and the behaviour of audiences at a wide range of events can be accurately predicted.

Most of us have been predicting audience behaviour for years  in more traditional planning processes. Festivals, concerts, sports, conferences, kick-offs, training, product launches and experiential; local, regional and global. There is a great deal of experience in our industry about how these groups behave. Therefore, we can make meaningful calculations as to the consumption of these audiences at events.

So, we can predict participant behaviour and we can calculate the sustainability impact of those behaviours.

Now event planners can make significant choices on sustainability terms. We have another accepted criterion in the planning mix; in both in-person and virtual events

We can measure the effect of our decisions, at early planning stage.

Let’s work together to make better decisions and hope the politicians in Glasgow do so as well.


Matt Grey is Director at EventDecision – helping planners make better decisions.


Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail

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