Planning events that don’t cost the earth

Expert Opinion World
Planning events that don’t cost the earth

Ingrid Guepin, special project manager at ATPI Corporate Events NL, shares tips on making events more sustainable in a post-Covid-19 world:


The opportunities presented by the return of events also brings with it a chance to re-think past approaches and ensure that sustainability is integrated into all aspects of planning. Events taking place after this hiatus can and should be redesigned in a way that is faithful to social and environmental commitments. To ensure that all elements are conducted responsibly, here are five ways to help shape your approach to future event policies in order to make them more sustainable.

  1. Location, Location, Location

For both the sake of the environment and convenience, it makes sense to book guests into accommodation that is close to the venue itself in order to reduce the need for unnecessary travel. Think about what your balance between distance, price and other factors will be. Where local accommodation isn’t readily available, or is out of budget, consider investigating the possibility of arranging alternative travel options that are more environmentally friendly than conventional taxis and cars, such as electric or hybrid taxis, or even make the most of city e-bike initiatives.

  1. Go Plastic-Free

Many of the single or low-use plastics that are synonymous with events are completely unnecessary. All of these and more can be removed or substituted by investing in longer-life alternatives that can be reused. Work with your suppliers to look at compostable food packaging, replace printed materials with digital alternatives, work to minimise waste, and have a plan for how to responsibly manage any waste that can’t be avoided over the course of your event.

  1. Net-Zero to Hero

This seems an ambitious goal, but it is an entirely feasible one. The first step involves appraising your event and its supply chain and seeing exactly where your emissions are coming from. The obvious contributors – such as your attendees’ travel, emissions from the venue’s operation, and the transport of items such as food – need to be considered alongside those more difficult to estimate, such as the energy consumption of equipment used at the event. Looking for suppliers whose sustainability standards have been vetted by a credible third-party such as the B Corporation, Green Globe or Green Seal, can give you the assurance that you need. And to compensate for any unavoidable emissions, or those that you cannot find a greener alternative for, work with a trusted carbon offsetting partner to achieve climate neutrality.

  1. Speaking of Sustainability

Think about your values as an organisation and how these can be represented in your event content. When weighing up speakers and sponsors, consider whether their goals and policies align with your overall sustainability mission. Where relevant, invite speakers who can add value to your attendees’ experience by sharing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) best practices and actionable insights. And of course, ensure that speakers represent a diversity of perspectives and experiences.

  1. Think Global, Act Local

Events should tap into the local potential of the host cities and countries in which they find themselves. Form relationships with in-destination suppliers who bring locally sourced and manufactured products to the event. Make the most of local experts on event teams – from technicians to entertainment and catering – to ensure that events bring a positive economic impact to your chosen destination.

Setting sustainability goals for an event requires creative thinking from event planners. However, making your event sustainable needn’t be a burden, and it doesn’t mean compromising on value for attendees. People are increasingly making values-based decisions and making explicit the steps that you are taking to minimise the impact of your event on the environment will send a positive message to potential attendees. Sustainable alternatives are not always more expensive and it’s much more important that these events don’t cost the earth.

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

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