Why is sustainable event management important?

We continue are guest blog series by welcoming Liv, Senior Digital Content Executive at HeadBox. Liv shares a fascinating insight on sustainable event management and practical tips you can engage to approach your planning conscientiously.

The events industry has a huge carbon footprint. Imagine the amount of electricity, waste and carbon emissions accumulated from one big event such as a company wide private party, conference or festival.

A typical conference produces 1.89KG of waste per day, 1.16KG of which will go straight to landfill. For a three-day conference with 1,000 delegates you can expect 560KG of waste, which is equivalent to 4 small cars. Multiply this by the number of conferences one company has per year and you might expect 2,240KG of waste per year from one company’s conference events alone, let alone workshops, parties and private dining. Meetgreen.com

In short there’s a lot of waste and not much large-scale action is being done to make events more sustainable.

As an event planner you need to lead the way when it comes to green events. There are plenty of choices and changes you can make to improve the sustainability of your event. The changes are relatively easy to make and it’s never been more important to put your best foot forward when it comes to organising sustainable events.

From building a stronger brand and business case for sponsors to your personal social responsibility of reducing your carbon footprint, we’ve explained why sustainable event management is important, and exactly what you can do to start organising for environmentally friendly events.

Why is sustainable event management important?

Climate change is a global crisis. The average surface temperature of the earth is rising, global levels of greenhouse gases are increasing and the world’s sea levels are rising. Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising and we know that humans are the cause of this.

All of the above are on a drastic upward incline and without any major action this isn’t going to slow down any time soon. It’s down to all of us to make changes to the way we live and work. Event planners have a big responsibility not just to their businesses, but to the planet.

The global media is shining a spotlight on sustainability more and more, and the millennial generation of consumers, whether B2B or B2C, is increasingly influenced by corporate social responsibility when it comes to their buying patterns. If you can show existing and potential new clients that you are working to make positive changes to your events to make them more sustainable, you are increasingly likely to retain existing clients and to stand out from other businesses when competing for new audiences.

3 Business benefits of sustainable event management

1. Brand Reputation

Improve your brand reputation and make a statement that you are sustainable and considerate when it comes to climate change. Building out your events’ social responsibility is beneficial in so many ways from generating new customers who are environmentally conscious to building on the financial value of your event that might open up new opportunities in terms of sponsorship and funding.

2. Cost savings

Implementing environmentally friendly changes for your event can save your business money. Instead of spending lots of money on importing food, for example, source local food and reduce the cost of catering at the same time as reducing your carbon footprint.

It will also improve the sustainability of your business in the long-term. If you are less dependent on natural resources you will not have to deal with the rising prices of resources.

3. Increase Investment Opportunity

Going green can open up new revenue opportunities in terms of sponsorship and investment for your event. Increasingly if you are seen as a socially conscious company you are more attractive when it comes to sponsors, funding and business deals. Organising sustainable events opens you up to a different range of and more sponsors, what company doesn’t want to be seen supporting an environmentally friendly event?

How to make your event more environmentally friendly?

Hire a sustainable venue

Making a massive impact when it comes to sustainable event management largely comes down to the venue you hire. If you pick a venue that is already doing its bit, it will make your job a lot easier. There are plenty of green venues around the country, with some of our favourites in London. Perhaps the most famous sustainable venue is The Crystal in London’s Victoria Dock. Incredibly, their annual heating bill comes in at an impressive £0 as they use 100% natural heat sources. In fact, it’s down to 199 ground source pipes that heat and cool the building naturally meaning there is no need for harmful fossil fuels at all.

Go Paperless

In the age of technology, going paperless shouldn’t be tricky at all. However, in our experience the events industry does typically rely on a lot of paper. We’ve found some online tools make going paperless even easier. You could set up your event invitations on Eventbrite or organise your attendees through an event management software like Bizzabo. Tools like these make every touchpoint a logistical dream, leaving you no reason to use unnecessary paper.

If you’re hoping to run a sustainable conference, it’s a great idea to encourage your exhibitors to use interactive tablets for their sales pitch rather than handing out goody bags full of paper and plastic that people just don’t need. Digital conference campaigns are just as effective as the traditional goody bag approach, and are often even more valuable since you leave the conference with the ability to send follow ups by email and to invite the contacts you met to a meeting later.

Waste Management

Waste management is so important when it comes to creating a sustainable event. According to recent statistics, landfills are filled with up to 40-50% paper waste products and plastic bags. By recycling, reusing and reducing our waste we will be contributing massively to the decrease of carbon emissions by improving your events carbon footprint.

Event waste should be something you think about from the beginning of your event planning process. Use initiatives such as biodegradable cups and utensils and make it as easy as possible for your event attendees to recycle what they use whilst they’re at your event. Provide information points on recycling across the event and use the opportunity to educate your attendees and encourage them to make easy choices when it comes to recycling.

Select caterers and sponsors who have a composting and recycling strategy in place. This will go a long way in helping your overall event waste management. You could also use technology such as Olio, a food sharing revolution. Instead of throwing away the leftover food from your event, Olio helps you share your leftover food with people nearby. This is a simple and effective way to reduce food waste at your event and in turn is a great way to show social responsibility to the local community.

Carbon Footprint Management

Do you know what creates the carbon footprint of your event?

Your carbon footprint is anything and everything that contributes to carbon emissions and thus a negative effect on the environment. From the venue energy to guest travel, and from catering to freight. So, how can you shrink your event carbon footprint? In the ideal world you would choose locations that are close to your attendees to reduce travel to and from the event, provide the option to virtually attend your event for overseas guests, and choose your caterers and suppliers carefully. Try to opt for local suppliers and think about what they are doing to reduce their own carbon footprint.

From choosing locally sourced food to using low energy AV equipment, there are plenty of easy ways you can manage your carbon footprint. Make a list of all the things that are achievable for your event and ensure that your team stick to these.

Organising a sustainable event isn’t as daunting as it seems. It’s all about making small but impactful changes in your event planning process that start your journey towards sustainable events and improve your carbon footprint, social responsibility and brand reputation.

Liv is the Senior Digital Content Executive at HeadBox. HeadBox is the UK's only SaaS enabled online marketplace where you can instantly search, book and pay for inspiring meeting, off-site and event Spaces.

Venue image credit: ExCel London