Get-togethers that do good and feel good

Sustainable meetings and events influence change and leave a positive legacy. According to the 2018 Global Economic Significance of Business Events report commissioned by the Events Industry Council, business meetings and events revealed a staggering US$1.07 trillion in worldwide spend in 2017, generating nearly 30 million jobs. So, it is safe to say by promoting the use of resources in an efficient and responsible way, the meetings and events industry can have a huge influence in helping to minimize the negative impact on the environment.

There are several benefits to building a sustainable meetings and events program for all stakeholders involved. With an increased focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, companies are able to improve their competitive advantage, mitigate risk, and capitalize on opportunities. This can also help demonstrate your ESG agendas, including environmental sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion whilst showcasing your principles and values.

See below some of the benefits to building a sustainable meetings and event program:

  • Raise awareness and inspire change.
  • Empower the brand´s reputation.
  • Attract investors, sponsors, and clients.
  • Generate cost savings.
  • Increase attendees’ health and well-being.
  • Greater connection and reward for attendees.
  • Attract top talent.
  • Trigger innovation.

According to Nora Lovell Marchant, Director, Global Risk, Compliance and ESG at American Express Global Business Travel, “When we can gather together again, meetings will be even more meaningful. Meetings and events aligned to ESG objectives create value and benefit stakeholders. Whether planning carbon-neutral meetings using carbon offsets or giving back to local communities with volunteer activities, sustainable and inclusive events are the future.”

Roadmap to sustainable meetings and events

It’s exciting to see organizations embracing sustainability with climate change remaining an important and growing consideration in meeting planning. According to the American Express Meetings & Event 2021 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, 79% of global respondents report that their organization emphasizes sustainability in meetings and events. But how do you translate good intentions into actions? Here is a roadmap for building a best-in-class sustainable events program:

  • Start with the strategy: The first step is to set out a clear sustainability strategy that defines your objectives and includes your event sustainability policy. This is critical to make sure specific guidelines and processes are in place to help you meet your sustainability goals and achieve their desired outcomes. The policy should be linked to your organization´s ESG and materiality policies to help you address the relevant sustainability issues and concerns that are specific to your events.
  • Allow time for planning: Organizing a sustainable event starts long before the event takes place and continues after it ends. Consider every touchpoint and determine where you could incorporate sustainable practices whether this is in relation to gifting, using eco-friendly food packaging, understanding food requirements to avoid food waste, or using mobile apps to minimize printing requirements, etc.
  • Engage with your supply chain: Sustainability is a game-changer in procurement so it’s important that your suppliers understand what you want to achieve and what it could mean for your relationship. Developing a sustainable supplier engagement strategy can help you reap the benefits of a green supply chain. Share your policy with suppliers early and often, including in request for proposals. Get their insights to improve your policy. Meet regularly with your suppliers to engage on sustainability and collaborate on how to achieve the best outcomes.
  • Make sure your stakeholders are on board. Communicating with your internal stakeholders will help drive engagement and adoption of your sustainability strategy. The success relies on them understanding their role and how they can contribute to driving sustainable meetings and events. But don’t stop there: make sure you also communicate with your wider community of stakeholders, including event attendees and shareholders. Make them aware of what you’re doing as an organization to drive the green agenda.
  • Track your progress: Monitoring and reporting the impact of your sustainability activities is key to understanding and communicating the impact of your green initiatives. Without this insight into your performance, you won’t be able to review your progress and work with your suppliers to drive improvements. You can´t manage what you don´t measure.

Event sustainability considerations

When building a best-in class sustainable meetings and events program, it is important to incorporate the highest industry standards and best practices to your event planning and operation processes.

We recommend organizations align their values and goals while taking into consideration how best to source and plan sustainable meetings and events. Here are some key elements to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions generated by your event, shrink the event´s carbon footprint as well as promote responsible and limited consumption:

  • Procurement: As a general principle, always select suppliers that are independently accredited and certified as sustainable and have sustainability policies in place. Engage your suppliers to enhance your sustainability policy and services. Discuss and negotiate sustainability practices in your agreements.
  • Destinations: Promote sustainable destinations that offer sustainable initiatives and that require transportation strategies that minimize greenhouse emissions.
  • Venues: Recommend accommodation and venues that mitigate usage of energy, water, and waste and promote renewal energies. Selecting venues that are centrally located will promote walking to and from your event.
  • Waste: Minimize plastic, paper, and any waste, avoiding disposable products while promoting the use of technology and reusable elements. Increasingly, meeting owners and attendees will expect you to use recyclable options for gifting and event name badges.
  • Ground transportation: If you need to provide transfers, use providers who offer fossil-free vehicles and carbon-neutral transport options.
  • Food & beverage: Source local, organic, and seasonal items, minimize meat options, and adapt menus to include farm-to-table experiences.
  • Carbon-neutral events: Work with your meetings and events specialists to calculate the CO2 generated by your event and offset through accredited projects (plan mitigations such as carbon offsets).
  • Diversity: Support the use of diverse, equitable, and inclusive suppliers to align with your organization’s ESG strategy.

Making the transition to sustainable meetings and events won’t happen overnight – it’s a process, and you will learn more every day as you roll out your sustainability strategy and interact with your suppliers. Don’t be afraid to start slowly and work your way up. And make sure you always share your success with all your stakeholders – including your suppliers and event owners. People love to be part of something amazing.

American Express Meetings & Events sustainability team provides a best-in-class sustainability approach to meetings and events, incorporating the highest industry standards and best practices for event planning. Our team will align with your values and goals and work in partnership with you to plan and deliver a sustainable, inclusive, diverse, and socially responsible meetings and events program.