New Sustainable Event Management – Forum Group’s Guide to Green Meetings

Welcome to Forum Group’s ‘Legacy’ blog series. Inspired by positive trending requirements to create events that are sustainable, socially responsible as well as high impact, we set out to provide a practical insight on creating events that are truly rewarding.

For years marketers and corporate planners have been put off delivering sustainable events as this implied additional, significant costs for an event budget. Here we break down the myths surrounding sustainable events and provide practical strategies to delivering green solutions.

Let’s transform your meetings to make a real difference and help you take advantage of our experience delivering green events.

So, what constitutes Sustainable Event Management? 

According to international standard ISO 20121, sustainable event management is the process of integrating environmental and social responsibility issues into event planning. Sustainable event management requires us to balance the needs and values of different stakeholders that are impacted by your event. On the one hand, you take steps to reduce significant negative impacts, or harm, such as waste products or carbon emissions. While on the other hand you also seek out opportunities for events to leave positive legacies that benefit communities, including philanthropic and volunteer projects. Let’s take a look at the benefits of sustainable events for your main stakeholder groups.

Stakeholder 1: Event attendee

Convenience: Sustainable events can be more convenient because they adapt technologies to help attendees get outcomes more efficiently, for instance through mobile apps and multi -channel hybrid events (e.g. webinars and face to face programs).

Rewarding: Sustainable events can be satisfying and interesting because they make it worth attending in person because the planner has taken steps to connect participants to a destination or the program in a meaningful way, perhaps through the authentic cuisine, local entertainment or a community service project.

Social consciousness: This matters to a large proportion of your current or potential attendees. If you can’t meet this expectation, they may be less likely to come along or to return to future events.

Stakeholder 2: Event Organiser

Increases goodwill towards your brand: Sustainable events can reduce risk from a planner’s perspective because you’re proactively anticipating the effect of your event on the environment, hence, creating a green meeting could help avoid wasteful representations of your brand to attendees, which might be adversely reviewed in the post event media.

Better for the bottom line: Making your events environmentally friendly benefits the environment but can also save money for your business or event budget. By implementing simple changes, it can make a difference to your bottom line.

E.g. accurate, seasonal and locally sourced food and beverage planning and design-for-reuse branding.

Unique Selling Proposition: Promoting your environmentally friendly methods can set your event apart from your competitors and attract new attendees who buy into your approach.

Attracting Revenue: By planning greener events you could increase your chances of investment from sponsors when you meet their CSR objectives or procurement criteria.

Stakeholder 3: Sponsors and Supporters

Increases goodwill towards your brand: Supporting and funding sustainable events can not only reduce risk from a sponsor’s perspective because you’re supporting events that are actively aiming to reduce their effect on the environment, but you are also helping attendees and other stakeholders make a connection between acts of sustainability, corporate social responsibility and your brand. Your support of the event and the way it links to sustainable approaches will be noted in the marketing material produce prior to the event, onsite and in the media following the event.

What do we know about waste generated at events?

On average, a single guest discards 1.89 kg of waste per day, of which 1.16 kg is landfill materials. To put this into perspective, that’s the equivalent of 2.6 (or 3480 kg) weight of compact cars for a 3-day 1000 person event going to landfill each time.

What we can do to reduce our carbon footprint at events?

Depending on your event type, your carbon footprint can vary. A local conference will have far fewer air travelling attendees, but car or train journeys could be most highly represented. Our suggested ways to reduce carbon footprint include:

  1. Providing remote or virtual event program for attendees.
  2. Choose an event location central to most attendees and participants to reduce the overall travel for most delegates.
  3. Select venues and hotels with strong green initiatives and programs in place.
  4. Why not consider incentivising carpooling for attendees?

Reduce Your Landfill Slice

The biggest problem is that approximately 41% event waste will go to landfill. We suggest ways to reduce this percentage by:

  • Selecting a destination, venue and caterers with good recycling and composting programs.
  • Provide waste stations, signs and monitors to help exhibitors and attendees sort their waste.
  • Take advantage of and improve donation programs particularly for food and exhibitor materials.

Reuse Wherever Possible

Re-purposing and up-cycling are big trends right now which should help with these initiatives. Ensure that when you are considering different elements you are thinking about their longevity and ability to be reused in the future.

Our team suggests we reduce, reuse, recycle:

  • Recycle plastic bags. They can be the bane of our planet but initiatives with supermarkets are meaning higher quality options are available that can be reused.
  • Reuse non-personalised items. You can reuse lanyards, badge holders, ribbons, signage holders, furniture and other materials so long as we avoid personalising them during an event.
  • Design your own food stations from an up-cycled piece of furniture, or repaint worn props to spruce new life into them. Our event managers have often hand crafted props and other event decor from re-purposed materials!
  • Keep signage generic. Use phrases such as “this way” or simply use arrows that can be used in any event rather than themed phrases or ideas.
  • You can use fancy chalk artistry that allows you to change the message without discarding the sign.
  • Recyclable materials. Whenever possible use signs that can be reused or portions of them that can be recycled or even make them yourself by up-cycling some old shelves into a rustic wooden sign.
  • Use biodegradable materials for items such as cutlery and plates.
  • Clearly label. Don’t assume that all attendees will know what to do with their recycling. Add cool graphics with examples of what goes where to help them out and avoid any confusion which saves resorting later.
  • Offer an incentive such as freebies or digital swag if attendees bring their recycling to you and sort it accordingly.

Extend Your Event Legacy

Share your success with the world and the people you serve. Let them know what you’ve waste you have reduced, what savings this represents, and how you will be using the difference. People want to share in your incredible moment. It may feel a little self-serving to demonstrate your sustainability success, remember you are modelling what can be achieved in this space and this will in turn inspire others.

How to spread the word about your green initiatives:

  • Post local initiatives you are working with on social media which not only markets yourself but raises awareness for the cause.
  • Include green symbols and compliance logos on marketing materials to be validated.
  • Link your posts back to your green policy to demonstrate how your practice is tied into an official approach.
  • Work with sponsors and partners to promote your shared initiatives to widen reach.