Sustainable event management: Definition and resources

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A woman organizing event passes

Recently, there has been a greater emphasis on sustainability across different industries. Everyone from the government authorities to consumer groups is worried about the impact of business actions on the environment. In the events industry, this has quickly translated into a demand for sustainable events. 

Today society focuses on environmental degradation, and in the near future, sustainable events planning could become a game-changer for both event organizers and events themselves. 

What is sustainable event management?

Sustainable event management is a set of protocols that event managers, operators, and organizations can use to reduce the impact of events on the environment and make them greener. It encompasses a broad set of practices to ensure that an event doesn’t negatively impact the place, community, or society at large from an environmental point of view.

Any industry that has adopted sustainability has understood one thing – for any policy or program to be effective, it has to be customized to that industry's unique needs and practices. As a result, sustainable events management should be implemented in a way that addresses the particular challenges and realities of each event. 

This ensures variation of sustainable event management from one event to another simply because no two events are the same. As the number of participants, type of travel and accommodation, use of infrastructure, and the details of the venue may vary, sustainable practices for the events industry will have to be tailored to the specific framework and modality of each event.

If it’s a product launch, for example, you might avoid using one-time posters or standees. For a conference, the use of physical cards could be replaced by virtual passes. A training session might be organized in a completely paperless way to reduce wastage.

You could also create an initiative to encourage the participants to be more mindful of their environmental impact. For instance, an email encouraging attendees to travel together, avoid disposable cutlery, or use biodegradable containers could be a great way to implement sustainability at your event.

The need for sustainable event management

The need for sustainable events planning can be seen through an event’s impact on the ecosystem. In traditional in-person events, the amount of waste generated is rarely analyzed. While most metrics of events planning are focused on the number of participants or interactions, the wasted products from an event are hardly aggregated or accounted for.

Everything from extensive and excessive use of electricity to waste from plastic utensils impacts the environment. While these are some of the obvious instances of waste, there is also the invisible impact we may not even notice. 

When hundreds, if not thousands, of people have to travel by flight or road, there is an associated increase in carbon dioxide emission from those fossil-fuel-powered modes of transport. 

The larger an event, the more significant its impact will be. And as event managers know, in-person events are only getting bigger and flashier. This is why it’s so important to create an industry-wide focus on sustainable event management and rollout best practices to systematically reduce the industry’s collective impact on the environment. 

Sustainable event management might also grow in importance due to external factors. Advocacy groups and consumers are increasingly preferring organizations that have sustainable practices and are aligned to progressive causes. Any event organized by a brand and found to negatively impact the environment would bring bad press to the brand.

In a world driven by social media discourses, this can cause some serious damage to brand equity. And hashtags can begin to trend against the company, attracting greater public and media scrutiny.

Secondly, events also impact the immediate neighborhoods and communities in which they are held. These are true for everything from conferences to international sports competitions. What’s worse, the environmental effects of events might be visible for long after the event. And this might put the organization and the event managers under the spotlight. 

The way to avoid this is by instituting a set of sustainable event management policies before the event and living up to those standards. This will encourage the local community and government authorities to support the event instead of criticizing it.

How to make an event sustainable

Event managers and organizations can take several steps to make events sustainable. The adoption of these practices should be prioritized according to the event's needs.

Coordinate waste management

One of the most effective steps in sustainable event management is adopting a coordinated waste management program. The objective should be to send no waste to the landfill. This would call for prior communication with participants emphasizing the need to use recyclable materials.

Event managers should also share this directive with the caterers and other supporting services at the event. As a report on the Waste Management Phoenix Open of 2018 showed, a goal of zero waste can be attained even when there are more than 700,000 participants!

Organize group transportation

Another way is by encouraging participants to avoid using personal forms of transport. Whether it’s a large or small event, attendees driving to the event venue in their own cars create a significant amount of emissions. For larger events like music festivals, the problem is considerably bigger.

Organizers can request participants to travel together or use energy-efficient forms of travel, including public transportation and bikes. Carpooling can also be arranged beforehand. While these steps will still involve some form of travel, the focus here is to use low-emission methods. 

Partner with relevant organizations

Event managers or companies may not have the experience, expertise, or bandwidth to deal with the challenge of environmental waste created by events. This is why companies should partner with organizations that have the relevant knowledge and capability to help tackle the problem.

Almost every city in America has multiple organizations committed to environmental preservation. While organizing the event, it would be helpful to contact these organizations who would be able to give locally relevant insights and suggestions. 

Reusing signages and using recyclable utensils and plates will be easier when these organizations can connect you with businesses that handle or produce them at scale.

Digital solutions for reducing paper usage

Paper is one of the most used materials in any event. From posters to flyers to standees to event documents, it can be found everywhere. Helping reduce the use of paper will go a long way in making the event sustainable. The good news is that technology can provide the right solutions when incorporated from the planning stage.

If participants have to sign registration documents, organizers can use DocuSign or eversign. Attendees can be encouraged to take notes on their laptops or note-taking apps on their mobile phones. All content should be digitally accessible in the cloud, further discouraging participants from requesting paper documents. 

Sustainability in virtual events

Admittedly, sustainability may not have been the main driver for the adoption of virtual events. But it has been one of the most dominant positive effects. Virtual events don’t need all the factors that negatively increase the environment in a live event.

Participants don’t have to travel, which considerably reduces the collective carbon emission of the event. There is also no need to find lodging or use catering services for the attendees. 

Importantly, since virtual events can easily scale, they might reduce the need for smaller offline events. For these events to be genuinely sustainable, organizers should encourage participants to avoid using paper wherever they might be attending the event.

How can remote simultaneous interpretation solutions help

Remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) enables panelists or participants who speak different languages to interact with each other seamlessly. RSI solutions can serve different types of events: on-site, online, and hybrid. 

What makes these solutions environmental-friendly? First things first – reduced carbon footprint. You can probably imagine how many resources attendees, organizers, and interpreters need to reach an on-site location of an event. 

Not to mention the large space and massive equipment necessary to accommodate a single on-site meeting. 

Well, RSI comes in handy here, offering tools for a seamless online or hybrid meeting experience for conferences and meetings worldwide. Meaning an event can be either fully or partially remote, significantly reducing travel resources.

And that’s not all. Thanks to web-based technology, no unnecessary use of paper is left. Participants can connect to the event from anywhere with just a click on their device. In the meantime, interpreters work with an intuitive soft console. 

Growing environmental concerns and pressure from consumers and regulatory bodies make sustainable event planning not a luxury but a necessity of our times. In other words, companies that can deliver sustainable events will have the upper hand in the industry.

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Published on

Feb 21, 2022

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