What Could the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development mean for the event industry?

This month, Positive Impact's CEO, Fiona Pelham, outlines the crucial role the event industry has to play in this exciting year and the goals that will encourage the industry to fulfil its full potential through out 2017.

In 2017 the attention of the world’s governments and global business will turn to tourism to understand how tourism can be used to create positive social, economic and environmental impacts in the world, as the United Nations celebrates the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Imagine if government and business understood the role of events in creating positive social, economic and environmental impacts in the world. 
Imagine if it was clear that the only way the sustainable development goals (the framework which all governments are following) would be met was through an increased number of opportunities for people to come together to innovate, collaborate and learn (ie business,cultural and sport events). 
Imagine if global government and business understood the message that Meeting Professionals International (the largest association for meeting and event professionals) share; “When we meet we change the world” and that the positive change in the event industry will result in positive change in the tourism industry.

At this point I have to declare a conflict of interest- for the last 11 years I have lead a global not for profit (Positive Impact) which exists to create a sustainable event industry and we regularly see inspiring examples of positive change being caused by events. From hotel chains offsetting carbon to destination marketing campaigns about bees, from opening ceremonies of sport events highlighting climate change to incentive trips focusing on social impacts. There are numerous, inspiring examples of positive change within the event industry and 2017 is the time to tell this story.

Just telling the story of existing, inspiring examples of events which have a positive impact is nice.....but we think the imagination, passion and creative nature of the event industry is such that we can achieve more than storytelling so we have created some huge goals for 2017 including:

  1.  20,000 event professionals being educated in sustainability best practice
  2. Over 2 million event professionals sharing their best practice
  3. Over 1,000 people being in action as ambassadors for sustainability in the event industry
  4. Creating a piece of research suitable for global government level
  5. Showcasing at least 10 projects which demonstrate the event industry addressing challenges like climate change and the refugee crisis.

It is impossible for the team at Positive Impact to reach these goals alone (which is sort of the point because if we could deliver them it wouldn’t create much positive global change across the event industry). Our role will be to work with partners around the world, track actions being taken and communicate with the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism team. Of course we are looking for funding and sponsorship for this initiative but we are also keen to create partnerships for action and recognise great work already being done. For example our goal is to find a sponsor to create basic education which can be shared across groups of event professionals. So if you would like to sponsor OR if you would like to get your community of event professionals involved OR if you are already involved in an initiative like this, then please let us know (info@positive-impact-events.com)

In March we will be using our annual #CSRShareday to get best practice sharing via twitter in record breaking action (and by that time we hope to have funding to be able to capture more best practice via our website which is currently shared via twitter #shareapositiveimpact)

We will continue connecting with universities around the world, giving them an easy way to get their students involved as ambassadors for a future sustainable event industry and collaborating with any academics who can share their time for research. Our media contacts and industry associations will be vital in spreading the word as we tell the story of the Positive Impact of the global event industry.

The most challenging (and therefore most exciting!) of these goals is to showcase 10 projects demonstrating how the event industry is addressing global challenges such as climate change. Over the year our goal will be to raise funds so we can do more than showcase these projects but provide seed funding for them. For example using a €10,000 fund to trial an initiative to engage refugees with local events as an opportunity to create community and give people the opportunity to benefit from the power of events- the power of human to human connection.

Who knows how 2017 will go? Who knows if these goals will resonate with the global event industry and if partnerships can be created to achieve this? Who knows if global governments will be interested in hearing about the event industry during the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism? Despite these unknowns we are committed to reporting monthly on progress, sharing updates with the UN and raising the profile of the role of events in making a world that works for everyone.

If you are interested in being part of these initiatives please