Our guide for a More Sustainable Events Industry

Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg has a message that predicts the future for events professionals;

‘After COP24 I have been invited to speak in places like Panama, New York, San Fransisco, Abu Dhabi, Vancouver, British Virgin Islands. But sadly our remaining carbon budget will not allow any such travels. My generation won’t be able to fly other than for emergencies in a foreseeable future…’

Imagine the future of the events industry if every sixteen year old in 2019 is not flying in 2026, when they enter the workforce. Imagine the future of face to face if by 2026 the next generation prioritise saving carbon because they don’t know the positive social, economic and environmental impacts travelling can have.

If Greta is an example of how our future workforce will prioritise the events industry has less than seven years to tell the story of the power of events and their role in keeping climate temperatures below 1.5ᵒC.

Paul Hawkin, an American environmentalist founded Project Drawdown which is a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming.

In the spirit of events professionals love for guides, we have taken three of the top ten solutions offered in Project Drawdown and created a guide which could be used to demonstrate the events industry’s potential to act to keep temperatures below 1.5ᵒC and could be used to create solutions so Greta and her peers don’t have to choose between the power of saving carbon and meeting face to face.

1. Only use venues whose fridges and air con units do not have HFCs. (Scientists estimate “the removal of HFCs will reduce global warming by nearly one degree Fahrenheit).

Imagine if venue booking systems like CVENT included a button to communicate this information about potential venues, Greta and her peers are likely to care much more about this than the number of banquet tables the ballroom can hold.

2. Provide vegan menus and give your attendees ways to reduce their food waste (eg. Requirements to confirm meal attendance in advance). Industry lobbying for food reuse policy would also help address the estimated “One third of food raised or prepared which does not make it from farm or factory to fork.”

3. Every event which includes a knowledge exchange to include a ‘giveback programme’ to support an increase in provision of education for women and girls. Every giveback programme can make a difference by addressing the barriers that impede 62 million girls around the world from realising their right to education would in turn lay a foundation for avoiding emissions by a rising population growth. Equal gender representation on events panels is another action. Our industry can talk to continually raise the conversation of equality in education for gender and demonstrate to Greta and her peers that the events industry is part of the solution not the problem.

This guide may be more challenging than ‘avoid plastic glasses’ and ‘use recycled paper’ but it is also an opportunity for our industry to be strategic and demonstrate the power of events and our role in reversing global warming. The time is limited to keep planning events the way we used to.