Develop a Sustainable Event Strategy to Last a Lifetime sustainability

Updated Jan 23rd, 2024 by   Nicolas Zenker

It’s no secret that being green is important — and not just in our daily lives but in our business operations, too. But unfortunately, the events world just isn’t doing enough concrete things to help move things in the right direction at this time. 

According to a survey from Ovation Global DMC, only 33% of the respondents measured the carbon emissions of the events they organize — and only 14% of these organizations require the use of vendors who are actively working towards net-zero carbon events. 

But despite the efforts across the industry still being on the lower end, huge progress has been made in recent years to build a more sustainable future for events. It will continue to be a rising trend in future years — so it’s especially important to be proactive in your own business’s approach to event sustainability. 

Let’s talk about event sustainability

What exactly is “event sustainability”? 

Event sustainability is a philosophy in managing events that considers a few important elements – namely, environmental protection while still supporting economic and social growth across the industry.  

According to the Events Council, there are four key principles.

First, event organizers and industry suppliers all share the responsibility of implementing and communicating sustainable practices to stakeholders.

The basic environmental practices must include resource conservation, carbon emission and waste reduction, biodiversity preservation, and supply chain management with an emphasis on responsible purchasing. 

Social considerations include universal human rights, community impact, labor practices, cultural respect, safety and security, and overall health and well-being.

And lastly, it is key for sustainable events to support thriving economic practices through collaboration, partnerships, local support, responsible governance, and transparency.

But what does all of this mean? Well, it means it’s our responsibility as event coordinators, planners, and organizers to design and implement a sustainable event strategy — not just for business continuity but for the betterment of our planet as a whole. We all have a part to play!

Yes, this concept can seem overwhelming. Where do we even begin? Glad you asked! Keep reading to see seven things you can do as soon as today to start making this strategy a reality.

Analyze your current strategy’s total impact

Every good plan needs a starting point. Take time to analyze everything in your current event strategy and review past events to understand what your existing impact is today. The things you should take into consideration include:

  • How much transportation is required for your staff and attendees? Can you adjust your location to reduce transportation needs?
  • Are the venues you’re using working to be more energy efficient?
  • How much of an impact is your food and beverage making on your event’s overall footprint? Can you source locally farmed food instead?
  • What’s the waste situation like as a result of the event?
  • Are you prioritizing the use of eco-conscious materials and suppliers?

Now that you’ve completed an analysis of your current eco-strategy pick an area to start making step-by-step improvements. Based on your total analysis, start setting goals and measurable targets to help shape your new and improved sustainability strategy.

Bring your events online (or outside!) when you can

Unsurprisingly, data shows that the most significant environmental impact related to events comes from getting to and from events, with travel accounting for an average of 78% of an event’s carbon footprint. 

With that knowledge under your belt, review your upcoming events calendar and see if there are any that you can bring online as a virtual event — or make it into a hybrid event that allows attendees to still join in if they are unable to attend physically. 

Transforming an in-person event into a virtual one will significantly minimize your carbon footprint, albeit not completely eliminate it. But it’s important to recognize that sustainability is not about being perfect — it’s about making conscious choices that will have a positive impact.

If your events must go on in an in-person format, it’s time to make some environmentally friendly decisions about the venue, vendors, and suppliers you decide to use. 

When you can (weather and event-type permitting), think outside the box and consider hosting your events outdoors! There are plenty of outdoor venues that you can choose from all around the world. 

Host your event with a green event venue that is actively working to meet sustainability guidelines and certifications. Examples of these certifications include:

  • Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)
  • IACC Green Star
  • Green Globes

Similarly, consider who you’re using as a vendor for the event. Here’s a list of sustainable vendors who have been pre-vetted by other event professionals located all across the world to get you started.

Consider every aspect of your event, and consider how you could decrease and eliminate excess waste. 

  • Does your food & beverage vendor utilize recycling efforts such as compostable utensils? 
  • Can you provide ride-sharing or carpooling options to cut down on transportation emissions to and from your event? Can you offer public transportation vouchers?
  • Can you minimize energy consumption with natural or LED lighting and other energy-efficient tools?
  • What other incentives can you offer your attendees to reduce waste while at the event?

For example, you could gift reusable water bottles and provide plenty of water refill stations to avoid single-use plastic water bottles. 

Put your money where your mouth is — invest in sustainable practices. 

Here’s the thing: your event sustainability strategy isn’t going to come together overnight magically. It will take time, effort, and plenty of trial and error. It’s going to look very different year after year, and it’s going to need quite a few iterations before it starts to become a natural part of your event planning process. It will be uncomfortable, but then again, some of the most important things in life can be difficult to navigate at first. But it’s crucial for not just the survival of our industry but for humankind, too. 

Together, we can shift the impact and strain our industry places on our planet — and change how events work for generations to come. 

Ready to start developing your event sustainability initiative? AddEvent can help — use our digital event management tool to create and share calendars and events with your users, all online! Signing up is free — what are you waiting for?

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