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Lowering Emissions In Meetings and Events

As we know, sustainability continues to be a focus within the meetings and events industry. Planners want to factor sustainability into their event strategies and desire to understand and measure the non-traditional elements contributing to overall emissions.

After launching our industry’s first ISO-certified carbon emissions calculator for meetings and events, we talk with one of our experts to understand how companies can approach creating events with lower emissions.


Improving sustainability – How to lower emissions for your next meeting or event

What should organizations first ask themselves if they want to lower their carbon footprint for an event?

The first consideration is asking how to avoid rather than offset carbon emissions. Right from the start of the planning process, you should consider all the aspects of the event that can limit your emissions, including whether the event itself has to take place and if all participants need to join in person – could it be held virtually or be a hybrid event.

Once that decision has been made you need to review where the best location to hold the event will be to limit the travel for those attending. Travel can account for up to 70% of an event’s total emissions so this can have a massive impact.

Another major consideration is ensuring you have the data available both pre and post-event in order to conduct a thorough analysis of the event. Whilst industry assumptions can be used for certain categories of event planning, to analyze and forecast the impact of travel you have to have specific information. Similarly, for a post-event calculation, you need to have tracked your key metrics through the life cycle of the event.

Two event planners sat in a meeting room surrounded by plants | Global Agency. BCD Meetings & Events

What are some tangible areas of an event where CO2 emissions can be examined?

Travel: The biggest and easiest area with existing calculations are flights, cars and rail. Airport transfer should also be taken into account. Consider having folks share or take public transportation where available.

Meeting space: Consider plenary rooms/syndicate space etc. and how they can be reduced.

F&B: There is an increasing focus on the footprint of our food and considerations on the relative emissions of serving different menu choices and an increasing number of vegetarian/vegan options.

Supply chain: Take into account if your suppliers share the same ethos as you, are they committed to reducing their emissions? Are they local when possible?

Related article: How business travelers can invest in the planet


How can decision-makers be influenced to choose more sustainable options?

Provide them with visibility of the potential impacts and options to mitigate these at the earliest stages of planning and inform them of viable alternatives that don’t impact the goals of the event or the attendee experience. Link your initiatives and targets for events to the overall company goals on sustainability, making it more real and easier to convey a consistent message.

You can also create and share case studies of events that have successfully incorporated good sustainability choices into their programmes. Make it mandatory for post-event debriefs to include an area on what sustainable goals were achieved to showcase wins.


What types of data points can planners utilise to calculate an event’s carbon footprint?

The big focus should be on accurate data on travel as it has the biggest impact. Flight analysis provides the biggest opportunity for which you need to use points of origin and class of travel to view the impact. Data can also include distance travelled by car, rail, air, and public transport.

For the onsite portion, measurements in regards to the meeting space-sq. meters used, what is the standard of hotel, room nights used, % of vegetarian meals for F&B, and giveaways/room gifts all contain data that can be analysed to provide insights on the carbon footprint of an event.

Related article: 7 immersive experiences for a more sustainable event 


What are the benefits of using a technology tool with ISO certification to measure an event’s CO2 emissions?

It means there will be a consistent approach used for each event and also that the client can be assured of accurate results as the data have been validated. Also, all aspects of the meeting will be taken into account and go through the same rigorous tests, including transport, food, food waste, plastic usage, accommodation, heating, etc.

What does having ISO certification mean for meetings and events?

ISO standards are internationally agreed upon by experts and are thought of as a formula that describes the best way of doing something. In meetings and events, this can mean the process and methodology for development for a product has been rigorously tested and analyzed by an external (and independent) auditor.


Originally published Aug 16, 2022 3:36:33 AM
Last updated on Feb 16, 2023 7:58:55 PM

Ben Hoeksma profile picture

Written by Ben Hoeksma



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