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How To Set Sustainability KPIs For Your Events Programme

This article was originally published On The Collective’s portfolio

No longer an area of events we can pay lip service to, sustainability is an integral part of how we now deliver our events programmes. Whilst vast improvements are being made across the events world, so often, the data tracking element is being missed, with brands unclear on how to measure their efforts. It can feel like a daunting process to understand which KPIs to measure on an event, especially when there are so many areas to track. In this article we’ll break down the key areas you can measure on your events and how you go about setting KPIs both across your annual events programme and by single event.

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Step 1: Understanding net zero vs carbon neutral

Before you begin setting your sustainability Metrics and KPIs, it’s important to understand the difference between two terms that are often used interchangeably: Net Zero and Carbon Neutral.

Net Zero means that the total amount of carbon emissions produced by an event is equal to the amount of carbon emissions offset or reduced somewhere else.

On the other hand, Carbon Neutral means that all of the carbon emissions produced by an event are offset or reduced without producing any additional emissions.

While both concepts have similar aims, there are some key differences that should be taken into consideration when setting your sustainability KPIs.

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Step 2: Carbon Mitigation vs Offsetting: knowing the difference

When delivering sustainable events, an integral part of this is understanding where you might mitigate or offset. Understanding this from the start will not only drive decisions throughout, especially with elements such as travel, but it will also determine the goals you’re setting and how you’re tracking these goals. But what’s the difference between mitigating and offsetting carbon?

Carbon mitigation is any action that reduces or removes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere. Generally, this means reducing your energy consumption through changing behaviours like encouraging people to take public transport or walking to an event or choosing a destination reachable by train versus plane.

As Carbon Mitigation works to avoid putting harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, this is the approach that should always be favoured by companies. Brands that choose to offset instead of mitigate are those that are more likely deemed to be greenwashing.

Some ways to mitigate can include: 

– Opting for economy over business class flights
– Choosing a destination accessible by rail vs flights

– Locally sourced options
– A vegetarian menu

– Local suppliers
– Electric vehicles

Carbon offsetting is a process by which businesses can fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to neutralise their own emissions from activities such as air travel. This means paying for projects that help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, such as forestry projects, renewable energy projects, or energy efficiency schemes. By offsetting your carbon emissions, you are helping to balance out the negative externalities caused by your events programme.

Some examples of carbon offsetting projects include: 
– Reforestation projects
– Solar energy projects that produce clean electricity with no carbon output.
– Wind power projects and renewable energy
– Community projects to support energy efficiency

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Step 3: Setting sustainable KPIs

When creating sustainability KPIs, they should aim to cover the key areas without going overboard. The more KPIs you try to track, the more likely you’ll set yourself up to fail. Start by tracking the areas that won’t overburden teams initially before moving on to more complex tracking once the groundwork is in place.

Your sustainability KPIs should reflect your event types, i.e. a virtual event will have differing KPIs from an incentive event. Map out all the types of events your business holds across a year so you can determine what you should be covering, plus any possible gaps.

Look at existing events and their processes to date, such as what is currently recycled, how attendees normally travel, or how many bottles of water were purchased. The aim here is to capture baseline data that you can improve on.


Step 4: Understanding how to measure

When setting your KPIs, it’s important to assess how each will be measured. Can the events team collate the data? Does it need an external agency to track it? What units will be used? i.e., CO2 or carbon equivalents, CO2e (the sum of carbon plus all other emissions like methane converted into carbon). What portal works best for the team involved? A spreadsheet? A tracking tool? All these are key elements to determine to ensure that you’re hitting your tracking goals.


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Step 5: Identify the owners of each sustainability metric

Once you have set the sustainability metrics and KPIs, you will want to set who has ownership of each. By assigning a champion to the key elements, you can better set yourself up for success. This will also help to drive better sustainable decision-making from the teams as they learn where improvements can be made.


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Step 6: Engage stakeholders, partners and suppliers

Engagement shouldn’t stop once attendees have gone home. There are so many opportunities to create an extended community post-event. Create a communications plan that creates a legacy beyond the finish of the event. This might include sharing of the content sessions on demand, continuing to engage in forums, or keeping teams accountable with their objectives set at the conference. By keeping this community continually engaged until your next event, you will have an audience readily available with ideas and opinions to help you formulate
future experiences.

061523_BCDME_The Sustainability Guide Global Insights_Landing Page Graphic 1200x628

The 2023 Sustainability Guide: Global Insights is out now. Click here to access your copy and find out the latest global sustainability trends.


Originally published Jul 4, 2023 4:28:53 AM
Last updated on Jul 6, 2023 11:43:23 AM

Written by The Collective by BCD Meetings & Events


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