Organize Eco-Friendly Events

COVID-19 has had a lasting impact; it fast-tracked digitalization and changed how we experience events leading to a CSR awakening. With a focus on ecological, climatic, and social challenges, the pandemic has forever transformed the event landscape and reinforced the expectations of corporate stakeholders. This has paved the way for a new era of purpose-driven events.

In a recent US survey by PromoLeaf, 85% of participants said they prefer sustainable and eco-friendly events. Event organizers should prioritize Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) like never before. Want to know how to make your events planet-friendly and socially responsible? Read this article.
Towards Responsible and Carbon Neutral Events
Carbon neutrality means balancing the amount of carbon emissions produced and the amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by carbon sources. As an event organizer, you have two main approaches to achieving carbon neutrality: firstly, you can focus on reducing the carbon footprint of the event's most significant contributors, such as transportation, catering, logistics, and energy usage. Secondly, you can contribute to ecological initiatives to offset any remaining emissions. Here are some available methods to meet the challenge of achieving carbon neutrality:

  • It is essential to anticipate and set targets to achieve carbon-neutral events rather than rely on compensatory conclusions after the event. Event organizers can define and closely monitor a carbon emission target throughout the event (before/during/after). The 2024 Olympic Games have committed to aligning themselves with the Paris Agreement by significantly reducing carbon emissions. As such, their goal is to reduce their emissions from 3.5 million tons to 1.5 million tons of CO2, setting an example for other large-scale events to follow.

  • The location of your event plays a critical role in your eco-responsible strategy. Travel-related emissions can make up as much as 80% of your event's carbon dioxide footprint. To reduce your impact, choose a location easily accessible by sustainable modes of transportation. Include information about nearby metro, train, bus, and self-service bikes on your event website. To go the extra mile, consider organizing carpools for attendees who can't use public transport and raise awareness about the environmental impact of different modes of transportation.
Jean-François Lienard, Associate Director of MATCHEvent, shares another insight "To transport equipment and people to the event sites, we rent new vehicles to have the lowest possible emissions and the most efficient particle filters. We use the agency The Treep to organize our team travels, which gives us the carbon impact of our travels per event and the cumulative impact over the year" (extract from the white paper of OUAÏ, the responsible event meeting).

  • Once you choose your venue, there are many actions to reduce GHG emissions: you can reuse partitions and booth structures, equip the venue with low-energy light bulbs, lower the heating, limit the consumption of electrical appliances, install baskets to recover badges and fastening systems at the end of the event, remove carpeting, etc.

  • When selecting a caterer for your event, prioritize those sourcing ingredients locally within a 200-kilometre radius, choose seasonal produce, and opt for organic options when available. Additionally, consider offering a vegetarian option to cater to diverse dietary needs. Be mindful of portion sizes to reduce food waste, and plan to manage surplus food. To further minimize environmental impact, consider using reusable containers such as real dishes or eco-cups instead of disposable options. 

  • Reducing waste is a crucial component of your eco-friendly strategy, and working collaboratively with your suppliers and attendees is important to achieve this goal. To make this process easier, OUAÏ has developed the “Three R's rule" that encourages event organizers to "refuse" non-essential items like goodies," reduce" waste through measures such as using recycling and sorting garbage containers, and "reuse" resources where possible by adopting a circular economy approach. 

  • To compensate for the ecological impact of your events, you can finance tree planting, forest protection, energy transition or biodiversity preservation projects. For example, the Produrable trade show, specialized in sustainable economy, set up a partnership with Reforest'Action during its 2020 edition: one tree was planted in Peru for each participant who came (in total, 8300 trees were planted, equivalent to 1245 tons of CO2 stored!) Beyond the positive effects on the planet, this action can be highlighted on the registration form and contribute to improving your image. It is also possible to support carbon offset projects at the end of your event by purchasing carbon credits.
Digital for CSR
The health crisis has been a catalyst for digital transformation in businesses, driving some of the most significant digital innovations of the past decade. Today, these digital advancements are the key to pursuing sustainable event planning. With this in mind, there has never been a better opportunity to foster positive change.

  • Transitioning to year-round hybrid events has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the events industry significantly. A case study analyzing the carbon footprint of in-person and digital events found that "digital events can decrease overall climate pollution from events by 60% to 98%." The high carbon footprint of in-person events is largely due to the transportation of participants, consumables, and generated waste. Many attendees, who are increasingly conscious of the ecological impact of events and have grown accustomed to the convenience of virtual experiences, may be hesitant to attend physical events as frequently - particularly if they require long-distance travel. To accommodate the changing preferences of attendees, event organizers must be flexible and adapt to new usage patterns. This may involve gathering feedback from their audience and incorporating new event formats to reflect their changing needs.

  • Digital events can also be a catalyst for inclusion: as they eliminate travel constraints (transportation, poorly accessible infrastructures, etc.), people with disabilities are more likely to participate.

  • Nevertheless, organizing digital events has environmental consequences: digital technology consumes energy for the technical resources deployed, streaming, content storage, data management, etc. Web eco-design aims to make the web less energy-consuming, i.e. less resource-intensive. Eventmaker designs its product and accompanies its clients using the best web eco-design practices to reduce its ecological impact. Organizing responsible digital events also requires responsible sourcing: think about reusing technical equipment and surround yourself with suppliers/service providers committed to sustainable development and who are GDPR-compliant (the protection of user data is an integral part of the social aspect of your CSR approach).
You can continue to benefit from digitalization at your in-person events:

  • To avoid paper copies, we recommend digitizing everything that can be digitized, starting with your attendees' badges. A control application will then scan the QR codes of the e-badges (up to 1000 people per hour and per device). If printed badges are necessary for networking, you can print them in draft quality, replace the usual polyester lanyards with straw lanyards, and remove the non-essential plastic sleeves.

  • Digitizing the business card exchange is both an environmentally friendly and practical way to maximize leads from your exhibitors. Eventmaker offers a lead application that allows them to retrieve a person's contact sheet (including a photo and all relevant information) by scanning their QR code. Integrating digital technology is a key element in achieving your CSR objectives.

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Once your event is over, conducting a carbon footprint assessment is a good idea to measure its impact and consider ways to improve. Several organizations, such as Green Événement, Capdel, Adfine, Cleo, or Greenly, can help you manage your event's carbon footprint.

Eventmaker, the leading comprehensive event management platform, places environmental issues at the heart of its commitments (with a vision of ISO 20121 certification, the standard for sustainable development).
Do you need advice?
Don't hesitate to contact us; our team can guide you and collaborate to determine the best format for your event!