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The word "sustainability" is also being used more and more often in relation to events. However, the demand for sustainable events does not necessarily increase proportionally.
Reasons for this include rising costs or a lack of awareness about why such events make sense and what organizers should pay attention to.
There are already some approaches to making the sustainability of events measurable. Checklists such as those of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection or Co2 calculators help event managers to pay attention to important points during the planning stage in order to organize events that are as sustainable as possible. Most are based on the three pillars of sustainability (ecological, social, economic).
Some event agencies specialize in green events and can help organizers organize them. One of them is Honest Events.
The full-service event management agency supports companies in planning socially and ecologically sustainable events. Inclusion and accessibility also play an important role.
We spoke with Ann-Kathrin Brauchle (CEO of Honest Events) about tips for event managers and her take on the current situation.
When is an event considered sustainable and what aspects do you think are particularly important?
In order to describe an event as sustainable, all fields of action in the value chain of the event should be aligned to this end. From travel by public transport, short distances to the location, regional/seasonal catering to plastic-free materials, to mention a few individual measures.
It is not enough to integrate sustainable aspects in the planning phase; decisions for a sustainable event must already be made when setting the objectives:
- Which event format will be chosen?
- Where do the participants come from?
- Does it make sense to implement a virtual format in terms of CO2 impact from travel to and from the event?
Of course, the message of the event must not be lost in these decisions. Throughout the process, it is important to consider the the three key factors of budget, sustainability and benefit. and benefits flow together.
If only one area is illuminated, a holistic event management is no longer given and essential goals of the event could not be achieved.
Whether virtual, hybrid or live - Accessibility, CO2 reduction (travel to and from the event)CO2 compensation and social responsibility should always play a role in event planning.
For the past two years, the majority of events have taken place online or hybrid. This is also accompanied by considerable resource consumption by digital solutions such as event platforms and marketing sites and tools. The Shift Project, for example, has calculated that the share of digital technologies in global energy consumption will almost double from 2017 to 2025 percent.
Some solutions, such as Microsoft Azure, are nearly 100% more energy and CO2 efficient than on-premises solutions, according to a 2018 study .
What role does sustainability play in the selection of event technology?
A live streaming platform and video conferencing systems have become indispensable for business events.
Whereas most companies are not able to offer their services due to financial aspects between live or virtual, very few consider sustainability as a selection criterion.
Prior to the Corona pandemic, nearly all corporate events were implemented in presence.
The question of whether a meeting in presence is necessary has not been asked by anyone. Today we have the opportunity to choose.
What content is communicated at the event and can it not be communicated at least as successfully via a virtual platform?
Nevertheless, it should also be compared here which event format is more environmentally friendly, because streaming technology is not necessarily more climate-friendly either. A generally valid statement cannot be made.
When selecting the appropriate technology, you should try to create synergies. This means not only purchasing IT solutions related to the event, but also checking whether interfaces or cross-departmental systems can be used to create a virtual event platform can be integrated.
The majority of companies still shy away from organizing sustainable events or do not see any relevant added value in doing so.
What are the key benefits of sustainable events?
The most important advantages of sustainable events or rather sustainable corporate management and culture are obvious.
A company symbolizes employee carecontributes an essential part to the environmental protection and assumes responsibility in society. Its own advantages are agile, cost-efficient and resource-saving action.
In live marketing, too, there is now the opportunity to go digital and sustainable at the same time. Where previously the saying "more is more" applied, should now be quality before quantity should now take precedence over quantity.
A few events a year, but with a positive effect on people and the environment, targeted content and quality, lead to long-term prospects for a company.
Events have become significantly more expensive due to current global challenges, inflation and the shortage of skilled workers. Depending on the event/trade show format and size, almost twice as much budget will have to be made available in 2022 than in 2019.
This is what the Rifel Institute found out in a recent study on cost development.
How can sustainable events be organized cost-effectively?
A early planning enables, for example, lower fares for rail tickets. Framework agreements such as the event ticket can also be used and planned in good time.
Another option is to work with small and regional suppliers, possibly weighing up sponsorship opportunities.
Many local companies are interested in sustainable event concepts, and appropriate sponsorship creates benefits on both sides.
A thoughtful use of resources automatically leads to savings. Dispensing with printed materials or expensive giveaways, as well as the use of reusable components for subsequent for subsequent events are examples of this.
Sustainability and equality are already part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to be implemented by 2030.
What role will sustainability and inclusion play in the future and what will events look like in 5 years?
The crises of recent months and years have shown us that sustainable action is not an option but an obligation.
Events and especially corporate events should be be made possible for all people and this without obstacles. Infection protection, safety at events, transparent and considered use of resources lead to sustainable experiences for all participants.
In the future, the boundaries between live and virtual, as well as online and offline, will disappear more and more. An event will become more adaptable and able to react more flexibly to changing circumstances in the various organizational phases - clear communication and transparency with all event participants is important here.
About the expert:
Ann-Kathrin Brauchle studied tourism and transportation at the University of Worms and entered the travel and event industry after her studies. Since 2020 she is managing partner of the event agency HONEST in Ulm.
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