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| Written by Veronica Ferguson

Bridging the Gap on Sustainability Initiatives Between Meetings and Travel

Across industries, sustainability is now a top priority. After all, we’ve all seen the United Nations’ IPCC report declaring a “code red” for climate change. For the meetings and events industry, the movement is more important than ever because as companies move toward a greener footprint, sustainable travel is in the spotlight.

A recent study from Deloitte found that “79% of companies have made some kind of pledge [to reduce emissions] or are working toward one… About half of survey respondents say that within the next year, they plan to optimize business travel policy to decrease their environmental impact. Travel ranks among the top targets for corporate environmental harm reduction.” (1)

Best Sustainability Practices

So what can we do to make the meetings and events industry more sustainable? At the 2021 M&IW Summit, Ann Dery of S&P Global and Lisa Palmeri with the Intent Strategy Group discussed just that during a panel titled Rebuilding Your Meeting and Event Strategy for the Future. No matter the type of meeting or event, sustainability comes down to “mindfulness about why we’re traveling… [and] about every aspect of the meeting,” said Ann, “from ideation to execution.”

Specific sustainability areas to be mindful of include:

  • Type of Event: If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that hybrid events events can be done and done well. They’re truly the best of both worlds—they allow some attendees to connect in person while reducing the event’s carbon footprint because attendees who live farther away or simply prefer digital events can still attend.
  • Transportation: If you’re meeting in person, choose a location central to the majority of the attendees to minimize transportation emissions. You should also be mindful of more eco-friendly travel options such as public transportation or carpooling. Like the events industry, the travel industry is trending toward sustainability, so more options will be available in the future. As shared in the M&IW Summit’s Industry Expert Panel, United Airlines is already working on big things: In addition to their goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, they’re also investing in battery-operated, short-range aircrafts; direct carbon capture technology; and biofuel made from waste materials that burn clean and create no additional carbon emissions in fuel production.
  • Venue: Not all venues are created equal, and that’s especially true when it comes to their environmentally friendly initiatives. If you’re not sure where to start, Ann suggests looking for LEED-certified venues. Many venues have long implemented energy- and water-saving initiatives, and you should always confirm whether a venue recycles. Get creative with your venue as well—an outdoor event saves on energy and might even be a more cost-effective option. As a rule of thumb, the most sustainable venues won’t make you ask about their practices; they’ll readily share that information with you. In the Industry Expert Panel at the M&IW Summit, Hilton didn’t shy away from sharing everything they do, from their Travel with Purpose environment, social, and governance strategy to their LightStay system that measures the environmental impact within and across their hotels. They even offer a LightStay Calculator that predicts and measures the impact of meetings and events specifically.
  • Event Materials: Like the event itself, event materials can easily be made accessible digitally, especially with the rise of mobile apps for all event types. Any materials that must be available physically should be recyclable or reusable. Case in point: The M&IW Summit included paper name tags (recyclable) inserted into plastic lanyards (reusable).
  • Food and Beverage: Ann’s top F&B recommendation is to use locally sourced food when possible. Once you have the food, the next step is using recyclable containers; this is especially important in the age of COVID when meals are individually pre-packaged. Your choice of venue and caterer is also important. Choose those that actively minimize food waste through efforts such as donating excess food to local food banks and other similar organizations.

You don’t have to do it alone! Partnering with event planners and vendors who have sustainability practices in place and experience with sustainable event management is a win-win—it makes your job easier while also ensuring your event is as green as can be.

M&IW and Sustainability

At M&IW, we don’t just talk the talk when it comes to sustainability; we also walk the walk. We launched our sustainability committee two years ago, and in addition to committing to eliminating single-use plastics and reducing food waste, we offer webinars and training on how to be more environmentally friendly at work and at home. Headquarters became greener by installing composting bins at our headquarters and replacing individual garbage cans at each desk with one large bin per floor. Changing the garbage cans may not seem like a big step, but individual cans were being emptied with just one piece of trash in them. In addition to lowering the total amount of garbage bags used, floor-wide bins make employees more mindful of how much trash they produce and inspire eco-friendly action, like packing all-reusable lunches. Of course, we’re also committed to creating sustainable events and incentive programs to better both our planet and our industry.

(1) Source: Return to a world transformed: How the pandemic is reshaping corporate travel

What’s Next?

Learn more about how you can make your next event greener. Our certified sustainability experts are happy to provide guidance and support every step of the way. Interested in working with our team? CONTACT US.

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Contact your Client Success Manager for more information.