While the road towards sustainability may seem daunting and unfamiliar, Veemal Gungadin, founder and CEO of Gevme tells us how it is still very much feasible.

There has been a growing concern about the effects of human activity on the environment, and individuals, corporations and governments are placing heightened emphasis on environmentally friendly practices. Inadvertently, businesses have evolved to become more sustainable with the events industry being no different.

Sustainability has become a top priority for MICE and business travellers in the Asia Pacific region and all around the world. Approximately 88% of travel and meetings professionals now consider addressing climate change their top priority. To align with the growing number of environmentally conscious attendees, there is an increasing need for organisers to future-proof themselves by moving towards more sustainable practices.

The dangers of greenwashing

As the demand for sustainable events grows, greenwashing has posed a significant challenge to the sector. Some organisers attempt to jump on the bandwagon and brand their events as environmentally friendly but inadvertently fall short. This is one of the biggest mistakes that organisers make. Sustainability is not as subjective as some may assume; it requires concrete metrics to measure and reduce an event’s environmental impact. Without quantifiable and meaningful efforts, organisers run the risk of unethical greenwashing which may further damage their reputation.

Planning a sustainable event involves reducing waste, and carbon emissions as well as optimising resource allocation. Careful evaluation of every aspect of the event is essential to identify areas negatively impacting the environment and implement sustainable changes.

As one of the top MICE destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore has rolled out new industry guidelines to track waste and carbon emissions as part of the MICE Sustainability Roadmap and Singapore Green Plan 2030. Hence, it is important for organisers to calculate the event’s environmental impact to comply with regulations. Initiatives like GoGreen can simplify this process by empowering organisers to measure, calculate, and offset the carbon footprint associated with their events.

Transitioning to online events

Human interaction, connections, and the overall atmosphere of in-person events are huge factors in engaging attendees and making meaningful connections. However, such in-person events often come at an environmental cost with each attendee emitting an average of 200kg of CO2, for every day of an event. The greenhouse gas emitted by air travel aside, the electricity required for lighting, heating, cooling, and audiovisual equipment contributes heavily to carbon emissions as well. Online attendance eliminates these factors, which reduces the carbon footprint by 99.9% for large-scale international events.

As such, online events may be more of an environmentally friendly option, but approximately 77.7% of attendees find in-person conferences ideal for networking, and over half of event organizers cite challenges in keeping online attendees engaged.

This is where event technology comes in to offer innovative solutions for organisers to address the current pain points of online events. Digital networking spaces during the event can connect attendees and speakers across the globe, and spark fruitful conversations. Filtering tools in these networking spaces can aid attendees in finding the right people to speak to and organise small-group breakout sessions for discussions and team-building games that can keep participants engaged and interacting with each other through the screen.

Hidden environmental impacts of in-person events

Transitioning to a fully online event is not the only way that organisers can manage their event’s environmental impact. There are aspects of physical events that can be streamlined and made more sustainable through digitalisation, such as waste management.

Excess goodie bags, ticket stubs, name cards, printed event agendas and brochures are not only finicky to handle but also add to the amount of waste produced. These can be replaced with digital alternatives that can reduce or eliminate the need for physical collaterals. For example, the event programme agenda can be accessed from the attendees’ mobile devices. They can easily browse through the sessions, bookmark the ones they are interested in and form their own customised event experience. Additionally, they can be provided with directions to the session and be notified when it is about to start, so they won’t miss it! Implementing this would reduce the event’s waste and elevate attendees’ experience.

As the events industry evolves into a more sustainable space, event technology has moved in tandem to provide a more immersive experience for attendees while ensuring they minimise their environmental footprint. Organisers must embrace and lean into these strategies to not only stay competitive in the market but also ensure that their event is truly sustainable.

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Veemal Gungadin

Author Veemal Gungadin

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