The recent Events with Impact hybrid conference held at the Marina Bay Sands Hybrid Broadcast Studio addressed pressing concerns surrounding sustainability in events and provided trends that are shifting mindsets and behaviours.
Food is often used as an expression of an event’s theme and values. It is not just about keeping the attendees’ stomachs full but a part of the whole event experience. Food & beverage play an important role in helping people create conversations and connections. However, even as attendees are being wowed, food wastage is inevitably generated.
In Singapore, food waste accounts for about 11 per cent of the total waste generated. According to the National Environment Agency, the overall amount of food waste generated in 2020 was 665,000 tonnes, 11 per cent less than the 744,000 tonnes in 2019. The recycling rate for food waste increased from 18 per cent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2020, with the rest of it disposed at the waste-to-energy (WTE) plants for incineration.
As an industry that tends to create so much waste, more education and efforts are needed to change mindset and behaviour. At the Events with Impact hybrid panel conference held at the Marina Bay Sandson 18 November 2021, Aoife Delaney, Director of Sales and Marketing at DMC Network and the 2021 President of SITE, revealed that sustainability was one of the key conversation drivers among global incentive travel industry leaders.
“I’ve just returned from IMEX Las Vegas, and sustainability was one of the most talked-about topics in and around the show floor, particularly during the SITE Young Leaders Conference. From offsetting carbon footprint to reimagining the local destination experience, there was a focus on how we can do well by doing good. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility have been increasing in importance over the last few years. In fact, in the most recent version of the incentive travel industry index, sustainability was included in the top four most important elements of programme success,” shared Delaney.
She added that there is a need to not only address this topic but to really and truly embrace sustainability. And that starts with education.
The event, hosted by Mike Lee, Vice President of Sales, Marina Bay Sands and Ailynn Seah, Vice President of Sales, MIC & Association, Marina Bay Sands, was attended by 50 in-person audiences and joined by 200 others online.
Roger Simons, Director of Sustainability at Marina Bay Sands gave concise trends surrounding sustainable food & beverage, while three other panellists (Shen Ming Lee, Chief Marketing Officer at CRUST Group, Jezz Wu, Executive Director at REALM, and Matthew Kovac, Executive Director at Food Industry Asia) joined Simons at Events with Impact to address concerns from the attendees.
Some of the key concerns preventing events from achieving sustainability goals were brought to lightthrough a poll during the event: the cost of organising sustainable events, the lack of resources to manage processes and the lack of visibility on actual impacts.
Trends in sustainable food & beverage include:
- Plant-based innovation
- Environmental transparency and footprint
- Verifiable information on the traceability of energy consumption, transport, sustainability and reliability.
- Environmental footprint ratings and third-party issued certifications.
- Social impact matters. Ensuring fair compensation for farmers.
- Regional sourcing
- Food security is a key element in regional sourcing. The pandemic has disrupted supply chains across the world.
- Local agriculture
- An increasing trend. Following the recent COP26, the pressure to support the sustainability of local agriculture continues to rise.
- In Singapore, the government has set a target to meet 30 per cent of nutritional needs locally by 2030.
- Packaging and circularity
- Plastic is in the spotlight, but all single-use disposables need to be reviewed.
- Considerations include bio-degradability, especially if the items leak into the environment. Look into the environmental footprint of manufacturers.
- Circularity is designing for the end-life of a product.
- Food waste innovation
- Legislation requires all food waste must be properly segregated for treatment by the NEA coming into effect by 2024.
- An example includes Crust Beer, made from surplus bread.
- Heritage cooking
- A celebration of every nation’s cultural diversity and culinary heritage.
- An inevitable link to eating what is around us.
While those trends may be compelling enough for companies to implement sustainable practices in their events, CRUST Group’s CMO Shen Ming Lee highlighted during the panel discussion that sustainability is not just a trend that comes and goes. “The true nature of sustainability sticks with us. It stays with us in thinking of everything that we do. The mindset lens is not just about replacing tote bags with plastic bags or buying carbon credits to offset carbon emissions. It is about thinking deeper into everything when it comes to our consumption, production and distribution to ensure meaningful and long-lasting impacts.”
She added that it is not just about the alternatives that we are using but the quantity. “Sometimes, minimalism is an underrated way of thinking about sustainability. Having that mindset instead of it being a trend is crucial.”