While there is no denying the damage that the ongoing pandemic has done to the corporate event industry, we must also recognize the opportunities it has revealed for event planners.
During the height of the pandemic, almost all events had to be taken online, and planners had minimal time to prepare. However, recent times have seen a significant return to in-person events from seminars to trade fairs to team-building activities and everything in between.
That said, what has changed for the long haul is the prominence of hybrid events, which offer a blend of in-person and virtual activities. This approach was originally viewed as something as a compromise during times when it had not been feasible to host a major global event for thousands of people.
Despite this, hybrid events are here to stay for the many long-term benefits they offer. Among these are their undeniably positive impact on corporate social responsibility or CSR. By now, most organizations follow a self-regulating CSR policy to address how their activities impact the environment and society at large.
The Problem with Traditional Corporate Events
The environmental impact of traditional corporate events is enormous, often far more severe than many event planners and hosts realize. One study from 2017 found that global business conferences produce 1.89 kg of waste and 176.67 kg of CO2 emissions per attendee per day. For a typical three-day event with 1,000 attendees, that translates into almost six metric tons of waste and 530 tons of CO2 emissions (the equivalent to 1,233 barrels of oil). These figures take into consideration a wide range of factors, such as air travel, commutes by car, excess food, and energy consumption at the event venue itself.
Environmental sustainability was already a huge trend long before the pandemic, topping the agenda for many in the event industry. However, sustainability has since taken on a far wider meaning, having evolved from a primarily environmental angle to feature a social aspect too.
While many of us have been looking forward to the return of in-person events, it is important to remember that traditional events also come with social limitations. For example, those living too far from the event venue may find it prohibitively time-consuming or costly to attend in-person. Health-related concerns also persist in the wake of the pandemic, especially with regards to the safety of attendees in areas where social distancing is hard to maintain. Making events more accessible to those with limited mobility has proven challenging as well.
The limitations of such events make clear the case for taking a more sustainable approach to event hosting and management, and that is where hybrid events present their true value.
How to Plan Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Events
The environmental benefits of events with a hybrid approach are enormous. At a time when consumers and business customers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental and social issues, achieving greater sustainability is a major driver of business value in itself. Many business customers and investors, for example, will refuse to partner with organizations that they deem to have an unnecessarily negative impact on society or the environment.
Furthermore, we must also not forget that what is better for the environment also tends to be better for the bank balance. Compared to traditional events, hybrid events can save enormous amounts of cash, both for hosts and attendees. Hosts will be able to save money on energy and venue rentals, while attendees will save on travel costs should they prefer to join remotely. In other words, the importance of sustainability in events is something that concerns all parties involved.
Above all, hybrid events are inherently more inclusive. People who prefer to attend in-person can do so, while activities like seminars and workshops can be streamed live for anyone who is tuning in remotely. As such, anyone can join, whether in-person or from the comfort of their home or office – even if they are physically located on the other side of the world. This also means event planners will be able to reach a much wider audience, without being restricted by geography. That is a huge deal for brand visibility.
There is, of course, much more to planning socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable events than simply streaming live activities over the internet. There is no reason why they cannot be interactive too. With the right event management platform, hosts can set up virtual event booths, schedule one-to-one video meetings, and even allow remote attendees to participate in Q&A sessions alongside live audiences.
What are the Other Ways you Can Make your Events More Sustainable?
There are many other ways to make your events more sustainable, both in the case of virtual and in-person conferences and other activities. For example, using digital advertising rather than printed materials reduces waste while also boosting your visibility. Other materials, such as feedback forms, brochures, and venue layouts, can also be digitized and provided to both in-person and remote attendees via dedicated mobile and web apps.
Web-enabled and mobile event apps are also enormously beneficial for both remote and in-person attendees since they can help bring both groups together. For example, integrated instant messaging and social networking capabilities make it possible for everyone to interact with one another, no matter whether they are physically present or attending remotely.
Concerning in-person activities, event planners should also choose eco-friendly venues, such as those that use energy-efficient appliances and have robust CSR policies of their own. Also, event planners should partner with eco-friendly transportation and logistics companies and catering providers. After all, sustainability is not only about the internal steps you take for your business, but also about who you work with.
Finally, it makes sense to inform your audience about the sustainability steps your organization is taking ahead of the event. By communicating your efforts, you will be able to appeal to more people, partners, and sponsors.
Aventri is proud to be exhibiting at IMEX America in Las Vegas and Event Tech Live in London this November. Be sure to come and see us to learn more about how we’re changing the world of corporate events!