Nancy Zavada CMP Founder & President
Eric Wallinger Director of Sustainability
Aaron Elliot Sustainability Consultant

Ask the Sustainable Events Expert

Kicking our “Ask the Expert” series off we thought we would start with “How to Decide if Meeting In-Person is the Best Choice”. This specifically addresses environmental impact decisions. You may be wondering how you can still meet in-person and lower your impact on the environment. The sustainability team has answered some questions around this topic and it may not be as clear cut as you think. Here are their thoughts:

We’re constantly told that the value of face to face meetings is irreplaceable, but so is the planet. How do we encourage less air travel in the meetings and events industry?

We have found that air travel makes up between 70% and 80% of the carbon emissions of an event. Virtual meetings are the easiest way to mitigate the damage, but when meeting face to face consider holding the event in a location closest to the majority of the participants, nonstop flights reduce the carbon emissions and regional meetings with a to all other meetings for collaboration.

Should we be asking associations to prove the value of their international meetings relative to their environmental cost? How can they do this?

Associations are perfect for regional “pods” during an international meeting. The local chapters already have the participants, networks and infrastructure to support these efforts. Attendance should also increase for those who are caretakers of either young families or older parents who can’t take the time away to travel internationally. This will also improve the accessibility for those without the economic support to attend. Always measure your environmental savings and communicate with key stakeholders.

How can international business travellers justify their attendance at an international event?

If the international attendee can meet in one place with people he would otherwise have to take many trips to see in person, it is an economic and environmental saving. Staying in the destination long enough to also accomplish other business related activities.

Why should and how can organizations put in the pre-event work to ensure the event is as sustainable as possible? Would this always result in virtual-only events?

No, there are many ways to make the event sustainable if the decision is made to hold it in person. I do believe that organizations should “future proof” their events by providing some form of virtual experience in case natural disasters, pandemics and weather-related issues continue to increase.

Is it problematic that the events industry is pushing offsets as a credible way to justify international delegate attendance?

There is no perfect solution to air travel. We advise that first every attempt is made to reduce air travel and then, purchase offsets to mitigate the travel that can’t be reduced. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it is the best we have at this time. Try to choose an offset project in line with your organization’s mission or in the local community where the event will be held, the options are increasing daily.

Decision Making Tools for Your Event Planning

Have questions about meeting in-person that you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments and we will answer them!