I work with a lot of passionate event professionals who are working very hard on a daily basis to innovate with new meeting materials and event formats that not only create cool experiences, but also cut energy use and carbon. For example...
One of my colleagues knows her conference attendees well enough to see they typically only attend her event when it's close to home. However with a national membership of prospective attendees she faces a decision every year: meet at a central location that's a moderate distance from everyone, or move around the country in a regular circular pattern so people have a chance to attend the event that is closest to them every few years. Her decision to do the latter causes her event, on average, to produce 150 lbs of carbon less per attendee per day than other events that do not move about this way or actively evaluate audience proximity. The estimated difference of her decision to 'meet close' this year? About 450 MT of carbon dioxide was avoided, conservatively. (For more information click here)
Another example: Shuttle buses. Oracle OpenWorld, a major city-wide event, has taken steps over three years to reduce ground shuttles by expanding walking routes for their conference. In addition they've adopted a node-based system that shuttles from remote hotels to public transit hubs instead of running buses between the remote hotels and the event site. Further, they've improved communication and pass programs to make it easier to use transit. The program has caused a measurable reduction in shuttle and fuel use amounting to16 tons of emissions reduced over previous baselines.
And one more: An event manager I know chooses to segregate her attendees and invite some to join the event in person, while others can attend virtually. Having honed in on the outcome each audience type wants, she has re-designed her formerly in-person-only event to be a hybrid. The impact? Over 10,000 metric tons of carbon avoided, while still delivering good content in a format that fits attendees needs. (For more information click here)
Unfortunately, when event professionals, who often work as a small department within larger corporations or associations, inquire about reporting the carbon benefits of their decisions internally and externally my colleagues often find out that their efforts don't really count. Event emissions often fall into Scope 3, and organizations don't tend to report Scope 3. They're 'optional'. There's no accepted method to track these kinds of emissions and other organizations may already be reporting the emissions impacts of event managers' decisions.
The end result? Event professionals are not motivated to make meaningful carbon reduction decisions, measure and tell a story about their actions when they feel their efforts don't count. In spite of how material the decisions they make actually are.
What can CSR professionals do to help environmentally-conscious event planners out and affirm the efforts of these critical decision-makers?