Getting the measure of event sustainability

It was Peter Drucker, dubbed the inventor of modern business management, who said: “If you can measure it, you can improve it”. His statement is probably the mantra of many purchasing departments, and it underpins the latest stage in sustainable event strategy.

Organisations have progressed far beyond pasting a stock environmental policy on their websites and considering their sustainability box ticked. Today there’s a real requirement to reduce carbon emissions and event planners are facing the challenge of reporting their events’ carbon footprint.  In many areas of purchasing this can be both confusing and time consuming.

In 2020 the Prime Minister announced a Ten Point Plan setting out policies to enable the UK to reach our net zero target by 2050.  The plan spans clean energy, buildings, transport, nature and innovation technologies.  Government and public sector purchasers must obviously take the lead in implementing strategies that work towards that target.

The NHS offers a prime example of the Ten Point Plan in action. It has committed to reaching net zero by 2040 for its own emissions, and by 2045 for the emissions generated  by its partners and suppliers. It has published its own roadmap to help suppliers align with its net zero ambitions, based on the UK Government’s procurement policy.

From April 2023 for all contracts above £5 million, the NHS will require suppliers to publish a carbon reduction plan for their UK Scope 1 and 2 emissions as a minimum (building on PPN 06/21). By April 2024, it will be requiring all its suppliers to publish carbon reduction plans.

Environmental impact

Events play a crucial role in informing, educating, motivating and training. Conferences and meetings particularly can involve large numbers of people travelling long distances, consuming energy and requiring materials that can’t always be re-used or recycled – so to the host organisation they represent a significant amount of negative environmental impact. This means that in addition to cost and quality metrics, event purchasers are under particular pressure to minimise the carbon footprint of their events – and measure year-on-year improvements.

The good news for event planners is that the events industry itself has been at the forefront of carbon reduction for decades, and companies throughout the supply chain have implemented sustainability strategies giving buyers confidence that initiatives are in place to reduce waste, avoid single use plastics and source recycled materials. But there is scope for so much more.

Our sustainability journey

Jo Austin is Sales Director of The Venues Collection and sister company Lime Venue Portfolio. She is also Head of the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) Sustainability Board and is personally invested in our companies’ sustainability journey. Here she explains its latest exciting phase:

“The Venues Collection has demonstrated its committed to creating sustainable meetings by signing our seven conference and training venues to the Green Tourism ‘Green Meetings’ Standard.  Our parent company, Compass Group UK & Ireland, aims to be Net Zero by 2030.  As part of that mission, we’ve been taking a particularly close look at our venue catering policies.  For many of our event clients, food is both the biggest financial outlay and the biggest source of potential negative environmental impact.

Climate labelling

“This summer we have introduced a carbon labelling system that features on all of our event menus.  We’ve partnered with a third-party business that tracks global food sourcing and movement to create up to date carbon footprint information about the ingredients in our dishes. Our climate labels are based on calculations of greenhouse gas emissions, derived from values assigned at each stage of the food production life cycle.

“Each item on our menus is colour coded in a specific shade of green linked to an easy-to-understand scale, so organisers can see at a glance where each item sits on the carbon emissions scale.

“This new initiative will assist event planners by providing them with the information they need to make informed choices. As purchasers choose many hundreds of meals for their events, their selections will have a significant impact on each event’s sustainability. Our climate labelling will give them more ownership and control over the carbon impact of the meals they choose.

“We know that food is an important consideration to delegates as well. Our surveys reveal that 45% of event feedback relates to food. By providing carbon labelling, we’re enabling delegates to make informed menu selections and helping increase their overall satisfaction in the event.

“We’re not dictating what people eat. Our aim is to offer a wide variety of delicious food, and just like a healthy diet, where ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food are eaten in moderation, this approach gives organisers and delegates the opportunity to select carbon-conscious options when visiting us.

Today there’s a real requirement to reduce carbon emissions and, event planners are facing the challenge of reporting their events’ carbon footprint.  In many areas of purchasing this can be both confusing and time consuming. So, if you’d like to see our carbon labelling in action and discover how it can assist your next event, please contact our team on:

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