Shaping a Sustainable Future

The new report: Shaping a Sustainable Future, which summarises research conducted by CN and Manchester Central, couldn’t be timelier, arriving at a moment when the events industry seems to have passed a critical tipping point.  We are collectively moving from ‘awareness and concern’ to the adoption of sustainability policies, with achievable goals and deadlines.

Even so, the report highlights the element of ‘greenwashing’ that still exists within the industry, adding in its conclusion that “making false claims about your sustainability credentials is not a winning strategy.”

Nobody could disagree with the message, but I was intrigued by one of the statements in the report, which seems to have prompted that conclusion.  It was stated that less than 20 per cent of respondents audit the environmental claims made by the companies they work with.  Skimming that paragraph quickly might give the worrying impression that less than 20% of suppliers are engaged in sustainable practices – which is demonstrably untrue. The research actually revealed a very different story: that fewer than 20% of the research respondents are taking the trouble to vet their supply chains.

As an mia board member and a sustainability lead and champion of the Green Meetings Standard, I’m convinced that organisers who do check, will find that many venues have been implementing sustainability practices for a long time and are going further with their reporting and goal setting with every passing year. Managing energy consumption, resource use, greenhouse gas emissions and food waste are part of our working models.

My own organisation, The Venues Collection, recently signed its seven conference and training venues to the Green Meetings Standard. One of our latest initiatives has been to introduce a carbon labelling system on our event menus. The information we provide is based on calculations of greenhouse gas emissions derived from values assigned at each stage of the food production life cycle.  Our parent company, Compass Group UK & Ireland, has set ambitious targets to be Net Zero by 2030.

Shaping a Sustainable Future rightly identifies the many hurdles our industry faces: The investment in sustainable infrastructure, the administrative burden of reporting, the need for dedicated staff training, sourcing sustainable procurement and partners, amongst many other facets the costs of which these engender. And all coming on top of a period that has seen challenging revenue targets and dwindling staff numbers.

But our industry has always risen to the challenges thrown at it.  We traditionally joke about making the impossible possible (on time and on budget!) and it’s not going to be easy; in fact, potentially it’s going to be a long, hard climb. But I have no doubt that after a stuttering start, our industry will collectively work together to make a difference and support our businesses and many partners to achieve their Carbon Net Zero targets and ultimately work towards a more sustainable world.

Jo Austin

Sales Director of The Venues Collection and sister company Lime Venue Portfolio; she is also an mia board director and their sustainability lead.

Go back to other articles