Going Green in the Events Industry : Practical Targets of Opportunity

September 25th is the day identified globally for worldwide action around Sustainable Development Goals by the United National General Assembly. These interconnected objectives are targeted for implementation by 2030 by the U.N.

The seventeen goals for sustainable development with implications for “green” corporate events include:

The Events Industry Council has drafted recommendations for the event planning industry in terms of how our industry can take action to implement these important objectives:

#1: NO POVERTY

According to the United Nations, although global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in ten people in developing regions are still living with their families on less than the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount. The events industry can help address the goal not only through community service programmes and charitable giving, but also through providing training and employment.

#2: ZERO HUNGER

Globally, one in nine people in the world today (815 million) are undernourished. As an industry, we have a unique opportunity to help address hunger by donating surplus food from our events. To do this, include a food rescue program for all of your events, or encourage staff and attendees to join the global movement for Zero Hunger Challenge.

#3: GOOD HEALTH AND WELLBEING

The events industry can support achieving good health and well-being targets by confirming that workers in our supply chains have access to health and safety programmes. This is in addition to the important industry trend of  incorporating health and wellness factors into event design through healthier menus, meditation areas and fitness programmes.

#4: QUALITY EDUCATION

Events can support local quality education by offering mentoring programmes or book drives for local schools. Check out the resources offered for the World’s Largest Lesson for teaching school children about the global goals.

#5: GENDER EQUALITY

In the events industry, there’s a growing trend supporting gender equality as a result of the UN Global Compact Panel Pledge, a global effort to help put an end to all-male panels announced by UN Global Compact Executive Director Lise Kingo in 2016. This movement aligns with global efforts to increase diversity such as the inclusion riders referenced by Frances McDormand in her Academy Award acceptance speech earlier this year,

#6: CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION

The United Nations reports that three in ten people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and six in ten people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities. A simple step that event professionals can take is to ensure that partially used hotel amenities, such as soaps, are recycled and donated through organisations such as Clean the World.

#7: AFFORDABLE CLEAN ENERGY

Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, reports the United Nations. We can do our part as an industry through power management policies and better equipment choices. We can also use renewable energy sources, or invest in renewable energy projects to offset unavoidable emissions through programmes such as the UN’s Climate Neutral Now.

#8: DECENT WORK & ECONOMIC GROWTH

According to the United Nations, worldwide, there are 218 million children between five and 17 years in employment. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour. Verifying that our supply chain does not use child labour, such as through purchasing certified fair trade products, including coffee, chocolate, and textiles, is an important step that our industry can take to support decent work and economic growth.

#9: INDUSTRY, INNOVATION, INFRASTRUCTURE

We can leverage our industry’s economic influence, quantified in research commissioned by the Events Industry Council at $845 Billion USD in business output to the U.S. economy alone, to support industry, innovation and infrastructure. One way that we can have an increased impact is by supporting recovery efforts after natural disasters by bringing our events to these destinations and participating in community service projects in the affected areas.

#10: REDUCED INEQUALITY

Our industry can help reduce inequalities in access to events by creating welcoming and inclusive environments with Universal Design principles, defined by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design as the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. To get started, please read our recommendations.

#11: SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES

One of the targets of goal 11, sustainable cities and communities, is to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme provides guidance for an integrated approach to conservation of cultural and natural resources alongside sustainable development from tourism.

#12: RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION

Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles, reports the United Nations. As events, we can support responsible consumption and production by first using less single-use materials, supporting a circular economy approach through donations, reuse, recycling and upcycling of event materials.

#13: CLIMATE ACTION

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has assessed an average global temperature increase of 0.85°C from 1880-2012, and a rise of 19 cm in the global average sea level from 1901-2010. As an industry, we can reduce our impact on the climate through lower carbon food choices, such as opting for vegetarian meals, and encouraging attendees to use public transit or shuttle services instead of individual vehicles.

#14: LIFE BELOW WATER

The impact of single-use plastics on oceans has gained international attention in the past few years. As an industry, we can find opportunities to reduce the use of plastic bottles, shrink wrap, and other event-related single-use plastics wherever possible. It saves ocean contamination, and it’s good for your budget.

#15: LIFE ON LAND

According to the UN Development Programme, by acting as pollinators, bees promote biodiversity (Goal 15) and fight hunger (Goal 2); they provide decent jobs (Goal 8) in agriculture and other sectors, advancing Goal 1, no poverty. Many hotels and venues are supporting healthy bee populations with rooftop beehives and pollinator gardens. Event organisers are supporting bees as well, read about the IMEX legacy project in Slovenia as an example.

#16: PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS

One of the targets within goal 16, peace, justice and strong institutions, is to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. For our industry, The Code(short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”) provides awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

#17: PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS

Goal 17 is a call to action for the events industry “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” There is arguably no industry better suited to supporting collaboration than ours, and we encourage you to activate the power of face-to-face events to achieve the global goals by convening the world’s thought leaders for the purpose of solving the world’s greatest challenges.

At Anna Marie Events, we are committed to sustainability in our operations and event planning approaches. We salute the United Nations and the Events Industry Council for taking the lead on ensuring a more sustainable future for all of us in the event planning industry.