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Delivering sustainable meetings: top tips

By Dom Bemrose, Business Development Director, SWM Partners

Organisations across all industries have a role to play in educating the general public about climate change, and influencing their behaviours for the better.

At the same time, consumers have become more conscious of their actions ​​– SB Insight’s Sustainable Brand Index 2022, for example, found that sustainability considerations are impacting the purchasing decisions of more than two-thirds of consumers.

This means companies must avoid a green washing approach, by ensuring their sustainability credentials are not only communicated, but brought to life across every aspect of their business – including their meetings.

Below are some best practices to consider when it comes to communicating, designing and delivering sustainable meetings.

Apply the ‘three Rs’ framework

Aim to adopt the ‘three Rs’ from the very beginning of the event planning stage. This refers to: reconsidering what you need, recycling, and repurposing at the end.

Reconsidering

Reconsidering what you need covers everything from the ordering of physical materials, to determining whether an in-person meeting for an international audience is what’s really needed to meet your objectives. Alternatively, could this be a more localised, multi-hub format, where attendees have the opportunity to join virtually too? This will minimise the need for travel, while still allowing people to connect across multiple locations, and both virtual and in-person settings.

The same goes for the suppliers you work with. When it comes to venue selection, reassess your options and select those that use renewable energy. Take the time to understand the complete supply chain of the caterers you work with, ensuring they work with local producers, and are located within close proximity to the venue. If they don’t meet this criteria, it’s worth reconsidering your options.

Recycling and repurposing

Rather than plan meetings in isolation, consider your entire portfolio, and develop a strategy that allows for the materials you require to be repurposed across all, or at least some of these events. This means opting for modular solutions which can be repurposed and reused, and considering how you will brand them, so that they live on beyond a singular event.

Think about how materials can be recycled for other uses and donated to worthy causes, such as local schools or charities – organisations including EventCycle are dedicated to helping the industry reduce its carbon footprint. Aim to develop a rapport with these stakeholders too, so this process becomes woven throughout the fabric of every meeting.

Make sustainability a priority among delegates

Meetings present an opportunity to not only communicate your company’s approach to sustainability, but encourage sustainable practices among those attending in a positive and encouraging way.

Pre-event communications can be leveraged to outline the measures that are being taken to reduce the event’s carbon footprint, and include tips that people can draw on as they travel to a physical event, or join remotely.

Push notifications within event apps, electronic signage (which uses renewable energy), and the adding of tips or reminders to presentations are all great ways to ensure sustainability remains top of mind as the meeting unfolds.

Transparency is also key here. Including details about how materials were reused or recycled in post-event communications, as well as figures which highlight its sustainability related achievements, all while highlighting the important role attendees played in the event’s success from a sustainability perspective, can leave positive, long lasting impressions.

Measure the potential – and actual – impact

While the practices I mention above are all important and can be very effective, we’ll only understand their true value if a meeting’s impact is measured.

TRACE from isla, an organisation which was established to support the event industry in its transition to a more sustainable future, provides emissions and wastage estimates, so that adjustments can be made ahead of time. The tool also produces post-event reports, allowing for further improvements to be actioned in the future.

Other examples include an app from meetings management platform, Troop Travel, which provides data about an event’s potential carbon emissions. These insights then similarly allow for adjustments to be made in advance, so an event’s environmental impact can be reduced.

The team at SWM Partners are passionate about partnering with healthcare organisations to ensure their meetings and events are not only educational and engaging, but preserve our planet for future generations.

Get in touch to learn more: hello@swm-partners.com

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