By Marco Barozzi & Sònia Graupera
In the luxury hotels and in the events industry, no doubt sustainability is one of the most recurring topics. It has become a priority for people globally and the MICE industry is no exception. Industry stakeholders are demanding change, and it is important to assess the impact that sustainability will have in the medium to long term.
The past few years have probably raised some concerns about the future of green events, but thanks to the great comeback of trade shows, events planners and brands have been encouraged to continue to prioritize sustainability, maybe even more than they did pre-pandemic. Their concept means working hard to find a balance between economic results, transparency, social interests, and the environment – and incorporate best practices into their events.
In recent surveys, findings show that only 48% of the respondents consider their organizations sustainable, and more than half of them believe that the events industry is not doing enough to be sustainable. An international study by PWC in 2021 showed that 80% of consumers (out of over 5,000 interviewed) prefer to buy from companies committed to sustainability, and that 76% would stop being customers of those who do not respect the environment or their employees.
Sustainability is not simply about caring for the planet, it is also about caring for the community. Many organizers are now taking steps to ensure their events have a positive impact on the communities where they are held. Some of them, for example, have started supporting local charities and non-profit organizations, partnering with local schools and educational institutions to provide students with practical learning opportunities and help them develop skills and knowledge that will be useful in the future, this is a practice very extended in the luxury hotels industry.
Another way event planners are addressing sustainability is by reducing their carbon footprint. This means that they are implementing practices that reduce energy usage, such as using energy-efficient lighting, reducing paper waste, and recycling waste properly. They are also encouraging exhibitors to do the same, by providing them with resources and guidance on how to implement sustainable practices in their exhibition spaces.
This can be seen in the growing number of eco-friendly and sustainable products showcased at trade shows and events, as well as the increased availability of resources that educate exhibitors on how to create sustainable products. In addition, they are looking to minimize the use of single-use plastics, which are known to be a major contributor to environmental pollution. This is being achieved through the implementation of water refill stations and the use of biodegradable or reusable products.
Moreover, organizers are working to create more socially sustainable events by promoting diversity and inclusion, as well as ethical labor practices. This is being done through the implementation of policies that support and encourage diverse exhibitors, as well as fair trade and ethical partnerships. These practices are not only beneficial for the environment and society, but also contribute to the long-term success and relevance of fairs in the events industry. Sustainability is one of the key decision factors when an RFP arrives to a venue. They must comply with the general regulations and expectations of the organizer.
Some further suggestions on how we can make trade shows, events, and conferences less heavy (or more environmentally sustainable), not only when traveling to them, but when we are there: choose a sustainable venue, encourage attendees to use public transportation or carpool and offer incentives for those who use it, use of digital technology instead of handing our paper brochures and flyers, provide eco-friendly catering, reduce, reuse and recycle.
Examples of easy practices that Fira Barcelona carries out:
. Solar panels on the rooftop of the venue. In GastroFira, the F&B department of Fira Barcelona, sustainability and recycling is on the top of their priorities:
. They help organizers to create an offer with several actions to meet our sustainability goals and reduce food waste.
. They collaborate with BCN comparteix el menjar (Barcelona shares food), a local NGO that works to distribute food to citizens in need. Through this project, Nutrition Without Borders (NSF) supplies surplus food from hotels or other catering outlets to the nearest social kitchens. Since 2012, Nutrició sense fronteres has delivered 70 tons of cooked food to 15 social entities.
. They also work with Banc dels Aliments (Food Bank). This NGO obtains food, distributes it to social entities and uses the resources available to regulate food deliveries throughout the year.
. With the huge amount of material supplied to Gastrofira every year, they are committed to increasing the use of compostable and recyclable materials
. Charging points for electrical vehicles:
There are also some budget-friendly ways to plan more sustainable events described here. By implementing these practices, trade shows, events, and conferences can become more environmentally friendly and lead the way in promoting sustainability.