Blog: Sustainable Events and Eco-Friendly Management Solutions

According to a 2022 report by ICE, 59% of brands and event organisers struggle to implement sustainable practices when planning and hosting business events. And it’s not difficult to see why: through brochures and handouts, single-use stands and displays, travel, accommodation, heating, and food wastage, the average conference delegate generates more than 170kg of CO2 emissions every day.

In a 2022 survey of 150 European business executives, Eden McCallum found that 78% are actively implementing and adopting sustainable practices across their operations, with 90% admitting they are concerned about the issue as a whole. For these organisations, adherence to corporate environmental policy — and the appearance of adherence — is set to play a crucial role in how, when, where, and why they choose to organise and participate in a business event.

At JMF, we offer a wide range of solutions for events industry professionals, from event planning and printed materials to hand-fabricated display stands, delivery and installation. And, as an events partner, we take sustainability seriously.

In this blog post, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the issues surrounding event sustainability. We’ll look at the current research into the environmental impact of business events, and offer practical tips on how to make sure your next event is a green event.

Sustainable Events: The Challenges

Stakeholders are increasingly aware of a brand’s environmental footprint and its efforts (or lack of efforts) to reduce it. However, whilst the vast majority of business leaders are concerned about environmental sustainability, a 2022 report by the GBTA Foundation found that 90% require external assistance in tackling the issue.

The challenge of implementing eco-friendly initiatives becomes particularly evident in the context of business events. Let’s examine some of the major challenges in more detail.

Carbon Emissions

Travel is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions for event attendees, accounting for 83.1% of carbon emissions.

In an effort to reduce an event’s carbon footprint and to meet ESG targets, businesses are becoming more selective when it comes to long-distance travel, leading to greater localisation at events and exhibitions.

Printed Material

Most events rely on the production and distribution of printed materials such as brochures, leaflets, and banners. Frequently, these are produced using non-recycled paper and plastics, which have a significant environmental impact.

Moreover, with few venues providing recycling stations to those on-site, these materials are often thrown away and end up in landfills.

Food Waste

Food waste is another area where events can have a significant environmental impact. The average attendee consumes several meals per day, which creates an additional burden on resources such as water, energy, and fuel.

Furthermore, an event catering service will frequently over-order with no provisions in place for donating leftover food to a charity or local food bank.

Sustainable Events: The Solutions

Business events represent the perfect opportunity for brands to showcase their commitment to sustainability, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

Exhibitions, trade shows, and corporate networking events all provide a platform for businesses to proudly and publicly draw attention to their efforts and achievements in this area, whilst connecting with industry leaders, employees, potential customers, and media representatives.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways JMF help clients improve their event’s sustainability.

Recycled Print Collateral

Print collateral — such as brochures, catalogues, agendas, and business cards — are synonymous with the event experience; so much so that many event planners choose the number of handouts as a KPI for the events they attend.

Switching to recycled and reusable materials for print collateral not only contributes to a reduction in the environmental impact of an event, it sends a positive message to attendees about a brand’s commitment to sustainability practices.

LED Lighting

Over 50% of the CO2 emissions generated by a corporate event can be attributed to heating and lighting. For brands that rely on illuminated signage, free-standing letters, and presentation displays for attracting attention and encouraging engagement, LED lighting offers a low-footprint alternative.

An LED emits 80% less greenhouse gases than an incandescent bulb whilst providing the same luminosity – this improves energy efficiency and helps to reduce emissions produced by the event venue. Meanwhile, the non-toxic composition of LED makes it much better suited to responsible end-of-life waste management.

Reusable Display Units

Many brands choose single-use display stands for each of their business events. Whilst these displays offer the benefit of being customisable for the event space in space, they have a significant impact on the amount of waste generated.

A commitment to sustainable event design doesn’t mean sacrificing the aesthetics of the event space. By choosing reusable display stands and heavy units, businesses help with carbon reduction and save money on production costs. Utilising existing materials instead of commissioning new ones can significantly reduce waste, whilst simultaneously decreasing the carbon footprint associated with transportation and logistics. To this end, companies should look for modular display units that can be easily adapted to fit any environment.

Renewable Energy Projects

In 2020, JMF received a grant from the Business Energy Saving Team, enabling us to acquire an air-to-heat pump. This innovative low-carbon air source generates up to four times the energy of a conventional electric heater.

This state-of-the-art production technology has resulted in a substantial decrease in the greenhouse gases we produce, leading to an annual reduction of 7.2 tonnes of CO2. As a result, we are delighted to announce that two out of our four manufacturing units based in Swalwell now operate with net zero emissions.

Renewable Transport and Logistics

To encourage remote work, our non-office employees, including the installation team, are provided with mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. This strategy empowers our off-site staff to work efficiently while reducing transportation emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

At two of our factories, we have installed electric car charging ports for our on-site employees. This installation is in anticipation of the arrival of our first fleet of all-electric vehicles. Our dedicated efforts in this area demonstrate our commitment to sustainable transportation, renewable energy sources, and reducing our carbon footprint.

In Summary

For brands looking to host or organise more sustainable events, the most immediate goal should be to make material and energy reductions wherever possible. Whether this means replacing brochures and catalogues with digital materials or using more energy-efficient lighting modules, businesses that commit to these changes will reduce their environmental impact (and potentially see a significant reduction in their production and manufacturing costs).

Brands should also look to produce assets made from recycled materials. And this should go beyond paper, focusing on sustainable materials for the fabrication of displays and modular units and the reuse of these assets across future events. To facilitate this reuse, businesses should seek agency partners that can not only manufacture their assets but also store, reskin, and dispatch them when and where they are needed.

This highlights the importance for organisations to pay careful attention to the partners they choose to assist them in the planning and execution of their events. Agency partners must be selected based on their genuine commitment to solving the sustainability puzzle; their ability to develop novel, brand-first solutions; and their capacity to produce those materials responsibly and at scale.

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How can we help?