The global business events sector
cannot return to ‘business as usual' if it’s to become a genuinely sustainable
industry, according to a new report.
The ‘How to move to a more
sustainable business events industry in the United Kingdom’ report by William
Thomson of Gallus Events uses two scenarios, the business as
usual scenario and the sustainable events
transition scenario, to outline two possible futures for the
Looking at environmental,
economic and societal factors including attendee and stakeholder travel, goods transport,
food waste and energy consumption, the report posits that if physical business
events continued to grow, with domestic and international audiences continuing to
travel to in-person events, it would be likely the event industry would miss the
2030 net-zero interim target.
In the business
as usual scenario, event venues and event infrastructure will continue to be
built, putting a strain on resources. But by 2040, the modelling suggests
physical event attendance will fall as a result of companies striving to reach
net-zero targets. This reduction in delegate travel and physical attendance will
have a knock-on effect on event venues that aren’t booking as much business,
seeing venue closures.
climate intervention, by 2050, the globe is headed towards two degrees of
global warming with sustainable technologies such as carbon sequestration and
electric planes not yet effective enough to maintain pre-2030 travel habits. As
a consequence, people are choosing to prioritise social and family contact
above work, which is now mainly a remote activity with AI, robotics, and
automation replacing many manual jobs.
point, the scenario suggests, the industry's value in the UK dropped to 50 per
cent of base year value, and the industry will find itself in a precarious
based on the sustainable events transition scenario, which focuses on
demanding climate action from larger organisations, putting emphasis on
reduced delegate and stakeholder travel, and transitioning towards a virtual
events industry, event planners can play a major role in the green economy.
events transition scenario encourages all event stakeholders to make immediate
changes, including venues implementing 100 per cent renewable energy for all operations,
implementing waste to landfill policies, and implementing water and
energy-saving strategies across their complexes.
The scenario also highlights that if by 2040 most companies have moved their events to a virtual
format, with their non-negotiable in-person events moving to a regional format,
the business events industry would be a leader in transitioning to a green economy.
As a result
of the decrease in physical meeting attendance, cities would be forced to redirect
funds intended for infrastructure to other areas. The senario suggest funds could
be spent on climate mitigation, concentrating on nature-based solutions that
created a buffer for severe weather events.
In this scenario, following major uptake in industry-wide sustainability campaigns, most delegates will
choose to attend events remotely and those who do travel would use
low/zero-emissions methods. As a result, resource use including textiles
for carpets and furniture, vinyl and plastics for signage and promotions, and
wood and metal for exhibition stands, could be reduced by up to 80 per cent.
The report concludes
that while it’s ‘human nature to socialise and to exchange ideas’ the
unavoidable issue with large physical events is that they are
The report recommends
that to achieve a sustainable transition, the UK events industry has to greatly
increase the number of virtual and hybrid events and the number of virtual
attendees while scaling back the number of physical events and physical attendees.
It also must de-prioritise the international visitor.
full report with full references here.
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.