Business development · 6 January 2020

How to host an environmentally conscious corporate event

Green event

Hosting a corporate event can be a challenging undertaking. From picking a venue, organising catering and inviting attendees, there is a long list of things to tick off before the big day. Yet many decisions are based on convenience and cost rather than the environmental impact.

The good news is the tide is turning and more businesses are working to reduce their carbon footprint in response to the consumer-led sustainability trend. The event space is not excluded from this and any business holding an event must bear this in mind or risk alienating themselves. Let’s look at how an event can be planned with the environment in mind…

1. Location matters

Your starting point for deciding where to put on your event shouldn’t be where is the most convenient location for you, but your guests. Transport is an important thing to think about and can help you narrow down your search area early on.

The closer the location is to major public transport hubs the better to reduce the number of people travelling individually by car.

Once you’ve decided on a location, you then need to search for venues that have eco-friendly certifications; for example, the LEED plaque on a building is a mark of quality and achievement in green building. TripAdvisor also has a programme called GreenLeaders, listing eco-friendly hotels which often have conference and meeting rooms.

Venues within a walkable distance to restaurants, shops, bars and other facilities can help you cut your event’s carbon footprint further. It’s also convenient for guests.

2. ‘Food’ for thought

VAT on tacos

Choosing a venue that offers an in-house catering service is the most efficient way to limit the environmental impact of an event.

But above and beyond this, there are other considerations to bear in mind when it comes to catering.

Menus which include (or are even exclusively) plant-based or vegetarian will make catering for your guests much more sustainable. It will also appeal to a growing number of vegans and “flexitarians” who are limiting their meat intake.

Produce should be sourced locally where possible and be in season too. It’s also important to request information from either in-house or external catering suppliers about how they will serve refreshments at the event.

Request eco-friendly tableware like compostable water cups, wooden cutlery and bamboo plates instead of single-use plastic which can take up to 450 years to decompose if it isn’t recycled.

Fearing the prospect of disappointing attendees, it’s common for event planners to over-cater for guests leading to large volumes of food waste (and monetary loss). While you can never guarantee attendance, it pays to give guests strict deadlines for RSVPs and cancellations and gather information on any food allergies or diets way ahead of time.

3. Stop the waste

Events can be hugely wasteful. They’re short-lived experiences that usually involve piles of printed collateral and run-of-the-mill branded merchandise which is thrown away after the event. Instead of taking the easy go-to option of printed invites, branded pens, stress balls or USB sticks, think creatively as to how you can create a memorable event while minimising waste.

Instead of sending paper invites in the post, go fully digital with e-invites and keep a track of RSVPs in a spreadsheet or sign up to online tracking services like Eventbrite.

Any updates to the timing, location or agenda for the event you can just ping attendees the details. If your event is large-scale, an event app could be worthwhile to give guests access to everything on their smartphone or tablet.

networking events

Sellers of promotional products are catching on to the sustainability trend and many now offer eco-friendly alternatives to plastic merchandise like cotton canvas tote bags, reusable water bottles or coffee cups, and cork notebooks with recycled paper.

Promote recycling around the event with designated recycling points including bins and signs for guests to responsibly get rid of any personal rubbish they may have.

For security and to ensure brand stands out on the day, there is now a wide range of event badges and lanyards on the market which isn’t made from single-use plastic.

Opt for more sustainable recycled plastic or natural materials such as paper, pulper, bamboo and cotton.

In the unlikely event that your attendees don’t want to hold on to their badges and lanyards after the event, use a recycle box from recycling specialists like Terracycle who offer Zero Waste Boxes for this very reason.

4. Shout about it

Hosting a green corporate event has many benefits, including for the reputation of your brand. Your event may be over, but the work continues. Make sure to share your event’s “best bits” across social media, tagging your eco-friendly suppliers and thanking them publicly.

If you have an environmental or corporate social responsibility statement on your website, update this with your code of practice for events, detailing the actions your business takes to reduce excess waste and limit your (and your guests’) carbon footprint.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Matthew Payne is a leading authority and innovator in eco-friendly card and lanyard production, with over 25 years’ experience in the space. Made by Oomph is the UK’s leading producer of event badges and lanyards, membership and loyalty cards, and hotel key cards with a global client list which includes KFC, Travelodge, Google and Airbnb. The company continues to innovate and explore alternative materials to plastic, recently launching its ground-breaking sustainable pulper paper card with built-in contactless technology. With a degree in marketing and a desire to improve the recycling process so "It's as good as the Scandinavians," Matthew wants to ensure his two children can enjoy the planet at its best.

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