July 27 2023
There is a lot of chatter in the events industry around sustainability and how frameworks such as the triple bottom line (TBL) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors influence event planning. The triple bottom line leans into the impression a company makes on its people, profit, and the planet, while ESG uses a more specific set of criteria to assess a company’s sustainability in environmental, social, and governance realms. Investors often use ESG to assess the risk and potential return of an investment.
Both TBL and ESG are frameworks to measure the sustainability of a company, and each play an important role in event planning. As a third-party event planner, I focus on building goals around sustainability that are founded on the triple bottom line and using ESG reporting to support those efforts. They work together beautifully to keep everyone accountable.
Just as measurement tools are advancing, sustainability at events has evolved from the days of putting out recycling bins and hoping for the best. Helping clients understand the impact of their events, arming them with information about sustainable practices, and helping to support implementation are critical components of the event-planning process.
Until recently, the execution of these strategies has not been a top priority for many corporate event clients. The shift really seemed to happen on the other side of the pandemic.
World events and spending nearly two years in virtual meetings caused many businesses to rethink their priorities. Coming back to in-person events presented an opportunity to start fresh and make events a reflection of a company’s modern-day mission. These days, clients are considering multi-faceted sustainable event strategies, and everyone is starting to pay attention to their triple bottom line.
I shared the concept of triple bottom line and how that impacts responsible event planning and compliance on the PRGN Presents podcast.
As the importance of sustainability grows, so do the number of events focused on sustainability. However, the real growth is in how companies are integrating sustainable strategies into their everyday events. It’s business as usual, but with new perspectives and priorities. Organizations are still hosting events to meet business goals but in a more responsible way, but now we are planning with consideration about how the event will impact investors, partners, and attendees, but also its workers, the local community, and the planet. Event sustainability starts with a plan to outline priorities, define performance indicators, and specify what metrics are needed to measure success.
Budgeting can be a grey area and clients always ask if they need to increase funding to support their efforts. While a larger budget never hurt anyone, it is not necessary. Adding additional funds may afford you the opportunity to make a bigger splash but the definition of sustainability is the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level (Oxford Languages).
Event sustainability is about so much more than saving water bottles—it is about the experience. While reducing excess décor, food, collateral, and giveaways may seem like it will make your event feel lackluster, it can have the opposite effect by enhancing your brand image as an organization that values making a positive impact. Focusing on how to make the event experience informational, inclusive, culturally positive, authentic, and filled with camaraderie is what the next generation of event attendees really want.
The common thread in an effective sustainability plan for events is communication. Getting stakeholders involved early, maintaining engagement throughout the event, and sharing results afterwards are the keys to success in any event strategy.
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