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‘Clock is ticking’ for eventprofs to prove green credentials

The “clock is ticking” for eventprofs to prove decisive action on the climate to expectant exhibitors, according to Informa’s head of sustainability.

Ben Wielgus, head of sustainability at Informa Group, claimed organisers need to raise their game when it comes to steps they are taking to reduce emissions.

It comes as ExpoPlatform exclusively revealed the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative will remove names from its website if organisations cannot prove “tangible actions” every two years.

The scheme currently has hundreds of planners signed up, however questions had been raised about how they would enforce standards on those who have pledged to meet the targets.

He told ExpoPlatform: “One of the things I love about the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative is that it’s brought 700 organisations together.

“The intention there was to make it as inclusive as possible and as accessible as possible.

“We know that time is running out to reduce carbon in the world. But we also know that the clock is ticking because our customers really want low carbon solutions – big exhibitors expect us to be tackling this.

“So as an industry, we need to raise our game. I think we’re going to go into a phase now where the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative is going to expect anyone who signed up to it to demonstrate they’re taking action and they’re heading towards that first goal of a 50% reduction in CO2 by 2030.”

The Net Zero Carbon Events initiative – hosted by the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) – aims to bring together a wide range of industry stakeholders for a range of aims. These include:

  • Jointly communicate our industry’s commitment to tackling climate change and driving towards net zero by 2050
  • Develop common methodologies for measuring the industry’s direct, indirect and supply chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Construct an industry-wide roadmap towards net zero by 2050 and emissions reductions by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement, with support and guidance on key issues
  • Foster collaboration with suppliers and customers to ensure alignment and common approaches
  • Establish common mechanisms for reporting progress and sharing best practice

In November 2021, the Net Zero Roadmap for Events was launched at COP26 having been aligned with the targets of the pledge.

Ben said: “I think a lot of the signatories to Net Zero Carbon Events initiative are trying to figure out where they start.

“It can be almost overwhelming that there are hundreds of pages of guidance, more than 30 different measurement tools. What do you do?

“I believe really strongly, you’ve got to start within the realms of what you can do with what’s possible.

“I’m a huge believer in just doing the best you can to estimate where the largest sources of carbon emissions are and then really concentrate on tackling those.

“Once you know what your three or four biggest sources of emissions are, you can look around for case studies of who’s dealing with that and then choose to do that.

“Then once you’ve got them under control, let’s tackle the next ones and the next one. It’s a really iterative process, so you’re not trying to bite off more than you can chew.”

Alexander Alles, executive director of the JMIC, said: “We are currently at the stage where many of those who signed up to the pledge soon after it was launched at the end of 2021 are reporting on their progress – what steps they have already taken to reduce their emissions and what plans have been put in place for further activity.

“Most of those who have reported have confirmed that they have implemented specific new steps to, for instance, reduce waste and recycle materials – real activity not green washing.”

Aims of the scheme are in line with global efforts set out by the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5C and reduce total global GHG emissions by 50% by 2030.

Signatories also commit to actively promote and advocate for industry efforts throughout the value chain.

Every organisation undertakes to:

  • Before the end of 2024, publish the organisation’s pathway to achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest, with an interim target in line with the Paris Agreement’s requirement to reduce global GHG emissions by 50% by 2030.
  • That includes identifying and prioritising actions to reduce emissions – such as energy management, water conservation, materials management, food and beverage waste reduction, housekeeping initiatives, sustainable procurement, stakeholder management and employee engagement – and set goals accordingly
  • Measure and track its Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions according to industry best practices
  • Report on its progress at least every two years

He added: “The names of those who fail to report every two years taking tangible actions to reduce their emissions will be removed from the list of signatories on the website.

“As an initiative we are eager to showcase that the meetings industry is eager to combat climate change and that we do our part.

“At the same time, we fully recognise that the vast majority of the industry stakeholders are small and medium size enterprises. This is very much reflected in among the signatories.

“They do not have dedicated teams of people who deal only with the topic of sustainability.

“Capacity building and support is crucial in order to make sustainability more understandable, which is what we are doing right now after the guidance documents have been developed.”

Meanwhile, Ben set out his vision how event planners could use sustainability to attract talent to the profession.

Recruitment and retaining staff has been one of the major challenges organizers have been facing, especially since lockdown saw many leave the industry.

Sustainability and a commitment to sustainability has often been highlighted as key concern for those graduating from college and entering the workforce.

Ben said: “Sustainability is going to be essential for our industry to attract talent into the future.

“We know that our industry is not seen as cool and sexy. We know that people don’t really know what we do and how amazing our products are.

“Once you’re in the industry, you love it, but to a graduate who’s looking at Google and Apple or a cool startup in Silicon Valley, or a new food business, we don’t really feature on the radar.

“One of the ways we can differentiate ourselves or at least meet those expectations is on being committed to sustainability and giving those new graduates a chance to get involved with that programme.

“Informa interviewed 140,000 people who applied to work for our business – when they filled in the survey, more than half of them said that our commitment to sustainability was one of the main reasons they were comfortable and excited to apply for us because they want to be part of it.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. Find out how our Meetings Makes Trees initiative can help your organization to offset carbon emissions. Book a meeting for more information now.