Business Events Team Up & Take Action for the Environment

5th January 2023

The meetings industry is all about bringing great minds and industry influencers together to learn and share knowledge, adding a unique value to scientific and academic advancements and the global economy. But how can this value be extended to also benefit the environment? The Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative (NZCE) was created to fill the gap of an organized movement within our industry which provides concrete guidelines and ideas for carbon-free business events.

Words Vicky Koffa

Launched in August 2021, this new project originated from the work of an organizing task force initiated by Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) members, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)

“We all felt that our global events sector needs to accelerate its actions in response to the threat of climate change and wanted to drive a collective response. COP26 held in Glasgow in 2021 was the perfect platform to launch our initiative and garner support – we announced our 100 first signatories and set out the events industry’s commitment to play its role in addressing climate change,” says James Rees, President of JMIC.

A Handy Guide to Get You Thinking

With sustainability being one of the main topics of discussion when preparing for an event, the time was right to unite the meetings industry and its stakeholders under the same umbrella. From “Operators”, directly involved in the production of events (as an organizer, a venue, or a service provider), to “Associations” of those operators, or “Partners” (destinations, media, consultants), all signatory organizations now have access to a concrete guide on how to start their environmental journey.

The broad scope of these organizations allows for many variations in speed and progress, as some may be more advanced than others. However, the guide is designed to help all stakeholders identify environmentally friendly gaps in their practices irrelevant of their situation. “Our initiative is open to all organizations in the event supply chain and our Roadmap – which sets out comprehensive information on how to implement action to achieve Net Zero – is applicable to the full range of businesses. It is a flexible tool no matter what the level of resources or local infrastructure an organization operates in,” continues Rees.

A Roadmap to Achieve Your Goals

In November 2022, NZCE reached its first milestone after the Pledge of COP26. A clear Roadmap was issued, preparing the ground for the steps to follow until the desirable carbon-free year 2050. “This Roadmap sets out a framework for measuring and evaluating progress as well as detailing five key action areas where collaborative effort is needed: 1. Energy 2. Smart production and waste management 3. Food and food waste 4. Freight and logistics and 5. Travel and accommodation,” explains Rees. According to the statistics presented in the roadmap, travel and accommodation are by far the industry’s biggest obstacles, but ones that can be overcome by data collection, sustainable travel plans and attendee communication in place at all events.

Keeping in mind these five action areas, in 2023 the interested company will define its own needs and plan for the future, whereas in 2025 it will measure its carbon footprint and embed sustainability criteria in all events. In 2030 carbon producing activities will be reduced by 50% and replaced by reusable alternatives in the next 5 years. In 2040 any residual carbon emissions are removed with the goal to have a net zero carbon industry by 2050. Additionally, companies will have to report their progress at least every two years.

Rees is optimistic about the timeline. “Looking to the immediate future, 2023 is a year of implementation. By the end of next year, our supporters will have shared their pathway to Net Zero, and by COP28 in November we want to be able to share case studies of organizations successfully using roadmap. This will boost other companies to join the movement.”

Who Is Part of This?

Along with signing the pledge to act more sustainably, the initiative offers funding partnerships of four different levels for all stakeholders interested in supporting the cause. Since its launch, nearly 500 conference and events industry organizations from 55 countries have signed the pledge – conference, exhibition and event organizers, convention bureaux, venues, and other suppliers. Among others, the initiative has the continuous support by UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Boardroom is, of course, a proud paying supporter of NZCE.

The movement has clearly already gained a lot of traction, especially among those directly linked to organizing events. But the only way to achieve positive change within the desired timeframe is for everyone to be on the same page and work together. More signatories from across the sectors means more efficient work towards the goal.

“The initiative is very strong within the meetings and events industry because of its nature. We would, however, like to see more associations and organizations from outside the core industry joining. Events are being organized by many different types of organizations, including those outside of the business events industry. The best example is IEEE – technical professionals association – joining our initiative in 2022,” says Rees.

A Call for All Associations

At Boardroom we align our practices with the goals of the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative, and we echo the message by JMIC President Rees that more associations should be actively involved. The power associations hold as game-changers can be of great use to the cause and create a positive ripple effect for others to join. We call our readers to be part of this collaborative sustainability movement for a better meetings industry.

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