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Every corporate event you host is an opportunity to introduce, renew, or reinvigorate your brand in the eyes of your stakeholders and attendees. If you’re like many companies considering their reputation today, you understand how important social responsibility is for your brand.

Over the last few years, experts and researchers have noted a marked increase in consumer expectations and demands regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR). Additionally, research points to how important CSR activities, messaging, and positioning can be to employees as well.

In an effort to meet these expectations, we need to integrate sustainability into our everyday lives. But how can you find opportunities to demonstrate your brand’s commitment to sustainability? One effective way is to incorporate those efforts into your next corporate meeting or event. Even small acts can make a significant impact, so let’s take a closer look at aspects you can consider and steps you can take.

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What Is Sustainability? 

First, let’s be clear – sustainability and corporate social responsibility are not the same. While CSR refers to a company enacting practices and policies encompassing a wide array of social concerns to make a positive impact, sustainability is simply one of those many concerns corporations can commit to. 

With both employees and event attendees demanding more accountability from corporations, becoming sustainable in your daily work practices and at your next program will help your company navigate the new landscape of environmental concerns.

The primary goal of corporate sustainability is looking to the future and determining what actions, policies, and protocols can be put in place to positively contribute to environmental efforts. 

How Can You Create Sustainable Corporate Events? 

While we’ll share concrete tips and examples below, there are other aspects you’ll want to consider as you determine the most meaningful and impactful sustainable practices to utilize. 

One major consideration is your footprint. Where are you creating the most waste, especially waste that can be avoided? Where and when during your event will you be consuming the most resources, particularly non-renewable ones? Consider where your event is and what impact it will have on the environment. Additionally, keep in mind any travel for your event, as it will likely create a fairly sizable carbon footprint (though domestic air travel scores lowest).

You’ll also want to consider any social issues related to not just the event itself, but also the vendors, entertainers, speakers, and venues you choose. In the information age, it’s easy for word to spread quickly if your event sponsors or venues are engaging in shady labor practices, not supporting sustainable initiatives, or engaging in lobbying or politics in a way that clashes with your brand. You always want to consider everyone who is representing your brand at any point during the event.


Benefits of Sustainable Corporate Events

Sustainable corporate events don’t just include a few swaps for more eco-friendly products. Leading with a focus on sustainability not only promotes long-term adoption of environmentally conscious practices, but it also helps promote brand image and employee satisfaction. 

A main benefit of sustainable events, of course, is to minimize environmental impact by reducing waste and conserving resources. This includes some common sustainability practices, such as using recycled materials, implementing energy-saving technologies, and encouraging attendees to use public transportation or to travel together. 

But sustainable events do more than just help protect the environment. Sustainability is a portion of CSR, and hosting sustainable events can bolster brand image, thus improving reputation. In turn, this encourages a sense of pride and engagement among employees, which often leads to higher morale and productivity. Plus, happy employees mean stronger employee retention, reducing costs in the long run.

Additionally, sustainable events help prioritize the health and well-being of attendees. With healthier food options or active transportation, such as biking or walking, guests will be encouraged to take care of themselves while reducing emissions.

Eleven Steps to Incorporate Sustainability at Your Next Corporate Event

As we mentioned, sustainability doesn’t always require grand gestures (though those may benefit your CSR stance); instead, focus on the collective effect caused by various modifications.

1. Incorporate a sustainable mindset throughout planning

When it comes to sustainable corporate events, you need to be thinking about sustainability in every detail. Ask yourself at each event moment, what is the objective of that particular event element, and is there a more sustainable way to achieve that goal? 

Want a bespoke cocktail for a welcome reception? Ditch the branded plastic cups for washable glassware. Want to send attendees home with a gift? Choose options that don’t use individual plastic wrapping. Remember that every decision, no matter how small, contributes to the overall sustainability of your event. By consistently evaluating and opting for eco-friendly alternatives, you can make a meaningful difference in reducing environmental impact while still creating memorable experiences for attendees.

2. Go paperless

This is a sustainability effort we’ve continued to see more of as tech continues to dominate our lives. By implementing digital replacements, such as using a mobile app and email instead of hand-outs, you are taking the first step toward a more sustainable meeting. At Bishop-McCann, we often develop mobile apps for our clients. We’ve found that on top of reducing paper, they improve engagement and enhance the overall attendee experience. Additionally, at your event registration, you can opt for digital check-ins rather than printed guest lists. 

3. Promote recycling and reusable products

Recycling has a big impact on the planet. Make sure your event has clearly labeled containers throughout the venue to make it easy for attendees to recycle. You might even consider including green symbols and compliance logos on your materials to further showcase your dedication to going green. sustainable events_G5A3106

4. Consider sustainable food and beverage options

From processing to packaging, the food and beverages you serve at your event can have a significant impact on the environment. In fact, it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat. In order to be mindful of your menus, consider incorporating plant-based options, which are more environmentally friendly. You could even try to source some of your food locally to lessen your carbon footprint. 

In addition to the food you serve, the way you serve food can also be more sustainably driven. At buffets, use smaller plates to limit food waste. You can also ask catering staff to wait for trays to be completely empty before replenishing them. Bonus points if you leave notes on buffet tables to inform guests of these choices to increase awareness and promote a sustainable mindset throughout the event!

5. Provide virtual attending options

By providing guests with attendance options, you can reduce your carbon footprint. Giving attendees a way to attend virtually means you will have fewer guests in cars or on planes, which can significantly reduce your footprint. At Bishop-McCann, we can help you with alternatives.

6. Choose a centralized location

If travel is a must and the majority of your attendees are in or near one location, consider choosing an event venue that is central to that location, allowing for shorter travel time. In addition, you may choose a venue or destination with restaurants, shops, and other attractions within walking distance, making it easier for guests to navigate the chosen location without contributing to pollution. For high-demand destinations not in walking distance, consider shuttle buses to reduce your footprint further.

7. Implement carbon footprint tracking

Speaking of your footprint, sometimes the best way to improve your sustainability practices is by taking a data-driven approach. Technology is used throughout corporate events, including carbon footprint tracking. 

There are many new and exciting tools available to help you gain insight into the impact your event has on the environment, tracking everything from the carbon output of flights to power usage in sessions. Plus, you can utilize this data to inform attendees of your sustainability goals and uncover ways to reduce your footprint for future conferences.

8. Integrate sustainability activities

The objective of any sustainable event is to create lasting, positive impacts. Ask what you can do to make a difference in the community where your event or meeting is being held. Nearly every region and city you visit has a project your team can get involved in. Going to the beach? Pick up litter left behind. Visiting a destination with a nearby park? Volunteer by planting trees. You could even do an impromptu neighborhood clean-up! The goal is to leave the location you visit better than you found it.

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9. Select a green venue

More and more hotels and other venues have sustainability programs in place, implementing environmentally friendly practices throughout their business. From water conservation and energy efficiency to eco-friendly cleaning supplies, research your potential venues and discover how they are contributing to helping our planet.

10. Educate your audience on sustainability

During your corporate event, it might be beneficial to include sessions focused on educating guests about sustainability and how they can be more environmentally mindful outside of the event.

If your schedule is packed, consider creating digital signage instead that educates guests on the sustainable features included throughout the event, such as highlighting the way the venue reduces their energy consumption or the importance of group transportation to reduce carbon emissions.

11. Give away eco-friendly swag

Event gifts are excellent mementos for attendees. But if you don’t select your swag wisely, you might just be gifting items that will wind up in the trash. Instead, think green and consider giving attendees branded swag that will reduce their waste, such as a reusable coffee mug or water bottle. It’s no secret that single-use water bottles and coffee cups are often utilized at corporate events, but they don’t have to be if you give guests alternatives. You can reduce your waste and market at the same time!

Embracing eco-conscious practices not only benefits the environment but also enhances the overall experience for attendees and reinforces your organization's commitment to corporate responsibility. At Bishop-McCann, we’re passionate about partnering with you to bring your sustainable event vision to life. If you’re ready to discuss your next event and how we can help you go green, get in touch with us today!

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