Why your next event should be carbon neutral

It seems a bit strange opening a blog about events by talking about Tesla and electric cars but be patient. If you were to ask the man on the street to name an electric car brand, Tesla would consistently be in the top 3. In 2020, they sold about ½ million electric vehicles. A considerable year on year increase but at the same time, it accounts for less than 1% of the global market share for electric cars.

What Tesla have done, however, is set the standard for electric vehicles and lead the market. Where Tesla have led, others now follow and the major marques of Toyota, VW and Nissan accounted for nearly 50% of the market sales in 2020, demonstrating that electric cars have entered the mainstream.

What’s this got to do with Carbon Neutral Meetings I hear you ask? Quite a lot! With all the current discussion about COP26, sustainability and a real focus on Carbon Footprints, both business and personal, do you as an event organiser, want to be a pioneer for the Meeting and Events industry like Tesla?

Every week we receive invitations to webinars discussing sustainability and can see lots of positive information about initiatives which are taking place to reduce the overall carbon footprint of an organisation. Two things we don’t see much of at the moment are specific references to reducing the carbon footprint of a meeting or event and how you go about measuring that reduction.

From our experience since we launched Carbon Consultancy, we see the process to creating Carbon Neutral conferences and events as being three clear steps: –

Measurement – to fully understand the Carbon Footprint of a conference, you need to start the measurement process from when your delegates leave their front door, and finish it only when they return home. We’ve created a carbon calculator that measures over 500 different data points all the way through the event, covering travel, accommodation, food and beverage, energy usage and ancillary services, such as conference giveaways.

EducationIf you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. A famous quote attributed to Peter Drucker but very true when it comes to sustainability. There’s little point in creating a set of initiatives if you don’t know your starting place. This is where the carbon calculator is so vital. It provides an initial carbon footprint for an event and from there we offer immediate tangible solutions to reduce the footprint. Point to note though, there is no silver bullet that takes an event from 30 tonnes of carbon to 0 in one fell swoop. Typically, when we advise a customer, there are normally a dozen or more action points for them to work on pre-conference which, when aggregated will have a positive impact on their overall footprint.

But what does good look like? According to the UN, we need a 7.6% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions every year for the next 10 years to stop temperatures increasing by 1.5%. When consulting, the highest reduction we’ve achieved for our customers so far is 20%, so it’s definitely making a huge difference. It’s also helping us to build up our sustainability supply chain as each time we work on a project, we’re faced with different challenges. We now know how sustainable cork is and that it can be used for all sorts of different products. Did you know, you can make a conference lanyard out of cork? Strange but true.

Offset –It’s unlikely that we can reduce a carbon footprint to 0 so this is where the offset programme comes in. We’ve partnered with Carbon Footprint, who have provided us with an ethical and robust Offset Programme with Verified Carbon Standards. Applying this offset programme will then allow an organiser to market their conference as carbon neutral.

So, what then are our learnings that we can share with you from the projects we’ve worked on so far? Here are some nuggets that can support Carbon Neutral Meetings.

Flying – Sometimes you just have to fly. Despite best intentions, travelling from America to the UK will mean taking a flight (unless you’ve got 2 weeks to spare to take a boat trip). If that’s the case, choose an airline that has strong sustainability credentials and offers an offset programme as part of the ticket price.

Carbon Neutral is good for staff morale – it creates a positive feeling within a company if the employees feel they are making an impact. This is particularly relevant if you have lots of Gen Z’ers in your workplace. Don’t assume it’s just about Gen Z though. Increasingly all employees are more focused on sustainability.

Build your supply chain – Amongst many others, we now have sourced a coach company that has electric coaches, which are net zero. Each time we undertake a project, we’re tested by our customers in different ways, ensuring we build a robust supply chain of sustainably minded companies that can support in reducing the carbon footprint for an event.

Food – Plant based menus are becoming more popular and venues are getting more creative about options. A plant based menu has a fraction of the footprint of meat.

Beverage – There are some amazing wines that are grown in the UK that are more sustainable than their overseas counterparts. The same applies for beer.

Budget – it doesn’t cost the earth to make an event Carbon Neutral. In fact from our experience so far, the average cost to consult, measure and offset as a percentage of the total event budget has been less than 2%.

Interested to learn more? Write to ask@thebnc.co.uk