Sustainable workplaces: why enterprises are transforming their approach to events

Posted by Jo Kelly

With 6 million people joining the wave of global protests against climate change, leaving their workplaces to take to the streets, employers can no longer risk not having a strategy on sustainability. In fact, three-quarters of millennial workers would be willing to work for less money if their company was environmentally responsible.

With organisations increasingly trying to outdo each other by offering bigger and better corporate events, trips and packages to appeal to a new, Instagram generation, we’ve also witnessed a new drive for corporate sustainability, causing organisations to compete with their environmental credentials. Travel and corporate events are two aspects which have been transformed by the new trend of corporate sustainability practices.

A high impact

Few realise that the UK events industry has a significant environmental impact on the environment, producing a major carbon footprint and sending 100,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in 2018 alone. Whether it’s high impact travel to and from the event, or even items as simple as plastic cups, non-recyclable lanyards, the waste from the events industry is unnecessary. In effort to curb this impact, there is a new ISO in Sustainable Events (ISO 20121). This guidance aims to act as a standard for controlling the social, economic and environmental impact of the events industry. With so much change to make, every action counts – from switching from paper to digitalised booklets at events relying on tap water instead of plastic bottles.

At CR, we’ve seen a major new shift towards more environmentally sustainable events over the past 18 months

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Reusable events

As a result of the global drive towards sustainability, many companies are striving to reduce the environmental cost of business events as a central plank of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. At CR, we’ve seen a major new shift towards more environmentally sustainable events over the past 18 months, with companies creating digital, biodegradable or recyclable materials for conferences. We’ve seen companies substituting water fountains for water bottles at conferences and have even organised corporate events with note-pads made from apple peel!

Moreover, we’ve organised corporate events with recyclable badges, collateral and sponsorship materials, fully digital event guides and biodegradable smoothie carts. However, recyclable materials are no longer enough for employees seeking to go above and beyond. Companies are even using ‘gamification’ techniques to drive sustainability, with corporations using digital ‘treasure hunts’ involving QR codes to encourage conference attendees to navigate conferences with mobile apps instead of paper maps. Utilising technology and moving away from unnecessary material usage is transforming the organisation of corporate events.

As we move forward, corporate events venues will increasingly be eco-friendly, with QR codes and apps instead of paper materials and accessibility to public transport becoming a key differentiator. The increased salience of sustainability will mean companies proactively working with public transport operators to offer discounts for business travellers and asking tour operators to find sustainable corporate venues and travel destinations.

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Sustainable travel

Business travel also accounts for 73% of the carbon footprint associated with corporate events. At CR, we’ve witnessed a drive in clients spurning city breaks in favour of nature tours that involve helping animals from assisting vets tag wild rhinos to gorilla tracking. Another trend has been organisations looking to choose sustainable countries, such as Iceland for overseas travel. Cities which rank highly in the Global Destination Sustainability Index, such as Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Zurich, are also in high demand. Organisations are seeking to cater for an increasingly socially responsible workforce, for whom donating to charity is no longer enough. Workers want to make an impact in every decision they make and this is reflected in the changing destinations and activities offered by employers.

A top priority

Sustainability policy is fast becoming the top priority for organisations looking to remain competitive against each other, as well as recruiting a new, millennial workforce. In order to engage with this set of talent, employers must engage with issues important to them – in this case, sustainability. It is vital for organisations to keep up with the growing legislation around plastic pollution and climate change. Our customers know this. Craig Dale, Chief Executive, at UK & Ireland SAP User Group said: “Improving sustainability in our operations is a key strategic goal of UKISUG and was added as a key objective for our Annual Conference, UKISUG Connect. Working together with our Event Management Partner, CR Worldwide, we have exceeded our 2019 target of dramatically reducing our use of paper and plastic as we aim towards a carbon neutral event.”

At CR Worldwide, we value this from the top-down, using digital culture as one of the ways we engage with employees, through our online white-label platform. For our customers, we make implementing engaging, socially responsible initiatives such as business trips and events easier.

Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.