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Green to keep delegates keen

Sustainable events are now a pillar of event planning. CN investigates some cutting-edge green initiatives.


Achieving truly sustainable events (CSR) requires focusing attention on three key pillars: economic impact – using the assets of a company efficiently to ensure profitability over time; social impact – a community- focused approach that includes employee welfare, fair trade and community engagement; and environmental impact – making responsible decisions, such as sourcing local and seasonal produce, to reduce an organisation’s negative impact on the environment.

According to, the typical attendee produces 1.89kg of waste per day, 1.16kg of which goes directly to landfill. This means that over a three-day long event, 1,000 attendees typically generate 5,670kg of waste. 

Leaders of trade association IACC and Tracy Stuckrath (pictured), of Thrive Meetings & Events, a food and beverage consultancy, discuss how to successfully deliver sustainable events and they provide insight into the latest sustainability trends across the market.

“It’s very common for us to think about saving the planet when hearing the word ‘sustainability’, but this is about so much more than the environmental impact of our events,” says Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. “Economic impact and social elements of our events and businesses contribute heavily to sustainability as well. 

“More events are choosing to showcase their leadership and innovation in the market through implementing sustainable practices for diverse reasons. For some, it’s the right thing to do. Others want to engage with attendees who share the same sustainable goals and morals by tapping into their emotional intelligence. Others see the opportunity to save money through reducing water, energy and waste costs. Other do it for the economic benefits they can bring to areas and communities by holding events there, such as creating new jobs and skills for people they employ or for volunteers. For others it may be part of a requirement for a tender or to attract sponsorship for the event. 

“Irrespective of the reason, there are certainly plenty of benefits from incorporating sustainability into your events. In fact, every business in the 21st Century should demonstrate the good they’re bringing to the world. Our 2019 IACC Meeting Room of the Future report revealed that 44% of respondents believe ethical operations and sustainable practices will be one of the most important elements for venues by the year 2024. We’re expecting this to become an even bigger focus as a result of the high-profile climate awareness campaigns that are gaining traction across the globe.




“Event buyers of today are looking for smart, forward-thinking destinations and venues that can meet their requirements; for venues that can showcase exciting, local, fresh foods, and for suppliers that understand their commitment to recycling, energy emissions, water usage and waste, and who champion and provide high-tech innovation.” 

To ensure it delivers a sustainable event itself, IACC has entered a review process with Events Industry Council (EIC) using its 2019 IACC Europe Knowledge Festival as a case study in being the first to attain the EIC Sustainable Event Standards certification. The certification body will be looking at various aspects of event planning and performance of the Brussels event, including innovation in operations, F&B offering and waste management.

Lotta Giesenfeld Boman, IACC Europe President, comments on the initiative: “Sustainability is not just about replacing plastic straws, it’s about wider venue operations, management and ethos. With some venues being in the infancy of their sustainable journey, and others having already come a long way, we can learn a lot from each other.

“This is why we decided to focus our upcoming Europe Knowledge Festival programme around the theme of sustainability. We want to inspire and support all our members to take action towards preserving our environment, promoting a healthy, inclusive society and supporting thriving economies and communities that their events impact. It is 
 important for us to lead by example and demonstrate how delivering a sustainable event can be achieved, while providing our 130+ delegates with actionable takeaways.”

Tracy Stuckrath of Thrive Meetings & Events, who is set to deliver two workshops focused on sustainability during the Brussels event, outlines the sustainability trends she sees emerging. She says: “The sustainability trend I see emerging very rapidly  is the increasing number of people following a plant-based diet. More and more people are choosing to eat a more plant-based diet and avoid food products with artificial ingredients and GMOs. As an industry, we need to reinvent the vegetarian, vegan and other ‘free-from’ foods that we have tried to offer to really embrace the opportunity to create healthier options for our attendees and the planet.

“During the ‘Food Rules’ session at IACC Europe Knowledge Festival, we’ll discuss food laws in Europe and how they impact food and beverage offerings at events, as well as legal and ethical responsibilities organisers must follow with regards to F&B. During the ‘Sustainable F&B’ session, we’ll provide solutions for conference centres to provide more sustainable events through the F&B they source and serve, including how to reduce food waste, a huge challenge that the industry is currently facing.”

Venue focus 

Laura Pearce is sales and marketing manager at RSA House, and has engaged with a number of green initiatives to help the environment and clients to have greener events

She says: “During the refurbishment we replaced the cookers with electrical induction hobs, which is much more efficient and uses less energy and heat. It’s also literally much cleaner and doesn’t produce as much dirt, so less products are used to maintain it. We mainly use LED lighting and our energy supplier is green too.

“Plastic straws are a thing of the past here and we will supply paper straws on client’s request.

“We recycle as much as possible from electrical items, batteries, cardboard, paper, toner cartridges, and food waste and are currently looking into recycling coffee grounds.” 

Kathy Rose, head of LSO St Luke’s, says her venue’s impact on the environment is always a key factor in the decisions they make, both in terms of our local environment and on a larger scale. She says: “As a venue, we’ve developed an environmental policy that also forms part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, and we strive to ensure that our event practices are ethically, socially and environmentally aware. In order to minimise our environmental impact we work closely with the Islington Sustainable Energy Partnership, a group which endeavours to reduce carbon emissions across the borough. 


rsa house


“As part of our policy, we’ve taken a number of steps to make our venue more environmentally friendly: we installed sensors on taps and LED lights to minimise unnecessary energy usage, we provide reusable cutlery at all our events (and compostable cutlery when we can’t), and we have installed a ground source heat pump that allows us to efficiently recycle energy. 

“We work hard to encourage this philosophy among staff, suppliers, patrons and clients. It’s all about the small details and if everyone made one small change, it would result in massive change. 

Sarah McQueen, assistant head of commercial services, Museum of London says that her venue’s Terrace Gallery, Boardroom and Garden Room at the Museum of London all have green roofs, meaning they are partially covered with planting. She says: “This releases oxygen, filters pollutants and helps to insulate the building, as well as creating natural habitats and biodiversity. Further to this, we have installed a rainwater harvesting system, allowing us to filter captured water through several spaces in the venue. Sustainability doesn’t end at avoiding plastic or reducing food waste – it’s about ensuring the impact of the environment is reduced to an absolute minimum.”