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Minimising the environmental impact of meetings and events

Meetings and events can have a great impact on the environment and also reflect the level of coherence and environmental commitment of a public administration body.

Public administration bodies can influence external venue hosts or catering companies by choosing to only work with those that are already working to minimise their environmental impact. Similarly, while they do not have direct control over access and availability of wider sustainable travel networks, they can host events with good transport links or provide sustainable options to attendees.

Venue choice is the most prominent method to influence the environmental impact of meetings and events. Preference should be for venues with strong environmental performance (e.g. low-energy, water-efficient, sustainable facilities) and locations that minimise travel for the participants.

There are some key considerations that public administration can consider when hosting an event:

  • Host a virtual meeting or event as an alternative.
  • If a physical event is held, make sure the venue and accommodation are accessible by public transport.
  • Events, venues and/or contractors should be covered by a relevant certification scheme.
  • Sustainable catering options should be provided.
  • Sustainable transport options should be promoted to attendees.
  • Conference materials, handouts, consumables and giveaways should be avoided. Where items are given away, they should have a dual purpose, be reusable after the conference and ultimately be recyclable.
  • Segregated waste streams should be provided and clearly signposted.
  • Sustainability information and engagement materials should be shared with attendees and stakeholders.
  • Best practice guides and sustainable procurement guides should be produced to disseminate best practice knowledge to other organisations in the jurisdiction.

The reduction of the environmental impact of meetings and event organisation may be most effectively administered by introducing a sustainable event management system (for example, ISO 20121). The public administration body can implement the management system itself, or it can use contractors/suppliers that have one in place.

Choosing suppliers, hotels and venues with an environmental management system (such as EMAS or ISO 14001), or by using other recognised international schemes such as the EU Ecolabel, Green Tourism Business Scheme or The Green Key, will facilitate the adoption of good practices and will improve the environmental performance of the event.

Events are typically organised and delivered by a collective of interested parties (e.g. organisers, venue owners, caterers) and it is essential that each one is aware of the role they play in delivering a sustainable event. A good communication strategy must be developed to engage not only suppliers but also attendees, as much of the environmental outcomes will also depend on their behaviour.

Public administration bodies should use their unique position to disseminate best practice learning and encourage the development of a wider sustainable events industry and culture.

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