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Sustainability New Year’s Resolutions for 2018

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As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a great time to start thinking about the year ahead, and changes you’d like to make to how you plan events to make them more sustainable, healthy and welcoming. In 2018, the Events Industry Council Sustainability Initiative will be launching a #PeoplePlanetProfit awareness campaign. There is more to come, but here are some early opportunities with big impact.


1. Design welcoming and inclusive events: As event planners and designers, we create the environment in which our participants live, learn, share and innovate. In doing so, we need to consider the perspectives of all our potential participants to design events that are welcoming, inclusive and accessible to encourage full and dignified participation for all. It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s also good business sense to expand your audience, improve the quality of your events, and strengthen your reputation. Check out our recent blog post for how to get started.

2. Support the Code: The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism is an industry-driven initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. A practical way to support this is to include a requirement that suppliers be members of The Code.

3. Add a CSR project to your event: According to the 2015 SITE Index Benchmark Study, 7 out of 10 incentive programs include at least one Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. If you’re planning one for an event, the MAUDE Framework can help you to get started on planning a CSR activity that will deliver value to the community, your participants and your organization.


4. Eliminate single use plastics: Scientists estimate that more than 8 million metric tons of plastic is entering our oceans every year.As meeting and event professionals, we can help be part of the solution by eliminating (or significantly reducing) the use of plastics, especially single-use items. As examples, replace water bottles with water stations and encourage participants to bring their own bottles.

5. Cut back on meat and dairy: Meat and dairy have a high impact on the environment. Opting for vegetarian meals even once during your event can reduce your water and carbon emissions, and will usually reduce costs. In fact,if everyone in the U.S. skipped meat and cheese just one day a week and replaced them with a vegetable-based protein, it would be equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

6. Add sustainability to your RFPs and proposals: In a 2016 study conducted by the Events Industry Council, we found different expectations about sustainability from planners and suppliers. While planners would like to see sustainability information offered up-front, suppliers are waiting to be asked before including it in proposals. The lesson: suppliers should add sustainability to proposal templates, and planners should remember to always ask sustainability-focused questions in RFPs.


7. Use less: Start by reviewing your purchases to see if you can eliminate or reduce the use of materials. Be sure to review your guaranteed numbers to reduce possible food waste and look for other opportunities to cut back such as by eliminating duplicates from mailing lists.

8. Add sustainability to your sponsorship opportunities: Many brands are interested in showcasing their commitment to sustainability. Offer opportunities for them to sponsor sustainable practices or materials for your next event.

9. Join the circular economy: Instead of paying for waste hauling, donate materials or recycle them for a profit. For inspiration, check out these great tips from the Salt Palace Convention Center.


10. Commit to learning: While not typically seen as part of the triple bottom line, we’re adding in a bonus resolution that is personal – make a commitment to continue your education on sustainability. We offer lots of great (and free!) resources such as our monthly webinars, newsletters and how-to guides on our website.



Mariela McIlwraith, CMP, CMM, MBA
Director of Industry Advancement, Events Industry Council


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