Protecting the environment and minimising our carbon footprint is a challenge that the event industry must embrace.
Conferences, product launches, hospitality events and incentive group travel all have an impact on the environment. The main polluting activities associated with events are fuel and energy consumption, food waste and the use of non-recyclable materials. Whilst is it the role of governments and industries to regulate and monitor environmental protection, it is also the responsibility of all of us in the events industry to actively seek the best ecological solutions to the growing problems caused by climate change and pollution. There is plenty of evidence of green initiatives being taken by individual operators, which can hopefully provide inspiration for the whole sector.
So, what initiatives are event organisers and incentive travel operators taking to help protect the planet? There are lots of examples and we will only be aware of a few of them. There are several types of drives, including:
- Respecting and preserving natural environments by limiting access and potential damage
- Protecting indigenous wildlife with educational elements in travel programmes
- Supporting local economies in under-developed communities with practical contributions
- Using the latest technology to reduce energy consumption and air pollution.
If you are asked to think of iconic and exotic resort destinations around the world, the chances are that Hawaii will feature high on your list. An article on the World Economic Forum’s web site reports on the ambition of Hawaii to become the first US state to run entirely on clean energy. It demonstrates how the impact of travel and the hospitality sector on the environment can be ameliorated and sets an example for meetings and travel destinations everywhere.
We are aware of many other local environmental and ecological initiatives being taken in tourist destinations around the world. Examples include:
- Participation in Rhino tagging in Africa, facilitated by Green Route Africa
- Plastic bottles being recycled to make eco-bricks to build pre-schools, again adopted by Green Route Africa
- Cleaning and refilling glass water bottles for coaches on tourist routes in Indian cities, to reduce plastic use, organised by Incent India
- Incent India teaming up with the Young Chefs’ Association for Sustainable India, bringing inventive dishes and drinks to some of Delhi’s leading hotels
Another article on the World Economic Forum’s web site poses the big questions about global tourism and highlights the threats and opportunities that we all need to recognise in the events industry.
It states that tourism is expected to continue to grow as a larger number of aspiring travellers become more prosperous and their disposable income increases. It is anticipated that the sector will outperform the global economy, increasing by an estimated 4% on average annually in the next decade.
The article also illustrates the conflicting forces that are at work, with news about how destinations are increasingly seeking ways to reduce the environmental impact of tourism. It quotes how destinations like Cinque Terre, Zion National Park and Machu Picchu are limiting the annual number of visitors. Amsterdam, Barcelona and the Seychelles are curtailing large-scale development. Bhutan and Venice charge visitor taxes and fees, while places like Koh Tachai in the Similan National Park are prohibiting visitation altogether.
For companies contemplating their own conferences and other live events, as well as incentive travel programmes, the challenge is one to be shared with event management specialists. Your event agency or hospitality industry supplier should be able to suggest ways of making your live events as environmentally friendly as possible. Making it a central part of the brief will ensure that your business event activities reflect the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility policies in the wider world.