Practicing Sustainability at Your Corporate Event
by Bre Caldwell
Green corporate events engage attendees on a personal level as well as a professional one. By showing your commitment to sustainable living, your company is leaving a positive impression on participants, and likely a longer lasting one.
According to the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, planning a successful environmentally sustainable event involves following a generic set of planning guidelines, separated into three stages:
Before the Event:
During the Event:
- Identifying stakeholders and challenges
- Develop a plan of action
After the Event:
This action outline can be applied to both large corporate events and smaller business meetings.
- Record progress and challenges
Before Your Event
For a corporate event, stakeholders can include everyone involved, from venue management, vendors, community, participants, and members of the workforce.
It is important to identify your corporate event stakeholders because these groups will undoubtedly have an impact on the level of sustainability at your corporate event. You must communicate and involve your stakeholders in your planning. Because sustainability encompasses nearly every aspect of an event, these groups will be vital to the success of it.
Identify potential environmental impacts
Naturally, environmental impact challenges can vary depending on the type of corporate event you are hosting.
Your venue is one of the most impactful parts of creating a sustainable corporate event. The location will determine travel arrangements, catering and other vendor participation. Research your options. If you are stuck with one location and few venue options, interview the venues and make your motives very clear. Inquire into the following:
- Does the event venue contain a sustainability policy? This can vary dramatically. Some facilities provide varying levels of recycling, while others have incorporated efficient water use systems, and do look into the venue’s waste and cleaning policies as well.
- How does the event venue monitor and manage noise pollution?
- Does the event venue offer audio-visual amenities?
- Is the event venue located near public transportation?
- Is the event venue open to your goal and level of sustainability?
Your event venue will also determine potential environmental impacts connected to transportation. Challenges such as local congestion and transport emissions are significant. If possible, choose a venue that is located near public transportation.
If that is not an option, it may be more sustainable to rent a number of vans (after securing the amount of participants) from a main location, or, if you are planning a smaller business meeting, ask participants to carpool rather than encouraging everyone to drive separately or take taxis.
If your corporate event venue is at a resort, research walking paths or biking options. Encourage attendees to get creative in their modes of transportation. Do not be afraid to keep your goal of sustainability clear and obvious to everyone. By doing so, you are guaranteeing support and a greener event.
Your vendors will also have an impact on your corporate event sustainability efforts. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine what vendors to utilize:
- Where do the items come from? If you are purchasing promotional items or awards to hand out, try to source locally. If local sourcing is not possible, research the origination and form of transportation for the items you are interested in purchasing.
- Does the source follow fair employment practices?
- What are the items made of, and how are they packaged?
- Can these items be used after your corporate event, or are participants likely to trash them?
Food is another great opportunity for effectively putting sustainability into practice. Responsibly sourced food is not only a possibility, it is in high demand. When researching vendors, pay particular attention to your catering options, should you opt for food at your corporate event.
If you are hosting a smaller-scale business meeting, think about the food and water you serve your attendees. When serving water, stay away from handing out plastic bottles. Instead, place pitchers of water on tables, or create a water station for people to gravitate toward when they are thirsty. If possible, completely eliminate the use of plastic cups. Rent glasses for your corporate event.
When serving food, try to stay away from plastic utensils and plates. If you opt out of rented flatware, use recyclable utensils and flatware.
Stay away from serving single-sized, pre-packaged food. If you are utilizing the services of a caterer and you feel it necessary to provide chips, pretzels, and other ordinarily pre-packaged items, ask the caterer to supply large bowls and tongs. The caterer will purchase the food items in bulk, which equates to less packaging.
Energy can be another sustainability challenge. Most corporate events rely heavily on audio-visual equipment, lighting, air conditioning or heating, as well as broadcasting. When researching venues, look into media options, and if you plan on supplying your own audio-visual equipment, measure the energy output you would utilize, and determine exactly what it is your corporate event will require.
Develop an action plan to target and fix potential challenges
Once you target the sustainability challenges in planning your corporate event, increasing the level of sustainability will be easier. Spend time working through the planning phase, as it will offer the greatest chance at creating a sustainable corporate event.
This is the point where you choose your corporate event venue and your vendors. Map out your requirements and be sure to include your venue and vendors in this process.
During Your Event
Record progress and challenges
While this practice translates to both large corporate events and small-scale venues, the forms of measurement may vary.
For instance, a large corporate event that hosts 1,000 or more participants will require larger scale tools to accurately measure how much waste has been recycled. If your corporate event is at a smaller-scale venue with fewer participants, your waste measurement tools could be as simple as recording recycling dumpster trips to waste dumpster trips.
In addition, be sure to note any specific challenges that either unexpectedly challenged you, or resulted in negative results.
After Your Event
This is your chance to review your sustainability goals, compare them to your recorded progress, and review with your team to search out possible ways to get around the challenges for future sustainable events. Record feedback and do not be afraid to spread the word regarding positive progress. Green corporate events are growing in popularity, and green competition is good competition! Share your experiences and promote your green event.
Corporate events are very resource-intensive. Some of the positive results of “greening” your event can be seen in:
The Mercer Island Community & Event Center is a venue that encourages sustainability through action-oriented policy. The Center places an emphasis on sustainability, whether it is through maintenance of the building (using natural cleaning products) or encouraging clients to be participate via a composting program and ample recycling bins. In addition to practices within the facility, our Business Meeting Room Rentals are just two blocks from public transportation, and three from the downtown area.
- Cost savings from conserving energy, reducing waste, purchasing local products, and simply consuming less.
- A positive reputation of your company’s commitment to sustainability, and your support as an active participant against the negative influence of global warming.
- Environmental innovation. As “greening” events continue to increase in popularity, so does the interest in introducing new technology that makes efficient usage of resources more streamlined and an easier cross-over to the general public.
The Mercer Island Community & Event Center is an ideal venue for large or small corporate events, business meetings and banquets in the Seattle area. This award-winning facility is Modern. Central. Superb.
For more information or a personal tour, please contact:
Rachel Gilbert, Reservation Specialist
Phone: (206) 275-7609
Mercer Island Community & Event Center
8236 SE 24th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040