Hosting a corporate event is a successful way for businesses to generate interest in their brand, solidify existing relationships and create new partnerships. But events can be hugely wasteful, and this can lead to a conflict with your corporate social responsibility policy, especially if you're a B Corp or a small business that puts purpose over profit.
Today, businesses of all sizes and across all sectors are reviewing their practices and cultures in a bid to reduce their environmental impact. As a movement led by consumers, sustainability has become this decade’s biggest lifestyle trend and any company burying its head in the sand risks being left behind.
So, how can you make sure your next corporate event doesn’t cost the earth? Matthew Payne, Founder and Managing Director of Made by Oomph, shares his tips on how to plan and host an eco-friendly corporate event.
Location, location, location
Venue choice is one of the most important decisions when holding a corporate event. As more companies demand 'greener' event spaces, venues have had to adapt and become more competitive to stand out.
Picking a location for your event can make or break your sustainability efforts. You need to consider how delegates will travel to the venue. Opting for a venue close to good public transport links can help reduce the overall carbon footprint of your event, with the bonus of making it as stress-free as possible for attendees.
Also, consider how far away the venue is to hotels and restaurants if you know attendees will need somewhere to stay overnight. This can limit the amount of travelling they need to do around the main event. You could also recommend any eco-hotels and sustainable restaurants close by to encourage guests to make conscious choices.
A useful tool is TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders programme, a self-reporting system for hotels that have committed to a minimum level of green event practices and procedures at their facility. The higher the rating the better.
Another factor to think about is catering. Event packages will often include catering add-ons which should be reviewed before making any final decisions. Many will also have recycling systems in place to reduce the environmental impact of your event.
Look out for plant-based and vegetarian food options (which will have a lower carbon footprint than meat and appeal to a growing number of vegans and 'flexitarians'), check whether produce is sourced locally and seasonally, and always request information about how refreshments will be served and whether suppliers can offer eco-friendly tableware like compostable water cups, wooden cutlery and bamboo plates instead of single-use plastic.
We’ve all been there. You go to an event and come home with a lot more than you came with, be it branded pens, USB sticks, bottle openers and keyrings. What all these things have in common is that they’re usually made from plastic and end up in the bin.
Giveaways at events have become so commonplace that attendees coming to your event will be expecting to leave with something. If you’re investing time and money into branded merchandise, make sure it’s something guests will find useful. It’s also the perfect opportunity to share your sustainable values with your guests and encourage positive behaviour change more widely.
Sellers of branded gifts and promotional products are catching on to this trend and the majority now offer eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic merchandise. It’s likely your current provider has 'green' offerings, like cotton canvas tote bags, reusable water bottles or coffee cups, and cork notebooks with recycled paper. If they don’t, look for a supplier that does.
In any case, when it comes to merchandise for your event, think creatively and invest in branded gifts and products which reflect, not contradict, your eco-efforts.
Striking, yet sustainable, event touchpoints
Being sustainable doesn’t have to be boring. New technologies and materials can help you deliver a greener and more memorable event.
Innovations in event technology mean you don’t have to generate reams of printed material. Instead of sending paper invites in the post, go fully digital with e-invites and keep a track of RSVPs in a spreadsheet or sign up to online tracking services like Eventbrite.
If there are any updates to the timing, location or agenda for the event you can just ping attendees the details, even at the last minute, avoiding materials having to be thrown away and re-printed.
If your corporate event is large and spread across multiple days and locations, an event app is an ideal way of communicating with guests and giving them all the information they need at their fingertips. Useful features include virtual attendee networking (one-to-one or in groups), personalized agendas and design customisation to ensure your branding is unmissable.
Another thing to consider on the day is how guests check-in when they arrive. The status quo has long been printed delegate lists, but this is often a slow and inefficient process. It’s also wasteful. Self-service check-in kiosks using tablet devices can speed everything up, giving guests more time to mingle and enjoy refreshments, and it also eliminates waste.
Sustainable doesn’t have to be boring. After all, you want your brand to stand out on the day. If you’re planning to give attendees event badges and branded lanyards when they arrive, pick a supplier who offers sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics like badges and lanyards made from recycled plastic or natural materials such as paper, bamboo or cotton. These are greener solutions which don’t compromise on design or quality.
You can now find new innovative plant-based materials on the market, like pulper event passes made from wood fibre, which are produced using renewable energy, are fully biodegradable and can accommodate technologies such as magnetic stripes, NFC and RFID chips.
If attendees don’t want to hold on to their badges and lanyards after the event, use a badge and lanyard recycle box from recycling specialists like Terracycle who offer Zero Waste Boxes for this very reason.
Show off your eco-efforts
Once your eco-event is over, there are still steps you can take to maximize the business benefits of your efforts.
If you have an environmental or corporate social responsibility statement on your website, make sure this is up to date with your code of practice for holding events, detailing the actions your business takes to reduce excess waste and limit the carbon footprint of your guests.
Either during or soon after the event, share the 'best bits' across your social media channels to extend the reach and impact. Here you can show off your catering, the venue, attendees networking and your eco-giveaways, thanking any suppliers by tagging them in your posts.
A post-event survey sent out via email or in-app to attendees is also a worthwhile activity. It allows you to gain valuable insights for your next event, based on what guests liked and didn’t like. You can also ask specific questions about your eco-efforts – were they noticed, appreciated and enjoyed? – and if attendees can recommend any areas which could be improved next time.
About the Author
Matthew Payne is the Founder and Managing Director of Made by Oomph. Matthew is a leading authority and innovator in eco-friendly card and lanyard production, with over 25 years’ experience in the space. Made by Oomph is the UK’s leading producer of event badges and lanyards, membership and loyalty cards, and hotel key cards with a global client list which includes KFC, Travelodge, Google and Airbnb.