Analysis Global

Sustainability at the forefront of events in 2020

New CWT M&E report says a responsible business approach and company culture is more important than ever.

Sustainability continues to be an increasingly important consideration for the meetings and events industry, says CWT Meetings & Events in its recent report, The Future of Sustainable Events.

Following Greta Thunberg’s grave warnings at the recent UN Climate Change Summit, and worldwide protests by environmental groups making major headlines, the public – and corporates – have become very much aware of the issue, the report observes. 

Derek Sharp, senior vice president and managing director, CWT Meetings & Events, says: “The sustainability of the meetings and events industry, in fact of the entire travel industry, is at the forefront of companies’ and planners’ minds in 2020.”

“It’s driven by news coverage of climate change but, more importantly, it’s supported by the next generation of travellers – the millennials who are poised to become the biggest group of business travellers globally from 2024 onwards, and the centennials who are right behind them.”

“They want to continue meeting in popular destinations, but they are also hyper aware of the need to adopt sustainable practices that respect the environment and local communities wherever they go,” he adds.

In the report, CWT Meetings & Events points out that there are only ten years left to meet the 2030 deadline of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The report notes that business events professionals are moving the sustainable agenda forward, citing the unveiling of the Bangkok Manifesto by SITE in May 2019 as an example. The manifesto urges incentive travel stakeholders to embrace social responsibility as a core value of their business.

Meanwhile, IMEX Group launched a slew of sustainable initiatives at its events this year, and CWT delivered impressive outcomes following its responsible business strategy. Industry leaders also recently launched an Acceleration Action towards the UN’s sustainability goals.

It makes business sense for companies to operate sustainably, the report says, with long-term benefits including positive shareholder value, enhanced reputation, better growth prospects and cost savings.

However, adopting a sustainable approach is no longer about merely practising recycling, the report says. Instead, there is a move towards a more holistic approach to sustainability.

This means considering the environmental, economic and social impact of business operations at every level – from reducing carbon footprint, to limiting risks in the supply chain, ensuring equal opportunity for all genders, creating a culture of inclusivity, and hiring for diversity.

“Having a responsible business approach and company culture is ever more important as employees and consumers want to be associated with a brand that reflects their values,” says Ian Cummings, vice president EMEA, CWT Meetings & Events.

The report concludes that the meetings and events industry is in a key position to make positive changes and play a leading role in sustainability

“Meetings and events are a great way to articulate that as they can have a very strong influence and social impact on a destination and local communities,” says Cummings.

The Future of Sustainable Events is a bonus chapter in CWT Meetings & Events’ 2020 Future Trends in Meetings and Events Report.