ESG is suddenly the word on everyone’s lips; for any business, assessing and reducing their environmental impact is increasingly a top priority. Not only is it the right thing to do for our planet but companies that don’t play their part risk both regulatory reprisals as well as reputational damage.
Events might not be your first port of call when looking to reduce your environmental footprint but you’d be surprised about how much of an impact switching from physical to virtual can have.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF IN-PERSON EVENTS
In-person events can have a very significant environmental impact and whilst this will vary from event to event one study by Birmingham University estimated that a one day event could create up to 170kg of Co2 and 5 tonnes of waste.
This is primarily a result of:
- Travel emissions: It goes without saying that the travel required to get people to and from in-person events has a big environmental impact. This can be huge if long distance travel is required.
- Venue energy: From heating and lighting to running AV equipment this all sucks up a huge amount of energy
- Waste: Not only are large amounts of food wasted at events but think of all the printing, brochures, banners and stands that are created and often binned straight after
- Accommodation energy: If guests are travelling a distance it’s quite likely they’ll bed down for the night in local accommodation
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF VIRTUAL EVENTS
Virtual events don’t come carbon free. The internet, event software and devices used to run these events all use up energy and if event packs are getting delivered this will contribute to CO2 emissions too.
But in most cases the environmental impact will be massively reduced when compared to a physical event. With no travel needed, venue energy used up and a significant reduction in waste that footprint should be a lot lighter.
To give an idea of the difference this can make, Cisco ran a virtual event in place of an in-person event for their Global Sales summit which they estimated saved them 84,400 tonnes of CO2 and 209,000lbs of waste.
And even events run at a smaller scale can have a far lower carbon footprint, take the 2020 Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council which saved an estimated 235,279KG of Carbon by going virtual (the amount of carbon held by approximately 300 acres of forest each year!).*
MAKING SURE YOUR VIRTUAL EVENT IS AS GREEN AS CAN BE
All of that being said, it’s certainly not time to put your feet up and give yourself a green pat on the back just for shifting to a virtual event instead of an in-person event.
You can still take steps to make your virtual event as green as possible:
- Use recyclable and environmentally friendly materials for any events packs that get sent out
- Check software providers’ sustainability credentials, some even use data centres that are powered solely by renewable energy sources
Of course, there will always be a need for in-person events and experiences but the environmental impact of them needs to have a very clear justification when virtual events have proven to be just as (if not more) effective than physical events with a far lower carbon footprint.
Making virtual events a part of your ESG strategy, it seems to us, is a bit of a no brainer.
*Estimations made by MeetGreen