How to make your events carbon-neutral

Corporate event

Events are an important part of industry collaboration, but they come with a significant CO2 emissions footprint. Here is our guide to make your events carbon-neutral.

The Meetings, Incentives, Congress and Events (MICE) sector has been through a lot in recent months. As the pandemic hit and lockdowns were implemented, almost all events had to move from in-person to online. In the past year, mass Covid-19 vaccinations helped the revival of physical gatherings, but travel and agglomeration rules remain very volatile.

It is a tumultuous time for the industry, but that shouldn’t spare event organizers from having to reduce the environmental impact of their gatherings. As an example, the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference is estimated to have emitted around 55,000 tons of CO2, not counting the travel emissions from its more than 30,000 participants. As with every other sector, scrutiny is growing around the climate strategy of companies, and MICE professionals should also start moving toward carbon neutrality. Luckily, there are now many tools available to help calculate, reduce and offset the carbon footprint of events.


Calculate CO2 emissions

There are four main areas to take into account in calculating the emissions associated with an event: travel, accommodation, venue and food. 

How far do your speakers and attendees have to travel to come to your event, and how will they travel? To calculate GHG emissions from travel, you can divide your attendees in different categories: long-haul flight, short flight, bus, train or car ride, and count emissions based on the number of kilometres traveled. According to some estimations, travel can represent up to three quarters of an event’s carbon footprint, so this is the most important culprit.

Then, it is time to look at accommodation for your event participants. Most people stay in hotels, but there are some differences in carbon emissions depending on the classification of hotels (a 5-star hotel tends to have a larger footprint than a 1-star hotel). Luckily, the hotel sector has made significant improvements in terms of energy efficiency: according to the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Index 2021, GHG intensity per square meter in hotels worldwide decreased by more than 6% between 2017 and 2019. But this is still an important element in the carbon footprint of events.

The third question is: where are you having your event? A venue’s carbon footprint depends on its size, energy consumption and type of electricity it uses. Ask your venue provider about the place’s ratio of conventional versus renewable energy sources, and make sure you consider the season of your event when calculating energy use (winter and summer are generally more energy-intensive due to heating and cooling necessities).

Last but not least, what kind of food are you serving? Animal products (particularly beef) have a larger carbon footprint than plant-based foods. On the other hand, buffets tend to lead to a lot more food waste than plated meals, which also impacts GHG emissions.


Reduce your footprint

Now that you know the main culprits in the carbon footprint of events, it is time to look at ways to reduce it. 

Considering the weight of travel in an event’s overall carbon footprint, it might be a good idea to consider a hybrid model, whereby most speakers and a small audience are present physically, but everything is available online to those who want to participate from home. This will not only reduce your carbon bill, but also tremendously increase your reach. Many events have experimented with this model successfully since the pandemic.

Making your event hybrid also reduces the carbon footprint from accommodation, venue and food, since you will need to cater for fewer people. But you might also look for sustainable venues that use renewable electricity and implement energy efficiency measures. Finally, a plant-based menu is the best way to cut the emissions from the food you serve. 


Offset emissions and contribute to projects worldwide

But no matter how much you try to reduce the environmental impact of your event, it is likely that some emissions will be impossible to avoid. In order to propose a truly carbon-neutral event, you will also need to offset your remaining carbon emissions by financing mitigation initiatives such as reforestation projects or new renewable energy developments.

ClimateTrade is a strategic carbon neutrality partner for the MICE sector. For instance, we recently collaborated with Algorand to offset the carbon footprint of the Decipher event in Miami, thanks to the offsetting of 627 tons of CO2 via reforestation projects in El Salvador, Colombia and the US on the ClimateTrade digital marketplace.

The amount of emissions included in the calculation stemmed from the flights (international and national) of 450 attendants, road transportation, two nights’ accommodation, the materials used for the exhibition spaces, wifi devices, electricity consumption, catering and waste generated.

Another example of event management best practice is that of the business association LIDE in Argentina. LIDE is compensating the carbon footprint of all its events and webinars since 2020 through the purchase of carbon credits via ClimateTrade. By doing so, it is contributing to various reforestation projects in Latin America.


ClimateTrade in the MICE sector 

ClimateTrade is also developing strategic alliances with the MICE sector and the business travel industry. In May 2021, the Spanish Association of Business Travel Agencies (GEBTA), started offering new premium services to its end clients, thanks to ClimateTrade technology. Now, corporations committed to decarbonizing their activities and operations, can begin offsetting the carbon footprint of their business trips and MICE activities.

This agreement marked a shift in corporate travel agencies’ corporate social responsibility strategies: from simply offering sustainability consulting services to their clients, that have begun implementing practical tools to enable them to offset their emissions on every trip. By doing so, these agencies are reinforcing their own sustainability commitments, and powering their clients’ strategies.


Contact our experts to begin planning your carbon-neutral event.


This article was written with the support of Francisco Martin, Head of Engineering at ClimateTrade and manager of the partnership with GEBTA

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