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Sustainability And Event Planning


So you want to organize a sustainable event.

Well, what defines a sustainable event and what does this mean to event organizers?

The origins of sustainability go far back in human history. Individuals and societies became aware of the problems associated with resource depletion and population growth from an early time. Individuals like the philosopher Plato in the fifth century BC and historian Pliny the elder wrote about the harms to the environment from activities such as farming, logging, and mining. Ancient societies in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome confronted environmental problems such as deforestation and soil salinization often caused by poor resource management.

In modern times, the industrial revolution and the accelerating development of technology created even greater environmental problems for societies. These resulting problems were not easily mitigated and development and conservation seemed to be in even greater conflict. The concept of sustainable development began to emerge as a way to compromise between consumption and conservation .

In the seventies and eighties, several environmentalists began writing about how societies could and should practice sustainability in the modern age. It was now realized that development needed to be sustainable – It should not focus only on economic and social matters, but also on matters related to the use of natural resources.

By the late 1980’s, sustainable development had become a mainstream concept and in 1987, the United Nations established the World Commission on Environment and Development (known as the Brutland Commission) whose purpose was to examine and identify strategies for the global environmental community. The Commission’s report highlighted the three fundamental components of sustainability; the environment, the economy, and society. These later became known as the triple bottom line.

In 2019, the Events Industry Council (EIC) established the Centre for Sustainable Events (CSE) which began by  declaring  four principles for sustainable events. Three of these principles are a reflection of the the triple bottom line originally outlined in the Brutland report. The Centre’s four principles include basic environmental practices, basic social considerations, support of thriving economic practices and lastly the mandate for event organizers and suppliers to share in the responsibility for implementing and communicating sustainable practices to their stakeholders.

The Centre also introduced a sustainability certification program which allows event planners and organizations to qualify for certification at several levels. Event planners and organizations earn points for certification by meeting the requirements defined in the currently provisional sustainability standards.  The standards were developed by the EIC and a large group of industry leading practitioners and are subdivided into categories. Event planners and organizations are not required to qualify for categories in which their businesses are not involved in order to become certified.

There are  ten categories of requirements in addition to a set of industry wide requirements. The requirements listed in each of the categories touch on a least one of the four principles outlined by the the Centre for Sustainable Events.

The categories include the following:

  • Internal Practices – practices as an event planner business
  • Climate Action – practices followed in the event staging and implementation which effect the climate
  • Supply Chain Management – practices involving suppliers, materials, and service providers for the event staging and implementation
  • Accommodations – practices around the accommodations provided for event attendees and exhibitors
  • Meeting Venue – practices associated with the building or buildings where the event is held such as energy use, accessibility, and use of consumables
  • Food and Beverage – practices for food service, food and beverages provided and offered, and handling of food wastes.
  • Destination – practices applied to the selection of geographical location of the event venue including consideration for transportation and availability of resources and services in the location
  • Audio Visual Production – practices at each stage of the event for selection of equipment, use of  electronics, and options for remote attendance
  • Exhibitions – practices involving the set up and tear down of exhibition booths and the make-up and running of the exhibition booth

In addition to meeting the industry wide requirements and the requirements in applicable categories, event planners and organisations seeking certification with EIC must sign an online pledge affirming their intent to support the four Principles for Sustainable Events.

Certification is awarded at several levels based on the percentage of points earned for meeting a set of requirements. Certification applicants do not need to complete all the requirements in a category to earn points and achieve a certification level. Applicants are audited for compliance by BPAcompli, a third party auditor. BPAcompli is a non-profit organization which audits government and industry entities worldwide. Fees are applied for accessing the online submission tool, auditing by BPAcompli, and listing on the CSE website registry. Fees are dependent on the size of an organization and the complexity of the audits.

Becoming a certified event planner or organization requires commitment and a lot of hard work. Event planners and organizations that can make the commitment and do the hard work will have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to their industry and the state of the world.

For detailed information and links to the EIC Standard downloads, go to the EIC Insights web page following the link  EIC Insights, Sustainability Standards

To see the EIC sustainability pledge and other information follow this link: EIC Sustainability Pledge


5 thoughts on “Sustainability And Event Planning

  1. Caitlin Hisman

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