Insights

Building a Sustainable Future for Events

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Jeff Chase

Vice President, Sustainability

Jessica Glenn

Sustainability Manager

Freeman

How elevating eco-consciousness from a trend to a strategy ensures a greener tomorrow

In our fast-paced, fully wired world, immediate gratification often takes our focus. We try to counter frenetic cycles by living in the now, appreciating every moment, and practicing mindfulness. Being fully present certainly translates to more powerful brand experiences, but when it comes to the health of our planet, we also must be mindful of the future and how our actions affect tomorrow.

But thinking long-term about our impact on the future can be challenging. Fully grasping how our personal choices (paper or plastic?) and business decisions (biodegradable graphics or plastic substrates?) make a difference over time can feel abstract. But it’s important to remember the health of our planet’s natural ecosystems is what allows us to flourish as humans. It also provides us the privilege to build profitable, sustainable businesses. The future is now because our smart choices today make a better tomorrow possible.

So, why does sustainability and being eco-conscious matter to the future and the evolution of our business? Here are a few reasons why active greening should remain top of mind.

Empowering future generations

Individuals and businesses must think of sustainability as an investment in the future — not just because it’s the right thing to do for our planet, but it’s also the smart thing to do for humanity. A sustainable future that includes a thriving business world is only possible when the social and environmental conditions that support economic activity, resources, and thriving societies are maintained from one generation to the next. And that means making smart, green choices, however small, every day to ensure this generational domino effect moves in a positive direction. Investing time and effort toward eco-conscious decisions is good for business and pays off down the road. Remember, we don’t inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children. 

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Building better, long-term solutions

By examining future trends and the adjacent data that provide a sneak peek of what’s to come, it’s clear that prioritizing our planet benefits everyone. Organizations that recognize and adopt this purpose-driven philosophy tend to build long-term solutions, rather than quick one-off plans, as they know those choices lead to more success while also protecting our earth in the process. This long-range vision is a cornerstone to the idea of “betterness,” which centers on moving away from cost-focused ideas toward value-focused practices that bring prosperity to all stakeholders, society, and Mother Earth.

Being green brings the green

Let go of the misconception that sustainability adds cost. In reality, embracing and recognizing its strategic, cost-saving function will benefit organizations today and for years (and generations) to come. Creating a sustainability model that works for your organization makes good business sense because it generates cost savings and drives profit — it’s a necessity that simply requires a new way of thinking and planning.

Putting sustainability into practice means being more efficient with what you have and reducing impact to deliver more green to the bottom line. That efficiency game starts with a keen eye on every decision — what can be reduced, reused, and recycled? Take (or actually leave) directional signage, for example. If an attendee can see two or more signs from one spot, you may have overproduced. It can be intimidating to pull back on signage, but try to minimize gradually and track the savings. With little reductions, you’ll soon see big savings on production, labor, storage, and trash bills. 

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Elevating from trend to strategy

Every Earth Day, the advantages of going green make headlines. But sustainability isn’t a fad (after all, we’ve been celebrating and promoting our earth’s health since 1970!) — it’s a movement that’s here to stay and time is of the essence to get on board. The sustainability train is moving fast, so the trick is upgrading sustainability practices from a singular trend or one-off solution to a full-on strategy that starts from the beginning and threads through the entire planning process.

In the brand experience space, sustainability is often viewed as a bolt-on idea that happens after strategies and plans have been developed. It’s certainly better than no green practice at all, but amending that bolt-on approach to a build-upon philosophy prioritizes green practices from the start so they’re built into the entire experience. As more and more organizations become intent on reducing their carbon footprint in all aspects of business, including brand experience, the practice will be not only commonplace, but expected. 

Greening events enhances brand experience

An essential part of branding is showcasing the true essence of an organization, so there’s no question what the brand stands for. Highlighting that essence should go beyond products and services. Incorporating sustainability into the entire fabric of an experience puts the brand values in the spotlight; it elevates the intention to be environmentally conscious with walk-the-talk action behind it. What’s more, organizers can invite attendees and exhibitors to come along for the ride. By sharing and educating attendees and exhibitors about your own best green practices, you’ll enhance their experience even more.

That forward-thinking transparency and openness allow audiences to gain new perspectives about the organization and may inspire attendees to start their own sustainability efforts after being engaged and learning about their impact during a sustainably built event. In fact, getting attendees involved can further enhance their experience and build brand loyalty, as they’ll feel part of something bigger. Asking them (and helping them along the way) to partner and share the responsibility for a greener event benefits everyone, including the local community where the event takes place.

Imagine inviting partners and attendees to be an active part of recycling efforts, donating leftover food and beverages to local charities and choosing recycled materials for booth structures, graphics, giveaways, and more. Including sustainability opportunities before, during, and after the event provides an empowering call to action that leaves contributors feeling good. They’re having fun, learning, and networking while also giving back to the community and our planet.

Going green starts with a single step. We’re all making strides, and while we’re not fully there yet, we believe prioritizing eco-conscious choices makes a difference not only because it’s good for the environment, but because it’s good for business. Greening your events means developing a solid sustainability model that can affect and improve each aspect of the experience, which will ultimately make your business more sustainable, too.

Learn more about our sustainability philosophy and resources to help you create greener experiences. 

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