How to think bigger when hosting sustainable business events
As more events once again take place in person, attendees will expect that they implement eco-friendly practices.With this in mind, we're sharing examples and best practices that you can adopt to host more sustainable events. Here's a glimpse of how three Canadian cities — Edmonton, Québec City and Vancouver — are staying at the forefront of this area and building a better future.
Vancouver: Reaching sustainability goals through innovative social initiativesAs the destination marketing and management organization for Vancouver, British Columbia, Destination Vancouver has promoted sustainability for business events in powerful ways — such as through partnerships with social enterprises.
One of those partnerships is with Binners' Project — an initiative that provides formalized opportunities for urban waste-pickers collecting refundable containers, allowing them to build more consistent revenue and work skills. The initiative provides both the event and expo pre-sorting of waste and education around recycling best practices. This allows organizations like the Vancouver Convention Centre to have a much higher waste diversion ratio during large public events, where the waste stream can be harder to control.
According to Gwendal Castelan, Sustainability Manager for Destination Vancouver, the initiative is already making a significant difference. “We're now diverting 75% of waste from landfills,” he said. “And with willing event organizers, we can get this number to 100% and be zero waste.”
Edmonton: A leader in helping delegates reduce their carbon footprintExplore Edmonton — the venue management and destination marketing organization for Edmonton, Alberta — has a wealth of innovative sustainability initiatives in place when it comes to events, especially in helping corporations and attendees reduce their carbon footprint. For example, they've partnered with the carbon management company Offsetters to allow companies to measure and offset their carbon footprint.
“We also have an Emissions Specialist on staff whose purpose is to collect data related to event footprints for companies,” added Nicola Alexander, Business Development Manager with Explore Edmonton. “This enables our team to work with event planners to customize carbon reduction initiatives and offset in a way that makes the most sense for the event.”
Explore Edmonton has also launched a virtual site inspection platform that allows planners to see potential conferences and event spaces without having to travel to them in person. And when it comes to getting around the city during an event, they've introduced a Show My Badge program, where delegates can present their conference registration pass to transit drivers and ticket-checkers in lieu of fare payment.
Québec City: Providing sustainable food and beverage choicesLooking east to Québec City, events have been made more sustainable in many ways — such as through eco-friendly food and beverage options available at the Québec City Convention Centre.
What exactly does that look like? For one, all food is made from scratch, even broth for soups and sauces. In addition, water for events is provided in glass bottles, stir sticks from coffee are made of wood, and extra food goes to shelters and transition homes. In fact, more than 5,000 pounds of food was redistributed in 2019.
Québec City also has a commitment to reclaim 80% of waste materials and compostable products generated by all convention activities — as well as use biodegradable cleaning products and ensure that ventilation systems operate with high-efficiency air filters.
“A good thing to remember is that everyone wants to save the world, but it has to be easy for them,” said Marie-Elaine Lemieux, Sales Manager with the Québec City Convention Centre. “In addition to choosing your destination wisely, it's important to have sustainability embedded into the event, compensation for greenhouse gas built into your registration, and support programs and initiatives that will speak to delegates.”
Creating a brighter future, together
As sustainability becomes a major focus, it will be more important than ever for associations and corporations to ensure that measures like these are at the core of their strategies. The good news is that they aren't alone in their efforts to do so: Convention and visitor bureaus and destination marketing organizations in Canada have made sustainability their priority.
“Together, we can make a difference and challenge the status quo,” said Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director, Business Development – Business Events, Destination Canada. “If you want to know more about what is possible in terms of sustainability for business events — whether it's in regard to food waste, making your exhibits greener or the carbon footprint of your delegates, we are ready to have those discussions with you and find solutions together.”