7 Sustainable Trends in the MICE Industry
Sustainability is a topic that is everywhere at the moment, as more and more of us grow conscious about our impact on the planet and how we can live and work as mindfully as possible.
As well as on an individual level, plenty of businesses are also trying to operate more sustainably, with trends in sectors like the MICE industry affecting everything from company culture to the way that services are delivered to consumers.
Our evaluation of the key MICE industry trends for 2022 identified sustainability as one of the key areas where we can expect to see a lot of change in the near future. This article delves into this trend more deeply to explain what this might look like for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, as well as reflecting on how attendee behaviour might change.
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How Is the Hospitality Industry Adapting?
As a key part of the hospitality industry, many trends which have influenced the MICE sector have come from changes and developments in this wider area. A lack of resources would be catastrophic for hospitality businesses in particular, which is why there have been so many movements to incite change and adopt more ethical and eco-friendly practices.
Policy change has been the starting point for many in the hospitality industry, with plenty of organisations making public commitments to improving their approach to sustainability and holding themselves accountable for change. Many consumers are now much more conscious of their own environmental impact and want to support businesses with similar values, and companies that have clear sustainability policies are becoming more favoured over those that aren’t as transparent.
Waste management has been a particular focus in the industry regarding both food and rubbish, particularly when places like event venues and hotels bring large groups of people to a location and create waste which impacts the environment. In response to this, many hospitality businesses have been pursuing reusable options for a wide range of products to reduce waste, and schemes are being implemented to ensure that excess food isn’t being thrown away.
Another way that the industry has been adapting is by placing a greater focus on supporting the local community where a business is based. This can involve anything from hiring local staff, using local businesses as suppliers instead of having materials and resources flown in from elsewhere, and making a conscious effort to ensure that the visitors and activities aren’t damaging the environment or local economy.
Food and catering in particular are key areas that are developing in more sustainable ways, with sourcing ingredients locally and supporting smaller, independent businesses when buying products becoming a popular choice. Some businesses are taking this a step further by trying to only use ingredients that are in season and therefore not contributing to carbon emissions by having products shipped from around the world.
Clean energy is another trend that has made an impact on the hospitality industry, especially for venues and accommodation. Where possible, businesses are making the switch to renewable energy sources or even installing things like solar panels to help minimise their environmental impact and show support to sustainable energy providers.
Meetings and events in particular have previously gained a negative reputation when it comes to sustainability, with some aspects being criticised for their wasteful nature. As a result, many events organisers and companies are now making more of an effort not only to remove these practices but to advertise exactly how they’re improving their sustainability to stand out from competitors and let attendees know how they’re making less of an impact.
7 Sustainable Trends in Events
Sustainability is being adopted in a wide variety of different ways in events, but here are seven of the most impactful.
Food waste is a massive issue across the world, and events are known as an occasion where there’s the potential for a huge amount of food to end up being uneaten and thrown away. Therefore, low-waste catering is a key priority for events looking to be more sustainable, ensuring that resources aren’t wasted and perfectly good food isn’t thrown away.
If an event involves a sit-down meal, make sure that you’ve got an accurate idea of attendees so that ingredients can be bought without waste and additional meals aren’t prepared and then discarded. Consider choosing catering companies that advertise a sustainable or low-waste approach to ensure that this is followed through.
Events that are catered for with buffets or optional snacks should also be carefully planned so that excess ingredients or products aren’t bought and left untouched once the event is over. Consider how much food has been consumed at previous events and only plan what you actually need.
If you think that ending up with excess food is unavoidable, consider whether you can donate this to charities, food banks or even advertise it on food waste apps that give nearby users the option to come and collect it for free.
Flowers are a popular decoration for many kinds of events. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that certain blooms are shipped a huge distance in order to be sold in countries where they can’t be locally grown, contributing massively to carbon emissions.
You might have a certain vision in mind when planning how to decorate an event venue, but if you’re looking to be more sustainable then a key trend is choosing floral decorations that are in season and therefore grown in your country and much more sustainable. This can be taken a step further by also working with local florists that can advise you on the best seasonal flowers and offer options grown near to your venue.
It can seem much easier when managing an event to choose single-use products for things like catering so that you don’t have to worry about breakages and can just bin everything at the end of the event. But this produces a lot of waste that will often take centuries to properly decompose, and can also put quite an impersonal touch on your event.
The solution is to provide reusable products at your events, from the crockery and cutlery used for catering to avoiding things like plastic water bottles, individually wrapped food products and poorly made lanyards, name badges and other event paraphernalia.
It will likely be a larger investment to hire or buy reusable products, but this investment is definitely worth it in comparison to the amount of waste your event would otherwise be producing.
Also consider setting up refillable drinks stations so that attendees are tempted to buy single-use plastic water bottles or multiple paper cups of tea and coffee.
If you usually offer event attendees free gifts that likely get thrown away or aren’t high quality, it’s again recommended that you opt for better quality and longer-lasting products. Forget branded pens and magnets, free bottled water and a small wrapped food item, and think about what your attendees will actually value and whether you can offer this from a sustainable source.
Flyers, posters and business cards used to be a classic element of events and conferences, but all of this physical advertising material creates a huge amount of waste. Whilst paper can be recycled, it is much better to try and avoid producing or using it where possible.
Plenty of aspects of events have moved to a digital format now, with things like tickets and registration forms mainly being filled in online. But also consider things like digital itineraries, maps, brochures or even an event app that will really cut down on what you need to have printed, and potentially open up more creative options for these aspects of your event.
Many marketing campaigns are going fully digital as well to reduce paper use and cut down on waste.
Encouraging Public Transport
Some events will be located in an area where public transportation isn’t possible. But a huge factor in what makes many events environmentally unfriendly is how many people travel to them privately, and a key way to tackle this is encouraging the use of public transport.
Choosing venues in locations that can be easily reached by bus, coach or train is the best way to give attendees a range of sustainable transport options. You could also encourage this further by offering discounted tickets or additional perks to those arriving on public transport.
Another option is organising group travel to your event, so even if public transport isn’t an option, your attendees are travelling together and avoiding using lots of half-empty vehicles.
Easy Recycling Points
We’ve already touched upon the waste that events can produce, which is why a key trend in the industry is offering easy recycling options at the venue to encourage as little waste as possible. Making sure that there are paper and plastic recycling points as well as rubbish bins will help your attendees to dispose of waste properly, particularly when these are well signposted.
The events of the 2020 pandemic taught the events industry a lot about the power of virtual events, and whilst most are now returning to in-person, digital events did offer a much more sustainable approach. Without the impact of transport, venue energy use and waste, and catering for attendees, many virtual events delivered the same standard of experience with much less environmental impact.
There are plenty of ways in which in-person events are better than virtual events, but by hosting hybrid events that can be accessed and joined virtually, attendees are given the option to participate without adding to the resources needed. This is particularly useful if you’re hosting global events, as it can massively reduce carbon emissions produced by travel.
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How is Attendee Behaviour Changing?
As well as businesses in the events industry making changes with regards to sustainability, attendee behaviour has also been changing. Here are some examples:
Prioritising attending events which make obvious commitments to sustainability
Only attending events in their country, attending global events virtually
Using public transport to attend events
Avoiding events held in locations where tourism has negatively impacted the environment
Opting out of catering options where food is mass-produced and potentially wasted
Bringing reusable containers and drink receptacles to events
Eschewing event gift bags and freebies
Requesting clear information about sustainability efforts before attending an event
True sustainability takes a huge effort to do successfully. Still, by setting a precedent in the MICE industry to make the suggested changes that these trends highlight, an expectation is created that these actions are the bare minimum. Events and conferences have previously been poor examples of sustainability, so it’s more important than ever to challenge this expectation, make meaningful changes to how events are approached and run, and start reducing the damaging impact that these experiences can have.
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