Pulling together for sustainable change

Mike Fletcher reports on the launch of a sustainability action plan by the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe before looking at some of the things member CVBs are doing to drive a greener future of business events.

A group of 29 European CVBs has launched a collaborative action plan to lead the transformation towards a more responsible and sustainable business events sector.

The Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe (NCVB) has identified four key areas where members feel they can drive positive change through ‘Expertise & Resources’, ‘Advocacy & Communication’, ‘Strategy & Standards’ and ‘Facilitation & Innovation’. 

Within these four areas, members have defined several activities and projects, which can be tackled as a shared effort by the Alliance. These include developing practical sustainability handbooks;  joining the Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative as supporting partners; building a single online platform to share resources and education on sustainable business events; establishing a shared system to educate clients on sustainable practices in food, mobility, waste management and other relevant areas; and providing trusted solutions for emissions tracking and offsetting.

Matthias Schultze from the GCB German Convention Bureau is the Co-chair of the NCVB. He says: “We recognise our responsibility to lead the European business events industry - by example and by leveraging our influence - in the transition towards sustainability. This includes the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as legacy through business events that have a net-positive impact on social, ecological and economic scales.

“From our unique positions between markets and governments, private and public stakeholders, we can use our holistic view of the industry to mediate and accelerate the transition, pointing out difficulties and naming the problems. In doing so, we can create the right conditions for new sustainable business models and help lay the foundations for a future-proof business events ecosystem.”

The NCVB’s collaborative action plan is designed to align with existing frameworks such as The European Green Deal and the Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative.

The latter is a global effort to work together across the entire events industry to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement - net zero by 2050 and a 50% emissions reduction by 2030. It is coordinated by the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) and currently consists of more than 350 signatories and more than 150 supporting partners.

The European Green Deal meanwhile is an ambitious plan by the European Commission to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It covers various sectors and policies, such as energy, transport, industry, agriculture, trade and finance, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to the levels of 1990 (“Fit for 55”). 

Eric Bakermans from the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions is the NCVB’s other Co-chair. He says: “One of the main principles of the NCVB is to work within existing policy frameworks, maximise alignment with existing industry initiatives and seek to add value instead of duplicating efforts. As central players in the European business events industry, we want to embrace and promote the European Green Deal for example as a catalyst for innovation, competitiveness and social responsibility – the best way for our industry to become truly future-proof. “

“Taking action now means being on the side of innovation and new successful business models. Failing to act risks being left behind by the changing expectations and demands of customers, partners, and stakeholders,” Bakermans concludes.  

As part of the NCVB’s action-plan launch, members outlined some of the tangible steps and best practices they were already implementing.

Atout France for example has a programme to support and facilitate investment projects and exemplary sustainable development approaches. It is also planning a sustainability research trip for French partners to Copenhagen in October, in collaboration with Wonderful Copenhagen and Visit Denmark.

The Catalunya Convention Bureau has designed specific tools and methods for sustainable events: a sustainability guide, a checklist considering three levels of achievement to progressively accompany organisations in their transition to sustainability, and a calculator for CO2 emissions.

Convention Bureau Italia meanwhile identified eight MICE business categories for a wide-ranging assessment of sustainability in the Italian meeting industry. For each one of these categories, a specific questionnaire has been designed in order to assess how active operators are in applying sustainable practices and measures. Each company will receive a specific evaluation based on the answers provided.

Visit Finland’s ‘Sustainable Travel Finland’ programme (STF) helps travel professionals and event organisers make more sustainable choices when creating travel itineraries and organising business events in Finland. While MeetDenmark’s greenhouse gas accounting project provides an overview of the carbon emissions associated with hosting events in Denmark, in order to develop strategies to reduce these emissions.

Moreover, Serbia’s Convention Bureau has created a ‘Sustainability Hub’ featuring case studies, resources and a pool of local experts. Visit Flanders is co-developing a CO2 emissions calculator for events with the University of Applied Sciences. And VisitBritain, working in partnership with Isla, has produced a guide for meetings and event venues to support their transition to net zero.

The ‘Sustainability in Practice: A Pathway for Venues’ guide is free to download and looks at company operations, commitments and communications, event deliveries, measurement and reporting, and value chain engagement with key action points to implement in the next couple of critical years. 

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