Green conferences: a practical and worthwhile solution

Green Conferences

Corporate culture is embracing the principle that events should also be “sustainable”. Bearing witness to an idea and gaining in terms of reputation. How is it done?

1. The issue of social accountability is very topical in the world of business today. It refers to the relatively recent principle that businesses do not just answer to shareholders as regards their production efficacy and economic efficiency (i.e. whether they produce well and make money), but also to the community in which they are based and to the public in general, as regards how they use environmental resources, labour and materials and how they contribute to life in the country. In short, businesses are being asked to provide an account of their voluntary conduct, that is to say their actions that are not expressly governed by law, which bear witness to their ethical awareness and their transparency.
The Social Accountability Report is a document in which companies report on this aspect of their business, conventionally described by the term “sustainability” (environmental and/or social), from which the notion of “sustainable development” derives.

2. Given that the public is particularly sensitive as regards environmental aspects today, the word “green” has become synonymous with “sustainable” and socially correct in common parlance. When we use the term “green” today, we allude not just to energy saving and a preference for renewable energy sources, but also to respect for the environment, the relationship with the land, the landscape and the population, the categorical refusal to use child labour, the transport policy, etc. Everything is shifting towards responsible ethics rather that egoistic voracity. In the words of an Ikea poster: “low price, but not at any price”.
Acting “green” therefore bears witness to the high values of a business and its desire to support one of the most important and generalised needs of modern society and, therefore, of its clients, which is something that cannot be overlooked.

3. However, in marketing terms, being “green” is also a very effective indicator of modernity. This is why the most forward-thinking and marketing-oriented companies have embraced being green for some time, committing themselves to sustainable conduct in a wide range of activities, particularly those that are most visible or in direct contact with public stakeholders. Conferences and corporate events are a perfect example. It is here that companies show themselves to the public (sales team, employees, clients, suppliers, etc.) and know that their conduct will be judged. From this point of view, a corporate event is both a threat and an opportunity: the threat of being badly judged and the opportunity to be judged well. It is best to seize upon the latter, because being seen to be green at corporate events is even more worthy of approval, as acting in this way is not yet required by law.

4. While green conferences are still rare in Italy (unfortunately we are often a long way behind when it comes to virtuous conduct), abroad, especially in Northern Europe, a company that wants to win over the public would never dare to organise an event without guaranteeing sustainability, duly communicated to the public and certified. In Scandinavia, green practices are attributed a significant degree of importance at most corporate events. Even the United States is moving in this direction. This explains why multinationals are particularly aware, even in Italy, about the importance of introducing green aspects to their corporate events. It is not, as some would believe, because green practices cost more and are only implemented by those who can afford them. In reality, it is possible to implement many forms of sustainable conduct without increasing costs, simply by choosing this instead of that, getting informed and acquiring documentation.

5. What practical conduct is involved? It can range from reducing CO2 emissions to reducing waste, choosing low impact forms of transport and respecting workers’ rights, and using local resources, food and labour. There are international protocols in place which provide guidelines for practical actions and for measuring results. It is advisable to follow these, not just in order to be sure of doing things properly and being able to show it, but also in order to dispel any suspicions of “greenwashing” (simply appearing to green). Environmental associations are very aware and may take legal action in the event of false information, which would make any attempt at simply appearing to be virtuous in vain.

6.To this regard, it is useful to know that there are standards in place for sustainable events, which are recognised worldwide and can be certified. These standards help develop a sustainable management system for events. Supported by the information provided in the standards, the event organisers can consult the parties concerned (suppliers, consultants, etc.), establish the sustainability objectives, identify the problems and draw up solutions, so that sustainability is already included in the event plan.

In short, green conferences are not difficult to implement and produce a great return in terms of image and reputation. They are not yet common in Italy, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity to be and be seen to be ahead of the rest of the field.