Setting up an event a “green” can become an important marketing advantage. This doesn’t have to mean that the environmental concernment is just a façade on the contrary, is a convincing demonstration of all that can be done. Where to start from?
1. Green, in what sense?
The various activities connected to the event (secretariat, mounting, execution, transportations, dismantling, post-event activities, etc.) have a big impact on the environment in terms of waste production, energy and water consumption, atmospheric emissions, etc. On a global scale the environmental impact of the meeting industry is definitely considerable, but the influence of “small” gatherings such as conferences, seminars, conventions, etc. is incomparable with the one of great events like concerts, expositions, major sporting events, etc.
For the majority of the corporate events, the choice to “go green”, that changes well-established organizational practices and subverts a few rules, is much more due to marketing purposes rather than to a genuine environmental concern.
Saving a couple of reams of paper, using a bit less energy or choosing biological ingredients for the buffet of a small event are incredibly tiny contributions to the environmental improvement of our territories and of the planet, but these choices can be very effective and forceful on the internal and external marketing of the company, because – if used efficaciously – they stimulate the approval and the appreciation of the participants and the stakeholders, strengthening the brand equity of the promoter and giving more credibility to its identity.
The company’s clear will to minimize its environmental impacts affects the communication contents of the event and associates the image of the promoter to the idea of respecting nature and the environment, a value shared by most people.
It is nevertheless necessary to underline that going green is a clear statement choice. If its implementation turns out to be occasional or ineffective or if, even worse, the facts demonstrate anything less than a true environmental engagement, it can become a terrible faux pas.
2. No shortcuts!
If you aim for your “sustainable event” to be beneficial for your marketing, it is convenient to implement procedures that would reduce the environmental impacts of the event concretely, visibly and credibly. It is also important to ensure that these reductions, the magnitude of which has to be reasonably consistent, can be verified on the spot.
It could be very counterproductive to promote an event as “green” and to guarantee only the compensation of the environmental impacts, without any kind of action on the spot.
The compensation consists of a reduction in the production of carbon dioxide thanks to an economic support to the reforestation, that is often carried on in particularly remote territories. The nowadays diffused awareness and sensitivity to the environmental causes, shared by many participants and stakeholders, asks for a concrete and coherent evidence of commitment and is not satisfied by a mere economic contribution. In concrete terms, an event that does not limit its environmental impact but justifies it through compensation, cannot be considered sustainable.
It’s then clear that coherence and accountability are key concepts in the organization of a sustainable event, in fact the green is strictly connected to the ethics. All the choices, starting from the most clearly visible and verifiable by the participants, have to be coherent. It is also necessary to focus the communication of the event on these choices, not to show “how well behaved we’ve been!” (an aspect that will emerge anyway) but to suggest and facilitate sustainable choices in working contexts and in the everyday life. The most encouraging message is “respecting the environment is not hard! I’ve done it: you can do it too! Here’s how!”.
3. First steps in the green
If you want to organize a sustainable event, the first step – easy and very effective – is to dematerialize the majority of the informational and promotional materials (invitation cards, brochures, programmes, posters, etc.) using, whenever possible, telematic solutions.
This choice creates a significant number of cuts that have to be explained to those who are used to using paper. Underline how many “trees” are being saved and/or how much carbon dioxide production you are avoiding. When it is absolutely necessary to print you should choose green options, using FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme) certified paper and choosing qualified print shops, now spread across the country.
Both of these certifications guarantee that the forests that provide the cellulose are managed in a sustainable way (no pesticides, weedkillers, etc.) and for every cut they operate a reforestation that absorbs at least the same quantity of carbon dioxide.
To make everyone understand and appreciate your choice, it won’t be enough to affix the certification marks on the products, my advice is to add a sentence that explains the meaning of the mark and its environmental significance. For example: “To save xx thousand trees, we chose paper and printing methods certified (+logo)” or, if you are using certified 100% recycled paper, “No tree was cut down for this invitation”.
Don’t worry about the costs: due to their increasing spread, these papers are becoming competitive with the traditional “non ecological” ones. A little help: a list of producers and distributors of ecological paper, certified FSC and/or PEFC can be found on our website AquistiVerdi.it, the Italian catalogue of green products sponsored by the Ministero dell’Ambiente (Ministry of Environment).
4. Next steps
It is possible (and recommendable) to go further: the green marketing strategy for an event (be it corporate or not) can be enriched by many other measures in addition to communication. It can involve the choice of the location, the setups, the transportations, the reduction and disposal of the wastes, the catering, the gadgets and so much more.