Seems like we have been hearing a lot lately about ESG, known in long-speak as Environmental, Social, and Governance. To translate, it’s essentially the new version of the artist formerly known as CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility. Call it what you will, it’s about transparency and accountability. Now more than ever, the world is not only taking notice, but also putting its money to work in the ESG space.
To be clear, ESG may be most easily defined as a framework.
It’s a set of criteria used by investors to quantitatively evaluate the sustainability and ethical impact of a company. Kiplinger’s Ellen Kennedy writes that despite some resistance from states heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, the ESG “investing strategy remains extremely popular, with 85% of investors interested in ESG products.”
Nothing against the ‘S’ and ‘G’ part of the formula, but today I’d like to focus on the ‘E’, or Environmental reporting, which specifically considers factors such as a company’s carbon emissions, resource usage, waste management, and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
As event professionals and suppliers in the event industry, where does ESG reporting intersect with our work?
For starters, if you or your client does business in Europe, new reporting directives covering all EU and non-EU companies and subsidiaries will need to factor into how you approach planning future conferences and meetings. Here in the United States, though we do not yet have environmental disclosure rules, just last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed its own climate risk disclosure reporting, requiring filers to provide climate-related information in their registration statements and annual reports.
I’m guessing that like me, you may still be asking, “What does this have to do with me since I’m not a publicly traded company, don’t do business in Europe, and am never planning to file with the SEC?”
Answer: Maybe your next client is publicly traded or EU-based. If you want them to be a future client, you need to be aligned with their preferred disclosures and frameworks so you’re in a position to provide data.
Okay, I sense some of you reaching for the panic button at this point. Not to worry. Data reporting is not necessarily in our lane as event professionals, but we will have to at least be conversational in the language spoken by the team of number crunchers doing the analysis. You’re not in this alone.
If your client is looking for data from a project you’ve been a part of, you will most likely have experts guiding you before, during, and after.
To that end, I recommend becoming familiar with the multiple ESG frameworks, standards and organizations, such as GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), WEF (World Economic Forum), ISSB (International Standards Sustainability Board), and TCFD (Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures), among others.
Beyond becoming familiar with the numerous frameworks, there are many actions we all can take now to not only learn about our climate impacts but also make the reporting process easier:
- Learn and implement the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a standardized GHG accounting methodology. It provides consistent, comparable, and reliable information to investors, enabling them to make informed judgments about the impact of climate-related risks on current and potential investments.
- Even if you aren’t a publicly traded company or do business in Europe, you may be a stakeholder along the supply chain of a major corporation that needs to be sure their vendors are utilizing best practices and avoiding attempts at greenwashing (attempts at false claims of positive climate action), which could be scrutinized.
- Event industry professionals like templates. There is no one-size-fits-all checklist, but you can tell your story with data and demonstrate commitments for accountability and transparency.
- Set the standards for accountability and compliance and become more transparent in operations. By determining steps needed to have positive impact, we spur innovation, save money, and reduce risk.
- Post your Sustainability Statements in a narrative communicating your climate commitments. New AI driven software can help organize the complex data and craft a narrative for stakeholders.
To be sure, our role in collecting data and reporting climate impact will vary based on individual business models, but the endpoint remains transparency, accountability, and delivery of commitments. By committing to these principles, we hold the power to add value and contribute to something greater than ourselves.
One step at a time
I recently asked a convention center to provide the carbon accounting for a typical convention over several days. I was surprised that they had never compiled that information and had never been asked. Imagine if their innovative practices were available publicly. It could be a selling point. Sports arenas are even being named for having climate commitments.
I was reminded that there is so much left for us to discover and contribute as an industry.
There’s no doubt that at times, it may feel impossible to communicate our climate-related risks and opportunities in a service-oriented industry that’s driven by the wants and needs of our clients, but it’s not. We are always capable of taking active steps each day toward a collectively more sustainable business model, a more rewarding life, and healthier planet to share with all walks of life. Every day is an important day, and it starts with our first step—and then the next, and the next.
Award-winning event producer, Suzanne Morrell, MBA, SEPC, founder of Creating Environments, has been creating experiential events, globally and online, for over three decades. Notable projects include some of the world’s most high-profile events and range from government meetings to destination events. Creating Environments leads by example by raising the bar for sustainability in events worldwide by not only focusing on resource and waste reduction, but also health and wellness of all who participate in the event experience. She has a deep knowledge of sustainability standards and the broader evolving landscape of climate change and how that intersects with event management. She is a member of the Board of Directors and Leadership Team of the Sustainable Event Alliance and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.