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Sustainability: From Chatter to Action

Part 9 of our annual State of the Industry (SOI) report

2023 was the year of event pros losing patience with simply talking about the importance of sustainability and moving the conversation toward how to take real action. It also was the year of ESG. In an article for Special Events, sustainable event consultant Suzanne Morrell discussed ESG, saying “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.”

Let’s take a look at the state of sustainability using the ESG framework.


As for environmental sustainability, event leaders are looking to reduce or completely offset carbon emissions from events, with actions that look like anything from participating in a certified offset program (such as planting trees) to joining the Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge. In fact, according to the AMEX report, most meeting professionals (78%) said their organizations would have net zero goals by the end of 2024.

Globally, there are different focuses for taking action toward environmental sustainability. The AMEX report identified these focuses by region:

  • North America - explicit language about policies
  • Europe - certified suppliers
  • Latin America - mindful planning
  • Asia Pacific - defined net zero goals

The main challenges noted by the report’s respondents include identifying certified suppliers (39%), budget (35%), measuring impact and post event CO2 calculation (32%), finding locations with minimal travel (28%), and lack of skills/resources/knowledge (23%). We’re hoping that 2024 brings progress toward finding solutions in these areas.

Other efforts we’ve noticed throughout 2023 include sustainable food sourcing, aiming for zero waste, and aligning with clients and vendor partners who value environmental sustainability.


“Inclusivity” was a major conversation topic in 2023, and like environmental sustainability, event pros are looking for practical ways to apply these conversations to real events. There has been increased focus on making event spaces LGBTQIA+ friendly, as well as on accessibility for all physical ability types and catering events for neurodivergent individuals. An article for Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convene interviewed Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, an Ireland-based organization that amplifies autistic voices, about how to navigate neurodiversity challenges at conferences. 

“Aspects of the sensory environment that other people are unaware of: The fluorescent lighting in a room [or] the sound of the projector may be experienced more intensely by an autistic person,” Harris told PCMA. “Conferences also represent a huge break in routine, which is something that can be disruptive for people with autism.” Taking measures such as becoming an autism-accredited destination or venue, asking attendees in advance what accessibility requirements they have, implementing a priority registration system to help autistic attendees who struggle with crowds or the uncertainty of waiting to be helped, and creating a step-by-step “What to Expect” guide using pictures can all be helpful ways to make events more accessible for neurodivergent attendees. 

A recent report by Cvent addressed this topic: “A study by Meeting Professionals International found that 56% of event professionals have diversity and inclusion policies, and 42% include these statements on their websites. These planners are actively looking for venues that are accessible, use food and beverage vendors that understand and work with dietary restrictions, and provide AV equipment that caters to all communication styles.”

Of course, no solution is a one-size-fits-all, and as event pros become more cognizant of catering to each attendee’s needs, we’ll see events shift and begin embracing practical inclusivity. 


Governance in events is all about holding our industry accountable. An article from LinkedIn put it this way: “One of the key steps to achieve sustainable event management is to measure and improve your event sustainability performance. This means setting clear and realistic goals, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting and communicating your results and impacts.”

If you don’t already measure your event impact, here are some of the top tools and frameworks preferred by event pros that you can use in 2024:

By reporting to and working within the standards set by some of these frameworks and organizations, event pros can continue holding their business and the industry to high standards, setting us all on the same path toward improving sustainability.

Cover photo: Partnering with caterers who practice sustainable sourcing is a guaranteed way to make a difference. Shown here: a sustainable blue salmon fillet from Afishionado. Photo courtesy Oceanwise Seafood Festival 

This article is part of a series where we take an in-depth look at the state of the event industry. 
View Part 1
View Part 2

View Part 3
View Part 4
View Part 5
View Part 6
View Part 7
View Part 8

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