Sustainability is going to be the key issue of the coming decade and the events industry, just like any other business, has to reckon with it. Especially with the end of the pandemic and the subsequent reintroduction of in-person events, the risk of returning to organisational models with a high environmental impact is particularly significant. Over the two years in which technology has been the only viable means to keep organising events, we have learned a lot, changed our habits, and discovered new ways of working without damaging the environment and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. The sustainability of virtual events should inspire us to change the future of the entire events industry.
What you need to know about the sustainability of virtual events
Can we make in person events as sustainable as virtual ones?
Travelling, especially by air, is one of the most polluting and environmentally damaging activities we as humans can undertake. This is why virtual events start off with a big advantage, in terms of sustainability, over in-person events. Of course, virtual events also have an impact on the environment, but it is much easier to offset it with dedicated programmes. Can this model also be applied to in-person events? To some extent, it can. For instance, event organisers can pick venues that rely on renewable energy and caterers that do not use single-use plastic cutlery, but they cannot control the transport participants use to reach the event venue. However, it is possible to calculate the overall CO2 impact of each project and look for offsetting programmes that can compensate for it, for instance by funding reforestation.
We will continue to use technology to make events sustainable
Technology has become an indispensable feature of the events industry and has taught us to interact in new ways. That’s why we believe that hybrid events will become increasingly common in the future. Certainly, having attendees interact in person with those who connect remotely is a great way to maintain high engagement while reducing emissions. However, there are many other ways of using technology to make in-presence events almost as sustainable as virtual ones. For instance, you could do away with printouts altogether, relying entirely on apps and multimedia content to share schedules, calendars, brochures, flyers, and to manage event registration and access.
Saving money with virtual events
Virtual events are financially as well as environmentally sustainable. It is much easier to cut costs by organising virtual events, while also offering participants a more affordable experience. This means, for instance, that a virtual trade show will draw a large number of small and medium-sized companies that could not afford a traditional one, as they cannot invest in travel and accommodation, as well as in tickets to the event. Virtual events allow both organisers and participants to save money and optimise their investments, increasing their ROI.