Why Event Planners Resist Sustainability & How to Empower Adoption

David Betke

No, simply choosing to stop printing the conference program is not enough. Even if planners don't print the conference program, exhibitors may still freely distribute catalogues and swag, which generates considerably more waste. It's like trying to bail water with a teaspoon while your boat sinks. We are past easy wins and low-hanging fruit.

I understand that planners are often overwhelmed with many tasks and pressures and may be looking for easy solutions; however, the societal shift towards sustainability is rapidly approaching. In this post, we'll explore why adopting sustainable practices will become a competitive advantage, the major roadblocks preventing event planners from adopting sustainable practices, debunk common myths and provide actionable strategies to facilitate higher adoption rates.

Lack of Awareness and Education

One of the primary roadblocks to adopting sustainable event practices is a need for more awareness and education. Many planners may not be fully aware of the environmental impact of events or the available sustainable alternatives. Additionally, they may not have the knowledge or resources to implement sustainable strategies effectively.

To overcome this roadblock, event planners should prioritize education and awareness. They can attend workshops, conferences, and webinars focusing on sustainable event practices. By staying updated with the latest trends and innovations, planners can make informed decisions and implement sustainable strategies effectively. 

Tree growing on stack of money

Budget Constraints

Another significant roadblock is budget constraints. Event planners often believe that adopting sustainable practices will result in higher costs. However, this is a common myth that needs to be debunked. While there may be initial investments required for sustainable materials or technologies, the long-term benefits often outweigh the costs.

To address this roadblock, event planners should consider conducting a cost-benefit analysis. By evaluating the potential savings in energy, waste management, and resource utilization, they can make a compelling case for adopting sustainable practices. Additionally, exploring partnerships with eco-friendly vendors or sponsors can help mitigate budget constraints.

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Lack of Infrastructure

Many event venues lack the necessary infrastructure to support sustainable event practices. Limited recycling facilities, inadequate waste management systems, and insufficient access to renewable energy sources pose challenges for planners organizing eco-friendly events.

To overcome this roadblock, event organizers should collaborate closely with venues and suppliers. By communicating their sustainability goals and requirements in advance, they can work together to find innovative solutions. For example, planners can partner with waste management companies to ensure proper recycling and composting facilities are available during events.

Resistance to Change

Change can be met with resistance, and the same applies to adopting sustainable event practices. Some event planners may hesitate to deviate from traditional methods and embrace new approaches. This resistance can be fueled by fears of attendee dissatisfaction or concerns about the feasibility of implementing sustainable strategies.

To address this roadblock, event planners should emphasize the positive impact of sustainability on the attendee experience. By highlighting the environmental commitment and offering engaging eco-friendly activities, they can create a positive narrative around sustainable events. Additionally, sharing success stories and case studies that demonstrate the benefits of sustainability can help alleviate resistance.

Perceived Inconvenience

Another roadblock is the perceived inconvenience associated with sustainable event practices. Planners may believe implementing sustainability measures will complicate their already demanding jobs. This perception may lead to a reluctance to adopt new practices.

To overcome this roadblock, event planners should focus on simplifying sustainability efforts. They can start by incorporating small changes that are easy to implement, such as using recyclable name badges or offering digital event guides instead of printed materials. Gradually, planners can introduce more comprehensive sustainability strategies as they become familiar with the process.

tape measures lined up like an oscillating bar graph

Lack of Metrics and Measurement

The absence of clear metrics and measurement tools is another challenge faced by event planners in driving sustainable practices. With proper data collection and analysis, it becomes easier to assess the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives or identify areas for improvement.

To address this roadblock, planners should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) related to sustainability goals. These could include metrics such as energy consumption, waste diversion rates, or carbon emissions. By regularly collecting data and analyzing results, event planners can track progress and make data-driven decisions for future events.

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Limited Industry Standards and Guidelines

The absence of standardized industry guidelines for sustainable events can create confusion and make it challenging for planners to know where to begin. With clear benchmarks or best practices, it becomes easier to set goals or measure success.

To overcome this roadblock, event planners should seek recognized certifications or frameworks that guide sustainable event practices. Examples include ISO 20121 (Event Sustainability Management Systems) and APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. By adhering to established standards, planners can ensure their efforts align with industry expectations.

Lack of Stakeholder Buy-In

Sustainable event practices require collaboration and buy-in from various stakeholders, including clients, sponsors, attendees, and suppliers. Without their support, it becomes challenging for event planners to implement sustainability initiatives successfully.

To address this roadblock, planners should actively engage stakeholders in sustainability discussions from the early planning stages. By involving them in decision-making processes and clearly articulating the benefits of sustainable practices, planners can garner support and commitment from all parties involved.

Lack of Integration into Event Culture

Sustainability should not be treated as an add-on or an afterthought but should be integrated into the core values and culture of an event. If sustainable practices are ingrained in the event's DNA, it becomes easier to achieve long-term adoption rates.

To overcome this roadblock, event planners should prioritize sustainability from the outset. They can establish a clear sustainability mission statement, set specific goals, and communicate them effectively to all stakeholders. By making sustainability an integral part of the event's identity, planners can ensure long-term commitment and higher adoption rates.

In conclusion, while there may be various roadblocks preventing event planners from adopting sustainable practices, they need to overcome these challenges for a more environmentally friendly future. By prioritizing education, debunking myths around costs, collaborating with venues and suppliers, emphasizing positive attendee experiences, simplifying sustainability efforts, establishing metrics and standards, gaining stakeholder buy-in, and integrating sustainability into event culture, event planners can empower themselves to embrace sustainability practices fully. The time for change is now - let's work together to create a more sustainable events industry.

Q & A

Q: Why do event planners resist sustainability?

A: Event planners may resist sustainability because they may not fully understand its benefits, or they may perceive it as an added hassle or cost. They may also be concerned about the potential impact on the attendee experience.

Q: How can we empower event planners to embrace sustainability?

A: To empower event planners to embrace sustainability, we can provide them with education and training on sustainable event practices. We can also highlight the cost savings and positive environmental and social impacts of implementing sustainable practices.

Q: What is event sustainability?

A: Event sustainability refers to the practice of organizing and managing events in a way that minimizes negative environmental, social, and economic impacts while maximizing positive outcomes.

Q: What are some common sustainability issues in event planning?

A: Some common sustainability issues in event planning include excessive waste generation, high energy consumption, carbon emissions from transportation, and the use of non-renewable resources.

Q: What are sustainability policies in the context of events?

A: Sustainability policies in the context of events are guidelines or frameworks that outline an event's commitment to sustainability and define the actions or practices that the event will implement to reduce its environmental impact.

Q: How can event planners make their events more sustainable?

A: Event planners can make their events more sustainable by implementing measures such as reducing waste, conserving energy and water, sourcing local and sustainable products, and promoting responsible transportation options.

Q: What is a sustainability program for events?

A: A sustainability program for events is a structured approach that helps event planners systematically incorporate sustainable practices into their event management processes, from planning to execution.

Q: How can reducing waste contribute to event sustainability?

A: Reducing waste can contribute to event sustainability by minimizing waste sent to landfills, reducing the event's environmental footprint, and promoting the efficient use of resources.

Q: Can sustainability initiatives lead to cost savings for event planners?

A: Yes, sustainability initiatives can lead to cost savings for event planners. For example, implementing energy-saving measures can reduce utility costs, while reducing waste can minimize disposal fees.

Q: What are the social and environmental benefits of sustainable event management?

A: The social benefits of sustainable event management include fostering community engagement, promoting social inclusivity, supporting local businesses, and raising awareness of sustainability issues. The environmental benefits include reducing resource consumption, minimizing pollution and waste, and conserving natural habitats.

About The Author

David Betke has dedicated his career to helping brands that give back, make a bigger difference. His campaigns have helped save a 65 000-acre forest forever, reduced carbon emissions in a city measurably, and helped recruit three senior engineers during the height of a labor crisis. One even generated a 6000% return within six months and attracted a couple of great customers for life. David has been personally recognized with seven national marketing awards.