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‘If you haven’t started to implement sustainability as a planner, you are behind’

By Blair Potter | Nov 1, 2023

From generational shifts to new government regulations to supply chain communications, there’s a lot to keep up with in the world of event sustainability. But time is no longer on your side.

Courtney Lohmann, CMP, the founder of Courtney Lohman Consulting who developed the curriculum for and leads MPI’s sustainability boot camp, sponsored by Marriott International, discussed these topics and more last month at IMEX America in Las Vegas during her presentation, “Actionable Sustainability for Today’s Event Strategist.” We caught up with her after the event to talk about some of the most pressing event sustainability trends.


In terms of sustainability, what do meeting stakeholders ask planners now that they weren’t asking before? 

I think one of the biggest shifts is generational. More and more, we are seeing Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day lives and they want those behaviors and initiatives reflected in their work and/or at the events they attend. Planners have to start incorporating sustainability to help support the attendees. The other part is that internally at their organizations, planners need to now align with what their organization or company is saying/doing around sustainability. If a company has a carbon emissions reduction plan but you don’t see anything related to that plan reflected at company events, you have employees and leadership starting to ask questions. So, planners are really being hit with this from two sides now and are out of time in terms of when they can start implementing. If you haven’t started to implement sustainability as a planner, you are behind. 

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Can you give us an example of a government regulation that impacts event sustainability planning?

SB253 was signed into law in the state of California in October. This is the first of its kind to arrive in the U.S. We’ve seen other things in Europe, but this is a big move in the U.S. This law requires companies with yearly revenues exceeding $1 billion to publicly report their annual greenhouse gas emissions. There are approximately 5,000 corporations in the state of California that produce events. When we talk about greenhouse gas emissions, we are talking about carbon emissions and things like electrical use.

We’ve talked a little bit about Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (related to greenhouse gases), which can be both direct and indirect. For the event industry, Scope 3 emissions play a huge role. Planners are now going to be required to report on the full scope of the greenhouse gases from their events and will have to do so by 2025. We’re looking at about a year for planners to have a plan in place. Sometimes, your partners can help you. Perhaps the hotel or venue has reporting in place and can provide you details on energy use at the facility. Perhaps the planner has worked with their corporate travel department and they have started tracking emissions from flights. If planners haven’t started to do this, they will have to begin in 2025. And planners will have to engage their supply chain differently in order to capture everything that happens at an event—think ground transportation, decor, entertainment, offsite catering, etc. Not only do planners need to be prepared, suppliers have to level up and be prepared to report out as well. 

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Can you give us an example of tapping into the event supply chain to bolster sustainability efforts?

Including your specific sustainability needs/goals in every RFP. Most of the time, this conversation stops with the hotel or venue. You have to extend this down into your entire supply chain. I think planners will be shocked to find sustainability partners in unique places (think entertainers that are also driving good in their communities). As reporting becomes more and more critical for planners, knowing and understanding your supply chain will be more important than ever. And the more you start communicating with the suppliers now, the more time they will have to adjust and be ready to report as your needs continue to change. Planners have not been able to change how they plan overnight. Suppliers will need time to adjust too. Opening this path for communication is key and will help the entire industry stay in lockstep as we go forward.  

How are company/event sustainability goals and objectives changing right now?

We have gone from sustainability is “nice to have” to sustainability is required. The chief sustainability officer found the meetings and events department and is implementing the same sustainability objectives that every other department is under. We’ve gone from tackling the low-hanging fruit to ensuring we have a strategic plan. Removing plastic water bottles is no longer the acceptable answer. Planners have to align their events strategies with the sustainability strategies ASAP. 



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Blair Potter

Blair Potter is director of media operations for MPI. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).