Sustainability taking root

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Sustainability taking root

By Michael Pinchera | Sep 25, 2023

Nearly 90% of respondents to MPI’s summer 2023 Meetings Outlook survey said it’s important that events they plan and/or work are sustainable. In fact, 34% of respondents cited sustainability in events as “very important.” With that in mind, we reached out to a cross-section of meeting industry leaders—including members of MPI’s Sustainability Advisory Committee—to learn about recent, successful sustainability trends or initiatives that have impressed them.

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Margaret Launzel-Pennes

Margaret Launzel-Pennes

Pop Experiential | MPI Southern California Chapter

“The 2020 Tokyo Olympics stands as a testament to events that can produce groundbreaking sustainability initiatives. It takes ingenuity, creativity, collaboration and a willingness to break the rules. For example, the organizers turned to the Japanese citizenry, sourcing metals from donated electronic waste to create medals made entirely of recycled materials. This gesture not only showcased innovative resource utilization but also highlighted the communal involvement in promoting sustainability. In addition, Tokyo integrated renewable energy solutions and introduced hydrogen-fueled transportation, projecting a future where clean energy could be seamlessly incorporated into large-scale events.

“Waste management took center stage with Tokyo’s ambitious objective to recycle or reuse a whopping 99% of the items procured for the Games. Emphasizing local and traceable produce, the catering services mirrored global trends towards sustainable food consumption, ensuring minimal waste and maximum support for local industries. Athlete accommodation was also eco-friendly, with beds constructed from recyclable cardboard and volunteer uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. Despite unforeseen challenges, like the pandemic-induced postponement, the Tokyo Olympics set a high bar for future events, underlining that environmental stewardship can coexist with, and even enhance, large global gatherings.”


Alissa Hurley, CMM, CED

Alissa Hurley, CMM, CED

BCD Meetings & Events | MPI Toronto Chapter

“One initiative that caught my eye recently within our own organization is a Carbon Emissions Calculator, built by BCD Travel’s consultancy arm, Advito, and powered by GATE4 (their ISO-certified carbon emissions calculation methodology). It takes a holistic look at meetings and events to determine what levers meeting planners can pull to reduce emissions and the overall environmental impact of an event. In addition to considering traditional elements, like giveaways and food, the calculator also measures the most important contributor to overall emissions—where attendees come from and how they are getting there. It allows meeting planners to input a wide range of data, from information about the venue to the hotels that attendees are booking, helping planners understand the footprint of their meeting or event, even before the actual event begins.”


Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke 

Marriott International & Marriott International Luxury Brands

“For our 2023 customer events we have adopted the message of ‘Step Beyond’—an effort to move beyond the traditional ways of planning and executing meetings and deploy innovative strategies to tailor the event experience and reduce our environmental impact. This includes how we look at sustainability in meetings and events, especially around decreasing food waste. One of many strategies we deployed was ‘slice on demand,’ whereby guests at fruit stations select which fruits they want to enjoy—and the attendant serves up fresh slices right before them. Thus, we decreased food waste of pre-sliced fruit by over 75%. It was a simple switch, but one that had a significant impact to help us achieve part of our overall sustainability goals.” 


Troy Reynolds, CMP, EMD

Troy Reynolds, CMP, EMD

Imaginneurs | MPI Sustainability Advisory Board

“Any wear, Anywhere is a novel wardrobe rental service intent on removing baggage from the air travel experience of business and leisure tourists flying Japan Airlines (JAL) to anywhere in Japan. It is a collaboration between JAL and the Sumitomo Corporation. The wardrobe rental service is undergoing a one-year trial phase [through] August 2024. Now you might be wondering: Why is this a standout sustainability initiative?

“Meetings and events happen around the world 24/7/365 and involve a great deal of human activities that consequently have positive and negative impacts on the planet, its people and the prosperity of all life forms. One of the greatest negative impacts of meeting and event activities is the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG)—the greatest and real threat to our future existence and the destiny of future generations of all life forms. Air travel is considered a top GHG emitter and therefore presents us with a great opportunity to reverse this misfortune through one of our greatest talents: problem-solving. 

“However, dealing with the complex challenge of climate change requires us to think differently. We need to think life cycles, think systems, think circularity—as these forms of thinking shall translate into out-of-the-box thoughts/ideas, game-changing decisions/actions and purposeful/meaningful solutions that shall maximize positive and minimize negative impacts.     

“Any wear, Anywhere represents an idea that effects a significant shift in the current way of thinking and traveling. Imagine the ROI from this choice of air travel: No packing, no carting baggage around, no baggage restrictions, no excess baggage expense, no lost baggage or baggage theft. Being in style, dressed for the occasion [with] no laundry... Now imagine the carbon footprint for each aspect of the travel experience…can you see the reversal of fortune at play? Now imagine if everyone attending or participating in meetings and events were to travel the same way—this would be the domino effect in play. Imagine the powerful effect/influence that this would have on realizing the 2030 ambition of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50%. 

“2020-2030 is the decisive decade in which we all need to be the change we wish to see in the world. The global meetings and events calendar presents limitless opportunities to facilitate the purposeful and meaningful change required to go boldly beyond just being sustainable, because as MPI wisdom reflects: ’When we meet, we change the world.’”


Larissa Steinbacker

Larissa Steinbäcker

Proske | MPI At Large

“At Proske, we are truly impressed by and actively supporting the recent sustainability initiative known as Net Zero Carbon Events. This industry-driven effort, in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Guidelines, demonstrates a remarkable commitment to addressing climate change within the event industry. The Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, launched at COP26 in 2021, saw over 100 initial signatories, underlining the industry’s dedication to reducing carbon emissions and reaching a net zero goal by 2050.

“Moreover, their comprehensive approach, involving stakeholders worldwide, seeks to jointly communicate their commitment, establish emission reduction strategies and promote collaboration with suppliers and customers. This initiative’s collaborative and forward-thinking ‘no-elbow’ nature is inspiring, setting a strong example for sustainability efforts across sectors.”


Virginie De Visscher

Virginie De Visscher

Destination Canada | MPI Sustainability Advisory Board

“The Palais des congrès de Montréal offers a new eco-conditionality policy, conceived for its event organizers, its clients and its commercial tenants. Discounts of up to 10% will be offered to organizations that take tangible actions relating to sustainable development during their project, like hiring a ‘green team’ for an event, sorting waste, choosing environmentally responsible corporate gifts or featuring local speakers or artists.”


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Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera, MPI's managing editor, is an award-winning writer and editor as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997.