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Events in a post-pandemic era: Going ‘Live’ from a sustainability lens

Phebe Bay
Updated October 4 2021
Phebe Bay
Updated October 4 2021

This summer, rare heat waves were experienced in the Pacific Northwest[1], with weather stations reporting record high temperatures of close to 117 degrees. The heat, along with drought conditions exacerbated by climate change, has also fuelled multiple wildfires across Western parts of the United States[2]. Faced with daily news reports of extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions, it is hard not to re-examine the role we have as corporations, businesses and individuals, and evaluate how our decisions impact the environment.

 

Lower your organization’s Scope 3 emissions

An increasing number of companies are already embracing a sustainability mindset, recognizing the value it can add to their long-term resilience. Be it to benefit the communities they serve or to comply with local regulation, incorporating sustainability into one’s core business strategy is fast becoming a necessity, driven by leadership. The sustainability push has also been driven by pressure from investors and stakeholders, as well as government-mandated climate risk disclosures.

 

The GHG Protocol, used by 92% of Fortune 500 companies in 2016[3], provides a set of standards, guidance, and tools for organizations to measure their carbon emissions. One of the categories for reporting is business travel, i.e., emissions resulting from employee transportation for ‘business-related activities in vehicles owned or operated by third parties.’[4] Of the three ‘scopes’ under the GHG Protocol, this falls under Scope 3 that covers an organization’s indirect emissions down the value chain. These emissions are often regarded as challenging to manage as they tend to be beyond an organization’s direct control[5]. As air travel is carbon-intensive, cutting down on business travel would substantially reduce an organizations’ Scope 3 emissions.

 

One example is Amdocs, a US-based software company, which experienced a significant reduction of Scope 3 emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scope 3 emissions fell by half, from 100,004 tons in 2019 to 50,613 tons in 2020. This prompted Amdocs to relook at how meetings and events were organized.

 

“COVID-19 made us fundamentally rethink about the way meetings and events are run. What used to be essential in-person interactions were moved online in 2020. We started relying on Kaltura’s video and virtual meeting solutions to replicate the in-person experience, with excellent results. We were not only able to make progress towards our climate goals, but also received great feedback from our customers and employees due to the flexible and data-driven nature of a virtual setting. The virtual element will continue to be a crucial aspect of our marketing strategy in a post-pandemic era,” says Gil Rosen, Chief Marketing Officer, Amdocs.

 

“At Kaltura, as more of our clients pivot towards virtual events and remote learning options for sustainability reasons among others, we believe it is our responsibility to ensure that our video solutions has minimal environmental impact. We are glad that our Video Experience cloud solution was not only able to support lowering our clients’ carbon footprint during the pandemic but will continue to do going forward,” says Liad Eshkar, Managing Director, Partnerships and Strategy, Kaltura.

 

The carbon footprint of business travel

Before the pandemic, in 2019, for example, travellers in the US took a staggering 464 million domestic business trips[6]. Apart from corporate and business meetings, conferences were the next largest component of business travel. In 2016, the number of conference participants amounted to 44.7 million[7].

 

Clearly, the carbon footprint from attending in-person events can be substantial. A round trip from New York to San Francisco in economy class results in an estimated 1.16 tons of CO2 emitted per person[8], while a two-night hotel stay results in about 0.022 tons of CO2 emissions[9]. This trip would generate 1.18 tons of CO2 before factoring in car rides from the airport to the hotel and subsequently to the convention center. A fully-grown tree is estimated to absorb 48 pounds (0.024 tons) of CO2 in a year[10]. Using that as a reference, it will take about 49 trees a year to absorb this trip’s CO2 emissions!

 

Against the backdrop of a warming planet, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Instead of attending what used to be essential business trips of the work year, many of us have shifted to attending trade shows, industry conferences and sales kick-offs virtually. That said, there are times where in-person meetings are invaluable to doing business. In view of the impact business travel could have on climate change, a tough, but important question to ask ourselves is — are in-person meetings and conferences irreplaceable?

 

The evolution of virtual events technology

Today, virtual events technology now offers valuable experiences, superior to those of an in-person event in some aspects. For example, the video-on-demand option that comes with virtual events gives attendees the flexibility to attend sessions at their own convenience and enjoy overlapping tracks without missing a beat. Virtual technical demonstrations have become more engaging, especially when attendees have their personal devices with them. Furthermore, a virtual event option not only provides attendees the option of reducing Scope 3 emissions from business travel, but also allows them to prioritize their travel time based on their personal agenda and sustainability goals.

 

Conclusion

As future event attendees, the decision to attend events virtually could result in substantial CO2 emissions avoided. At the same time, virtual events technology has evolved such that it is possible to have meaningful interactions in a virtual environment. In other words, we and our planet have a lot to gain and very little to lose from a business standpoint. Be it to meet your organization’s Scope 3 emissions targets and your own sustainability goals, do consider whether it is truly necessary to travel before signing up.

 

Marketers, you play a key role in influencing the direction of the industry and driving the momentum for sustainability in the events space. From mega-scale events of more than 100K attendees to smaller close-group events for 1,000 attendees, each event has the potential to minimize environmental impact through the inclusion of a virtual element. Demonstrating corporate commitment towards sustainability not only has far-reaching impacts on your brand, but also on customer perception and staff morale.

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/07/12/us/us-heat-wave

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/climate/drought.html

[3] https://ghgprotocol.org/about-us

[4] https://ghgprotocol.org/sites/default/files/standards_supporting/Chapter6.pdf

[5] https://sciencebasedtargets.org/resources/files/SBT_Value_Chain_Report-1.pdf

[6] https://www.statista.com/statistics/207103/forecasted-number-of-domestic-trips-in-the-us/

[7] https://www.statista.com/statistics/207103/forecasted-number-of-domestic-trips-in-the-us/

[8] https://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?lang=en-GB&tab=3

[9] https://www.hotelfootprints.org/footprinting

[10] https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/03/17/power-one-tree-very-air-we-breathe

[11] https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/environment/sustainable-operations/carbon-footprint

[12] https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/environment/sustainable-operations/renewable-energy?energyType=true

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