Warren Campbell, general manager of 15Hatfields, explores how greenwashing is becoming an issue within the events industry. 

With the rise in green marketing, which is based on legitimate positive environmental claims, sometimes the line between authenticity and greenwashing can become blurred. 

From the conversations we are having with event planners, there’s no doubt that sustainability and corporate social responsibility have moved up the corporate agenda. Organisations are wanting to take control and make more ethical choices. As a result, the venue directories and platforms that agents are using to source venues are now featuring a whole range of key sustainability commitments. 

Asking the right questions 

While I’m encouraged to see more venues are seeking to become more sustainable, I do think there’s an issue of greenwashing in the sector – particularly with the terminology that’s being used. Take the definition of an environmentally friendly venue, for example. What does that actually mean? If a venue claims that it is environmentally friendly but is still using single-use plastic, it is not. 

Terminology like “we are aiming to” or “wanting to be” is all well and good, but they need to be making actual strides to get there. There can be a million reasons as to why things may get delayed or diverted, so that’s not a criticism; instead it’s about being transparent. 

Similarly, if a venue’s website is too polished and there’s no data to substantiate their environmental claims, there’s a strong likelihood it’s marketing jargon. Asking lots of questions will quickly reveal if a venue is doing what it says it is committing to. 

These questions should cover the following areas: 

  1. Accreditation  Has the venue been independently accredited to a national or internationally recognised and benchmarked standard? Any accreditation worth its salt should include a robust audit and look at what impacts are measured and the whole life-cycle. It’s not about joining an accreditation for just a year.
  2. Evidence  is key. Ask for the data behind the claims. Are they freely sharing what they have created, what they are measuring, their benchmarks and their successes? What are the waste streams and have they got recycling data that they produce? Or, can they provide food miles from where their products are coming from?
  3. Influence  Are they trying to influence their supply chain? Do they have an independent audit of their suppliers? Are they asking questions related to their purchasing?
  4. Site visit  You need to look past the room and the set-up. What are you seeing as you walk around the venue? Is there anything made out of 100% recycled material? Are recycling bins readily available and visible? Speak to the staff, and if they aren’t aware of the environmental work of the venue, that should be a red flag.
  5. Advice  Are they working with event planners to help planners reduce their event’s environmental impact? Do they have a digital application to track key metrics, or do they offer tips to assist the event-planning process? 

Whether or not a venue is only just starting out on its sustainable journey, it’s all about integrity and being transparent on their position. 

We don’t claim to have all of the answers. Instead, it’s about trying to keep pace as the business evolves, having a commitment, sharing best practice, being open and not making false claims about your successes and achievements along the way. 

 Source: Conference News

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