Our “Greening Corporate Gatherings” series is our deep dive into corporate event sustainability

So, you’re planning your company’s next corporate event. We see you—you want to ensure the best possible experience for your attendees, but you also want to be conscious of the effect on our planet—and of course stay on budget. No easy task!

With a multi-faceted topic like corporate event sustainability, we’re breaking up the topic into a series of articles.

We are certainly not sustainability consultants, but our team does have decades of experience branding and executing design for corporate events under our belts.

We’re sharing insights and inspiration from our collaborations with clients. One of our biggest clients doesn’t just stop at net zero—they have developed a roadmap to go further, aspiring to leave a positive impact on the host community. We’ll share insights from them and others throughout the series.

Our article topics in the series will include:

  1. Overview of corporate event sustainability and why it matters
  2. Signage, swag, and other collateral
  3. Format (virtual, in-person, hybrid) and transportation
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The business and environmental cases for prioritizing sustainability

Beyond just scoring virtue points, the business case and environmental cases for prioritizing sustainability is strong—and continues to get stronger.

Employees and future talent demand it

When thinking about attracting and retaining talent, over half of Gen Zs and millennials say they research a brand’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job offer. Working at a place that aligns with their environmental ethics and values builds loyalty with current employees.

Customers also demand it

Concern about the environment is rising among all age groups, but is especially high among Gen Z and millennials. Gen Z and millennials are also some of your customers. These younger generations closely link transparency and feelings of trust in a business, according to Harvard Business Review.

Their relative purchasing power will only continue to increase. “Forecasting experts calculate that the purchasing power of Millennials and Gen Z will surpass that of Boomers around the year 2030, with up to $68 trillion in wealth transferring from Boomers to these younger generations by the end of this decade.” Investing in sustainability now means investing in brand equity with emerging customers.

Possible correlation with increased ROI

Also, some data point to higher ROI, though correlation/causality can be difficult to prove. A study by Kroll, which “analyzed data on over 13K companies across industries… found that those with better ESG ratings outperformed their peers with lower ratings; globally, ESG leaders had annual returns of 12.9% vs 8.6% for laggards.”

The environmental case and reducing risk to your business

With climate change continuing to advance, according to the latest IPCC report, taking sustainable action is also risk reduction.

Forbes reports that corporate assets are at risk, according to data from Morningstar Sustainalytics. There are “physical risks that climate change poses to businesses, including through the expected increased frequency of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in temperature, and precipitation patterns.” These climate events affect business—leading to disruptions to operations and supply chain, business closures, rising insurance premiums, and market shifts, among other issues.

To attract and retain talent, ensure customer loyalty, reduce risk to your business, and possibly maintain a strong ROI, you should be prioritizing sustainability in your events and beyond too.

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Setting goals and budgets, and measuring progress

First and foremost, it’s important to have goals. Many companies have Environment, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) goals. If yours does, ensure that your event goals align with them.

Just like any other goal, sustainability should have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track success. What are your KPIs to meet those goals? Establish your sustainability KPIs as you’re planning your event. This will help you quantify and track your progress over time.

Setting big goals is great, but ensure your goals are doable for your team. Remember that it’s always a work in progress, and once you reach one goal, you can strive for another.

Sustainable decisions can support other positive business outcomes, like better talent attraction and retention, as well as customer satisfaction.

The cost of sustainable events

Some sustainable choices are inherently more expensive—printing swag on TenTree shirts, for example, certainly costs more than many bulk t-shirt options out there, but the net impact is positive.

But some shifts can actually save you money. Shifting print communications to a digital event app saves print production costs, and reducing unwanted swag can also benefit your budget.

Consider both the cost of the individual line items as well as the whole impact on your business. Sustainable decisions that may cost more upfront can support other positive business outcomes, like better talent attraction and retention, as well as customer satisfaction. Also, if we look at trends, as of January 2023, many companies were boosting sustainability budgets even amidst economic uncertainty.

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Ultimately, you and your company need to decide what works best for you, your team, and your event. The evidence strongly suggests considering the earth is a good idea too, for a greener planet, as well as your brand and likely your bottom line.

Look out for our next article in the Greening Corporate Gatherings series. Next up in the series, we’re focused on the communications of the event—signage, swag, and other collateral.

Further reading