April 25, 2022
By Mike Fletcher

Prior to the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26), which took place at the SEC in Glasgow from 31 October to 13 November last year, many were calling it the ‘last best hope’ for nations and industries to commit to curbing global emissions.

For the global MICE industry, vital action needs to start with the tools required to measure an event’s carbon footprint, so that planners can become skilled at quantifying the output from bringing people together in-person.

Only then will organisers possess more ‘ways’ to match a longstanding ‘will’ to assess where reductions and offsetting can feasibly occur across factors such as accommodation, food and beverage, travel and venue hire.

Even at the height of the pandemic in autumn 2020, 70% of corporate event planners signalled their intent for positive climate action in an ICE Benchmarking Research study by selecting ‘Ensuring the sustainability of their events’ over health and safety factors as the most important issue facing their roles over the next three years.

Anita Howard, Co-Founder of ICE, the association for corporate in-house event planners, was part of an events industry delegation that attended COP26 to present a roadmap for net zero carbon future.

At the time, she described how the future-facing roadmap would work for her members by saying: “Transparency will be crucial. For corporate planners, measurement has moved up the agenda at the same speed as sustainability. They need action and proof-points that show how events can contribute to positive change and their companies’ own sustainable goals.”

Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events for VisitScotland agrees. “If we can assess the impacts of our activity, regardless of their makeup and scale, we can put in place initiatives and commitments that will turn them from net negative to net positive,” he says.

To fulfil the requirement for tracking tools and to implement the roadmap for a net zero events industry, ICE, along with VisitScotland, Cvent, the SEC and agencies DRPG and Maritz Global Events, have all now helped to fund the BETA version of a Sustainability Measurement App.

The web app, simply named SAM, is launched today and events professionals are being urged to help make the tool as credible, universal and easy to use as humanly possible by testing, inputting and providing feedback on its current guise.

Already the tool will measure the carbon output on accommodation, food, travel, room usage and comms, with a unique feature that talks to delegates through the app, in order to track travel habits.

The involvement of delegates is a crucial part of the journey,” comments Maritz Global Events’ David Caldwell. “Increasingly, we as planners need to take responsibility for the full breadth of the event, including outside of the room activities such as delegate travel, food sourcing, and transportation costs of materials and production. If we can bring delegates into the monitoring of our meetings, we can share information, understanding, and make them a part of the solution.”

The call to BETA-test SAM will also include feedback from a committee of in-house corporate planners, brought together via the ICE community.

DRPG’s Group CEO, Dale Parmenter stresses that SAM’s success will depend on mass adoption to provide credible data, regardless of the size of the event being planned.

He says: “This outreach programme is critical to its development, as it’s important that the thinking behind the technology represents every kind of event, from brand activations to global conferences . It means that the technology will become universal, as well as free of charge. By engaging with SAM, it will allow planners to begin addressing their own sustainability goals by measuring their event’s carbon output.”

At its heart, SAM is a visual carbon measurement tool that is both simple and free to use. Planners can input event data, with delegates adding travel details - resulting in a carbon measurement score for the organiser or client company to monitor year-on-year.

The analysis can then be added to post-event reports to show stakeholders how event sustainability fits into the a company’s overall net zero and environmental targets. It can further be used to improve future performance and identify negative impacts, which can then be offset or removed in a responsible way.

Equally, SAM is built on an open API so that it can be fully integrated with other platforms and technology, such as Cvent’s Event Marketing & Management Platform.

“By integrating SAM with Cvent’s platform, it will help organisations to paint a clearer picture of their overall event impact - both on their business and the environment,” says Cvent’s Felicia Asiedu. “We’re delighted to support this innovative ICE initiative and to work with other industry leaders on the development of a new tool that can help planners to deliver better, more sustainably-minded events.”

SAM is in BETA mode until September 2022. Add it to your event planning tool-kit today. 

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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