February 19, 2020
By Cvent

Event Academy’s 2020 Event Industry and Trend Report is now live. Taken from professionals working across different sectors in the events industry, we believe it provides a valuable cross-section of opinion.

One significant change in this year’s report is the rise of sustainable events. Seemingly out of nowhere, sustainability has become the number one challenge in the eyes of those in the events industry.

Sustainable events

In the 2019 Trend Report, event experts considered Brexit to be the biggest challenge to the industry. With the populist part of Brexit over and done with and the election forgotten, another challenge has arisen. Sustainability. This feeds into the overall shift towards environmental awareness and sustainability in the population as a whole. The events industry has to respond.


The increased use of technology, remote participation, mindfulness and wellness, social responsibility, events with a wider purpose and plastic-free events are still regarded as hot trends in 2020.

In 2019, respondents considered Brexit, budgets and skills shortages to be the main challenges for event professionals. In 2020, that has changed. Skills shortages are now one of the things we are least worried about, with Brexit now a distant third. Reduced budgets are still close to the top, but out of nowhere is a new leader: being environmentally sustainable.


Robert Bagust, Worldwide Congress Manager @Bristol-Myers Squibb said in the report:

“I expect to see, and hope to see, a continuation of the immediate reaction to the heightening of the ‘plastic problem’ but this will remain front and centre alongside sustainability and health issues.”

A wider perspective


This shift in perspective to viewing sustainable events as the biggest challenge the industry faces is in keeping with the wider view on the environment. We have always been conscious that we work in a wasteful industry and single-use plastics was already viewed as a challenge even before the Greta Thunberg effect took over.

According to a Guardian survey, Britons are more worried about climate change and the environment than they are about crime, economy and immigration. Considering how many headlines those three have enjoyed over the past few years, that is surprising.

So it is right that the events industry acknowledges and addresses its own responsibilities when it comes to climate change. It’s a wasteful industry, with swag bags, single-use banners and hoarding, single-use booths, leaflets, flyers, giveaways and more all contributing to waste.

One huge event that has taken this to heart is A State of Trance 950, one of the largest dance music events in Europe. They created Beatplastic, an incentive that gives attendees tokens for recycling all their plastic waste. Those tokens act as competition entrants for VIP tickets to other events and even the chance to meet famous DJs.

Just a single example of how events are having to adapt to changing attitudes.

Environmentally-friendly events

The events industry is already doing a lot to reduce waste and increase efficiency but there is always more to do. As long as we can combine this awareness while still delivering awesome events for our clients, it is worth doing all we can to promote green events and reduce waste.

There are some environmental challenges specific to events explored below and in greater depth on the Cvent blog earlier this month.

Food and beverage waste

Most of us are guilty of over-catering. We would rather everyone went home full and happy than hungry. We often tend to order more food and drink than we need. Refining this process and working with environmentally-aware caterers can reduce this waste while also reducing costs.



Most large events will have recycling stations that will be serviced by a professional firm. Making sure these stations are prominently placed and well labelled will help increase recycling at events. Offering a composting option for food waste can help reduce rubbish and do some good at the same time.

Sustainable swag bags

Sustainable swag bags are already a growing trend and now is a good time to accelerate that. Embracing reusable items, recycled products, reusable cups or mugs for the office, plants for the desk or seed packets. There are lots of sustainable options you can use for most types of event.

Digital invites and flyers

While paper invitations are already largely in the past, shifting flyers, programs, newsletters and other material to digital and implementing advertising within an event app is the way to go. Smaller events could utilize recycled or recyclable paper for their materials or switch to advertising online, social media or something else altogether.

Sustainable locations


Using sustainable locations is about more than just using solar power. Consider venues that do use green energy, have an arrangement for recycling, in-house catering to reduce food mileage, have easy access to public transport to discourage car use or offer priority parking for car sharers. It can all contribute to lowering the impact of most types of event.

With the world waking up to sustainability and considering environmental issues more and more, the solutions and number of companies offering sustainable products and services will increase. So while the report cites sustainability as a challenge, we, and other industries, can actually view it as an opportunity. An opportunity to give the public what they want while also helping the planet!

Content contribution by Claire Derrick, Academy Principal, Event Academy.

Cvent logo


Cvent is a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider with more than 4,500 employees and nearly 21,000 customers worldwide.

Track Your Sustainability Goals
Get actionable tips to start building a sustainable event strategy

More Reading


5 Takeaways from IMEX Frankfurt 2024

By Mike Fletcher
Event Marketing & Management

5 Challenges Event Agencies Face (& How to Manage Them)

By Victoria Akinsowon

Subscribe to our newsletter