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Sustainability: why supply chain collaboration will get us further, faster

"I came back from my recent attendances at ‘Reset Connect’ and ‘The Meetings Show’ buzzing with ideas around sustainable event management. The recurring themes across both forums were the absence of clear Scope 3 emission targets and the lack of a joined-up action plan to meet Net Zero pledges," Andy says.

What has become evident is that industry-wide, there is a need for greater collaboration up and down the value chain. We can achieve more progress, more quickly by working collectively and transparently.

Picture this: a vibrant network of event management companies, suppliers and clients coming together to tackle sustainability by communicating beyond silos, sharing our successes and learning from each other's best practices. It all starts with capturing accurate data on carbon emissions, waste generation and resource consumption, so we can understand sustainability performance throughout the supply chain – not just the individual links.

Where does carbon accounting come into the equation?

Our corporate clients face the challenge of measuring Scope 3 emissions — indirect emissions from activities outside their immediate control. In the context of events, these might include participants’ travel, venues and accommodation, food and beverage, event materials such as printed media, signage and merchandise, transportation of goods, waste management and even digital infrastructure.

Carbon accounting platforms are a key tool in driving climate action. The software gathers data from various sources within an organisation, including energy consumption, transportation, waste generation and other activities that produce GHGs. It uses standard emission factors and algorithms to calculate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with each activity. It then analyses the data to identify emission hotspots and trends.

Carbon accounting platforms present the emission data in easy-to-understand visualisations and reports, allowing businesses to track their carbon footprint over time, uncover opportunities for improvement and compare performance against targets.

Supply chain collaboration – upstream and downstream

Carbon accounting in a business ecosystem involves systematically measuring and tracking GHG emissions throughout the entire value chain. It’s a dynamic model that requires information to flow bidirectionally between the client and all its suppliers. This collaborative approach to carbon accounting can generate a more comprehensive understanding of emissions, supporting more effective reduction strategies. Let’s see what this might look like in a hypothetical scenario.

  • Data collection: A carbon accounting platform can automate the gathering of information from all involved parties, including venues, catering services, transportation providers, and other suppliers.
  • Emissions calculation: Total emissions are calculated based on the data, including energy consumption, travel, waste generation and other activities that contribute to an event’s carbon footprint.
  • Identifying emission hotspots: With these insights, the agency and client can identify areas with the most significant carbon emissions, such as excessive energy use or extensive travel distances. This allows them to prioritise actions to reduce emissions in those high-impact areas.
  • Setting reduction targets: The client, their event partner and suppliers can work together to set emissions reduction targets. These goals are specific and measurable, serving as a collective commitment to sustainability.
  • Sustainable solutions: The event agency and the client can collaborate to make sustainable choices – for example, opting for energy-efficient venues, encouraging public transportation for attendees, minimising single-use materials or implementing recycling stations.
  • Supplier engagement: The client and event agency can now tangibly communicate the importance of reducing carbon emissions and encourage suppliers to adopt greener practices, creating a united push towards a sustainable supply chain.
  • Monitoring progress: Throughout the project, the agency can continually monitor progress towards meeting the emission reduction targets. They can ensure that the actions and sustainable practices are implemented effectively and measure the actual impact of these efforts.
  • Reporting and communication: Post-event, a carbon accounting report can contribute to corporate clients’ ability to quantify their carbon emissions and fulfil their ESG reporting obligations and other sustainability disclosures. It can also help demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship, which resonates positively with stakeholders and investors.

Carbon accounting platforms streamline the complex process of tracking emissions across the event supply chain. Originally designed for large corporations, there are now affordable, accessible solutions for SMEs, which contribute to a substantial proportion of larger companies’ scope 3 emissions.

Until the adoption of carbon accounting platforms becomes more widespread, this model is a lot more labour-intensive to put into practice.  But it’s a useful illustration of the art of the possible. It shows how a bi-directional flow of information and communication can equip event professionals to inspire and influence sustainable procurement guidelines that set the stage for responsible decision-making, rather than simply complying with whatever policies are coming from the top down.

By working together, guided by technology, it won’t be long before we will be able to define clearer Scope 3 emissions targets and create a roadmap towards measurable reductions that make a real impact on this planet we call home.

Find out how we supported one of our healthcare clients in producing a three-day in-person conference, with minimal impact on the planet.

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