23rd February 2009
Despite a recent increase in the demand for eco-friendly events, the recession threatens to dampen the spirits of environmentally-conscious organisations whose budgets have been cut.
However, according to an expert, corporate social responsibility (CSR) does not have to be sacrificed as expenses are reduced and many companies have a misguided conception that sustainable organising must inevitably cost more than standard conferences.
"In terms of us organising environmentally friendly events people are interested in it but they don't always actually follow through," says Jessica Bird, a spokesperson for ecOevents, a company which specialises in this area.
"They are under the impression that it costs more when in actual fact, because you are managing your waste and you are managing what you are buying in and things, it doesn't always have to be a case that it costs more," she asserts.
ecOevents was launched by Oxygen Events Services and aims to minimalise a conference's impact on the environment through careful planning to reduce the amount of excess resources.
Ms Bird claims that an environmentally-friendly event can be cost effective and even save firms money during the recession, saying this is something that planners need to convey to their clients in order to increase the number of organisations implementing green measures.
She says that companies can reduce expenditure if they do not overspend on resources that they do not need.
"If it means buying much more carefully you have got a lot less waste; [with] things like catering there is always so much food left over and things, whereas in an environmentally-friendly event you just have the right amount of things," she affirms.
Elaine Sharp, programme marketing manager for Envirowise echoes Ms Bird's assertions: "Our experience shows that improved environmental performance can help businesses save money and time."
"Using resources more efficiently can help companies free up valuable cash - a priority in what looks to be a challenging year ahead," she says.
Envirowise claims to have saved UK industry £1 billion since it began operating in 1994.
It offers advice on strategies to reduce waste of water, energy and packaging, which can also apply to events management.
The government-funded programme stresses that there needs to be a commitment at all levels of a business or organisation in order for eco-friendly practices to be implemented successfully.
ecOevent suggests simple measures can help to reduce a company's carbon footprint as well as saving money, such as printing on both sides of the paper and only producing hard copies of documents that are absolutely necessary.
Ms Bird believes that there is definitely a future for sustainable conferencing but states that a lack of understanding among organisations and businesses is hampering the industry.
"People are looking into it and considering it and obviously the government have an impact on that as well," she says.
There is perhaps a case for regulating event organising so that firms have to consider their carbon footprints.
"Whether or not it ever gets legislated that companies need to be more environmentally friendly and things like that then that will obviously help," she concludes.