Tipping Points for a Sustainable Business Events Sector

06.02.2023 | by Matthias Schultze, Managing Director, GCB

Sustainability is omnipresent. No doubt, as an industry, we need to continue talking about how the way we organise business events can help mitigate the negative effects of climate change. This discussion is embedded in how society as a whole handles the challenges of climate change and tries to achieve decarbonisation. There is legitimate reason for a constructive approach: Let’s talk about positive tipping points for a successful transformation.

The Sustainable Future Has Already Begun

In his latest book*, leading German futurist Matthias Horx argues that a hopeful, sustainable and post-fossil future has already started. He is drawing on research by Ilona M. Otto, a professor in Societal Impacts of Climate Change at the University of Graz, who together with her research group has developed a holistic model for looking at climate change. This model analyses the interaction of education and value systems, financial markets, production methods and technologies in relation to decarbonisation. The idea: social processes can spark rapid social change which is needed to radically transform how we interact with nature in the future.

Successful Industry Solutions as Role Models for the Transformation

According to the group’s research, key tipping points are, for example, reached when more than 25 % of the population are committed to contributing to the climate turnaround through their own actions, when emissions are made visible and transparent or when renewable energy production becomes more profitable than fossil energy production.

How does this apply to our work within the events industry? It means that successful sustainability solutions can set the tone and encourage all kinds of business event stakeholders to join in to create a snowball effect, moving our sector along the path of sustainability. To that end, how to achieve sustainability in business events is at the core of our work and initiatives at the GCB German Convention Bureau.

For example, we have identified strategic measures in our dedicated research on the topic, including the best possible use of technology and combining travel for business events with other occasions such as holidays or other business meetings to make it more meaningful. We also provide a platform for the all-important knowledge exchange at events such as our "Sustainable Events Conference" (SECON), taking place on February 14 and 15, 2023, in Osnabrück/Germany, which is dedicated to discussing all dimensions of sustainability in the events industry.

Sustainable Events: The Importance of Education

Another key tipping point highlighted in Horx’s writing is the inclusion of climate change as an integral part of the curriculum, which strikes me as particularly relevant and directly relates to our work. From my perspective, every industry sector has a responsibility and can contribute to creating this sustainable future, not least by focussing on related training and learning. We therefore have been training our community in sustainable event management and organisation on a continuous basis, for example through our seminar series on sustainable event planning with over 800 participants in the past 10 years. In addition, we regularly publish best and new practices on sustainable events.

Sustainable Business Events Are The Future

Yes, the challenges around climate change are huge – however, as a business events community, we have already identified important milestones and started the journey towards a sustainable future. In our multi-layered and increasingly fluid world with global challenges, business events remain one of the essential instruments for solving complex issues. People coming together in a professional context ensure knowledge transfer and the formation of new networks. To ensure that business events can continue to fulfil this role, best practices and education are key to drive the transformation towards a sustainable future. At the start of this year, let’s not forget these positive tipping points and focus on constructive action to contribute to this dynamic to make sustainable business events the future. 

* Matthias Horx (2022): „Die Klima-Regnose – Wie uns die Klimawende gelingen wird“, published by Zukunftsinstitut.

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