What are sustainable events and how are they organized?
Events with a positive impact on the environment, people and the community exist and are spreading as part of a growing focus that the Tourism and Events sector is also dedicating to the issue of sustainability.
We talk about this with Mauro Zaniboni, president of MZ Events Srl.
Organizing sustainable events: what does it mean?
Organizing sustainable events means paying attention to not only the environmental needs, but also the economic and social needs of an event, whether it is a scientific congress, a corporate event or a show.
The word sustainability usually makes one think only of the environmental and ecological aspect, with actions to save paper and in general all materials used and to properly recycle them, as well as to consume less CO2 with appropriate energy-saving actions.
In reality, sustainability also extends to social and economic aspects. For example, it is “sustainable” to use labor with regular contracts and fair and equitable compensation, as well as to involve the local population by organizing, on the sidelines of the main one, a scientific-health education conference.
They give proof of sustainability the actions carried out that then remain for the benefit of the citizenry, for example by preparing facilities and services in the area, or even by recovering food surpluses from catering services for charitable actions for disadvantaged people.
As MZ Events, we have created a catalog with many different kinds of sustainable initiatives.
What is your approach to clients to develop sustainability-conscious projects?
First and foremost, inform and educate the client on the topic of Sustainability.
Proper and complete communication about how sustainability can be applied in organizing an event, with its pros and cons and possible costs is the basis for the Client to become passionate about Sustainability and decide to organize a sustainable event.
Of course, Clients are heterogeneous and their attitudes toward Sustainability are also different. Not everyone is enthusiastic about it even though nowadays the topic is very topical and is considered very important by everyone.
In the events organized by MZ Events, the Client is always involved from the planning stage of the event and in all aspects of sustainability. Multiple operational proposals are discussed, with different levels of implementation and cost, and then decided by mutual agreement.
What are the main stumbling blocks and preconceptions of companies with respect to organizing low-impact events?
There are basically two basic preconceptions:
– “There is no need to do Sustainability in small initiatives; only our Governors should do it for macro economic issues.”
– “Sustainability costs money.”
As MZ Events we are deeply convinced that Sustainability should consist of multiple initiatives, even low impact ones, which are always a first step towards the fully (or almost) sustainable event.
It often happens that with the Client a few initiatives are defined at first, but these then increase as the Client realizes the return in image and brand reputation that can accrue to the Company promoting the event.
“Sustainability costs money”: yes, this is partly true. But in reality, sustainability can also be applied in forms that do not involve any expense.
The example of recovering surplus food from catering services for charitable actions for disadvantaged people is a well-established reality with zero cost, except that of a few phone calls or e-mails.
MZ Events also adheres to and supports the FoodforGood initiative, promoted by Federcongressi&eventi in collaboration with BancoAlimentare and EquoEvento, nonprofit entities, where volunteers from nonprofit organizations come by to pick up excess food from catering and deliver it within an hour to charitable soup kitchens or charities, so that strict food safety and hygiene protocols are followed.
What are the benefits for clients and event agencies that choose sustainability?
Personally, I find that the main benefit is to feel satisfied with what is done: organizing a sustainable event means taking positive actions in favor of the environment or potentially disadvantaged categories of people.
The Companies and Scientific Associations we collaborate with are very aware of the issue of sustainability and are grateful to be able to communicate it internally and externally, improving their image and brand reputation.
In addition, the Event Organizing Agency that has obtained Sustainability certification (or has carried out a specific initiative, e.g., reporting, in this area) could and should be preferred by Clients who are attentive to the issue.
How important are certifications for the event industry today?
There are various certifications affecting conference venues, organizers, or the individual large-event, almost all of them international in nature, which require a great deal of initial effort to adapt all organizational procedures to the issue of Sustainability.
MZ Events has also followed this path, which began in 2021 and is now drawing to a close, as certification as a Sustainable Events Organizing Company (ISO20121:2012) is expected by the end of the year.
Being a company certified as a sustainable event organizer will surely bring more attention and appreciation from all the theme-conscious Clients, and from all the multinational Companies that have prioritized this aspect.
In addition, I would like to remind you that Public Entities from the year 2023 are obliged to organize events in a sustainable way, preferring certified suppliers accordingly.
I think that the sector of sustainably organized events is a market that is still in its infancy and can only grow in the future. This is also demonstrated by the great interest placed on the topic by the Milan Chamber of Commerce, which is investing resources so that Tourism and Events are increasingly sustainable.