Sustainable Events: Organizing the Executive Networking Event
Updated: Mar 11
Food, logistics, staff training, resource management…just like running a business, there’s a lot that goes into running a successful event, but it is also crucial to take into account the social and environmental impacts it has.
In addition to travel management, another one of Tricolage’s core services is consulting for local businesses and organizations in Japan, covering sustainability, tourism, and event management.
Combining our rich experience in event organizing with our passion and commitment for sustainability, we successfully organized an in-person event within Japan’s Largest Exhibition for Hospitality, Food Service & Catering, attended by over 28,000 visitors over 4 days.
Tricolage was in charge of the planning and direction for the “50th Anniversary Executive Networking” - an exclusive event within the Exhibition, attended by top-level executives in the hospitality and food & beverage industry from all over Japan. Our work included arranging accommodation and transportation, managing guest attendance and communications, onsite operations, and so on.
On top of that, Tricolage was also the appointed sustainability advisor for the event. We advised our event partners on sustainability measures to ensure it was held in the most sustainable way, and used this as an opportunity to galvanize our partners and guests into influencing their businesses and industries to contribute to a better future for society and the environment.
Why is it Important to Have a Sustainable Event?
When done right, events can bring positive economic and social benefits. On the other hand, they can have considerable negative impacts on the environment which include energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions, on top of the potential negative social impacts such as overworking of staff or the alienation of local communities.
The theme of this executive networking event was in fact "Sustainability", a topic that the hospitality industry needs to tackle urgently, and in earnest. From the planning and preparation of the event to the management of the event itself, every effort was made to create a sustainable event.
Engaging Partners and Guests During the Event
Aside from networking, one of the objectives of the event was to engage guests to think, share and have conversations about sustainability issues in the hospitality industry and beyond, and spur them into actions that will make their businesses more sustainable.
To set the scene and prepare our guests for the event, we produced a Sustainability Trends booklet with the latest news and data on sustainability in the hospitality and F&B industry, which was emailed to all guests before the event. The booklet was packed with facts relating to the most pressing sustainability issues, ideas and opportunities for action, and actual examples of what businesses around Japan and around the world are doing to tackle these challenges. Things like:
5% of global water use is consumed by the hospitality sector
26% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food production
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas’ Plastic Free 2022 strategy sets out to remove and avoid all virgin plastic materials from their hotel and spa operations
Operators of Hotel Gracery and Washington Hotel pack leftovers from breakfast buffet into lunch boxes, which are sold on food-rescue app TABETE to reduce food waste
At the event itself, nine eye-catching pillars displaying all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were put up, and we had guests share their initiatives on post-it notes relating to each SDG. The purpose of this was to help everyone visualize the hospitality and F&B industry’s commitment to the SDGs, to learn from each other’s initiatives, spark conversations and encourage these business leaders to collaborate to further these goals in their spheres of influence.
Many ideas were collected across all of the SDGs, with Goal 13 (Climate Action) receiving the most contributions. Some initiatives included:
Using heat from hot springs to heat rooms to reduce the use of kerosene, gas, and electricity (Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy)
Food waste composted and used in rice fields (Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities)
Procuring environmentally-friendly hotel amenities (Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production)
Increasing vegetarian options on menus; sourcing local organic produce; having in-room sensors to reduce energy consumption (Goal 13 Climate Action)
Evaluating the Sustainability Impacts of the Event
We created a comprehensive impact report of the event to evaluate each partner, including ourselves.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we developed a checklist to evaluate the impact of the event based on the “Sustainability Guidelines for Business Events in Tokyo'' issued by the Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau. The guidelines provide a framework for organizing sustainable events, and for raising environmental awareness within organizations in the industry.
We surveyed all parties involved in running the event (including ourselves), and compiled and summarized the results into an impact report. The five categories of an “event life cycle” defined in the Sustainability Guidelines were used to create the survey since the categories provide an all-rounded overview of the preparation, impact, and outcome of an event in regard to sustainability.
Some highlights from this event, in respect to the five categories, include:
1. Management & Human Resources
The organizers have included a sustainability policy in the event implementation guidelines
A sustainability advisor was appointed to plan and implement sustainability initiatives for the event
A report was produced and circulated both nationally and internationally on the event’s sustainability efforts, impact, and recommendations for improvement
Local and seasonal produce, free-range eggs, and fairtrade coffee were sourced by the F&B provider Happo-En
The hotel arranged for guests has Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable Badge, which makes credible recognition of a hotel’s impactful sustainability efforts
Sustainable producers are favored when procuring products and services (e.g. Mi Cafeto)
3. Energy & Water
The venue provider has energy and water monitoring and reduction plans and targets
50% of the venue’s lighting uses LED lighting
The venue’s full-time staff is trained on reducing energy and water
Instead of buffet-style catering, food is served in small portions on small plates to reduce food waste
Digital invitations and digital menus were used to reduce the use of paper
Reusable furniture and materials were rented rather than buying new ones
5. Local Community
The students of Iwase Agricultural High School in Fukushima Prefecture participated remotely via Zoom, and were able to express their thoughts directly and ask questions. Rice grown by the high school students was made into a dessert and served at the event. The purpose of this was to engage the restaurant & hospitality executives to think and talk about the supply chain of food and the involvement of local communities.
Working Towards Better, More Sustainable Events
While the topic of sustainability has been growing in Japan and in the hospitality industry, it has only in more recent years become a mainstream consideration. The fact that “Sustainability” was the chosen theme for this event was extremely encouraging, as well as the fact that awareness is certainly not lacking among the industry’s leaders and among our business partners.
Everyone, including ourselves, is on a journey to making events more sustainable. There is, of course, more to do and room for improvement in all aspects of the event. A few things that we look to improve for upcoming events include:
To set clear objectives, strategy development, and implementation and review
To evaluate quantitatively and qualitatively the economic, social, and environmental outcomes of the event
To train all operational staff in sustainability and waste reduction targets
To prioritize utilizing reusables, instead of disposable items for serving food (even though they were compostable) or creating displays (even though they were recyclable)
To separate food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion
All in all, the event was a success from many aspects and for all partners involved. It was a fantastic learning experience for all, including ourselves, on practical ways in making in-person events more sustainable, particularly after the hiatus that Covid had brought. Going beyond the operational aspects of the event itself, we believe that it was important to spark conversation and inspire innovation among our partners and guests, turning ideas into action in their areas of influence. It was crucial to lead by example to show that sustainability isn’t just a concept or an ideal, but something that is achievable and beneficial.
Are you looking to run a sustainable event and inspire your guests into using their influence for a better future? Get in touch with us today!