Seeing green

As environmentally-friendly events gain traction in Japan, Nobuaki Koshikawa, deputy general manager of human resources and general affairs at sustainable development company Cerespo, shares his thoughts on how to make events greener.

What trends are you seeing in Japan’s event industry?
Event organisers and sponsors are increasingly interested in diversity and inclusion, education, culture, regional revitalisation and food wastage.

Steps to tackle environmental issues are seen by society as normal so unless sustainability efforts at events are good, organisers will often need to make more effort to sell their events. I think society is moving towards being more sustainable.

Also, the idea of community has become more prevalent when considering issues and activities at events. Local residents and non-profit organisations are increasingly participating in events as partners alongside industry, government and educational institutions. In fact, people are using the terms dialogue and engagement more than before.

What increase in demand for sustainable business events have you seen in recent years?
More and more events have strengthened their commitment to sustainability or are aimed at promoting sustainability. I think there are three major factors behind this.

First, the influence of an event on its participants has been reevaluated; there is an increasing awareness of the ability to disseminate information to society through events.

Second, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are becoming more well-known; many companies are now aware of the SDGs and have established their own sustainability policy.

And third, since it has become easier to hold events, the number of events is increasing, especially those held by non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations.

How can companies make their events more sustainable?
Companies need to maximise their events’ positive impact and minimise their negative impact. It is important to start by prioritising the issues that are relevant to the company, the issues that are strongly associated with the event, and the degree of impact on society of addressing the issues.

Companies shouldn’t take special measures when planning and producing an event. Rather, events should be an extension of what a company is already doing regarding sustainability; events are a way of tackling social issues related to the company’s own business.

A company conscious of human rights, for example, might hold a conference and distribute staff T-shirts using organic cotton or products that have received Fair Trade certification. Food-conscious companies, on the other hand, might hold an event that reduces food loss or provides local food or seafood whose standards are set by the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Since an event is a limited-time activity, it cannot cover all issues. The realistic approach is to share its aims and how they will be met in partnership with the parties concerned, before proceeding with the activities through dialogue with stakeholders.

How does Cerespo help organisations make their events more sustainable?
At the planning and production stage, we make proposals on sustainable options such as environmentally friendly equipment or reusable materials.

We create and provide educational and activity opportunities with non-profits, and support event management through the entire event cycle. This begins with education that explains to organisers why sustainability is important and how it relates to events, moving on to objectives, goals and targets, stakeholder engagement, issues and management review.

How might Covid-19 impact the event industry?
One of the big environmental impacts of events is the movement of event attendees. Up until now, it has been said that the value of an event lies in everyone sharing the same space and time and having direct communication. With Covid-19, we are moving online, mainly with seminars and conferences. There are times when the original purpose can still be achieved.

After Covid-19, we need to think about whether events will be online or offline, whether all programmes should be offered directly, and how we can reach more people. By considering this, the environmental and economic cost of events will be lighter.

As a result, expectations for sustainable events will increase, and events about sustainability will increase.

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