Creating Sustainable Conferences

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Earth Overshoot day is the date when our demand for resources exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that year. In New Zealand, this year the date was May 6.  Globally, the date we overshot our planet's resources for 2019 was July 29.

At Composition, we are aware of the potential environmental impacts of conferences and are constantly looking for ways to minimise our contributions to the global footprint. For us, sustainability means trying to do less with more, in our business and in the conferences we manage.

Some of the things we do in-house includes, using technology to reduce our travel requirements; reusing things when we can, doing without when we can’t and purchasing from ethical suppliers, especially those that use part of their profits for social good. We try and cover everything, even down to the cases our phones are in. 

Our journey to becoming a sustainable business has not always been easy, nor are we there yet, but one thing we know for sure is that we have learnt a lot along the way and feel confident in helping our clients create a sustainable conference. So much so that we include a list of things we would like companies to think about with every proposal we send out.

Some of the actions we talk about with clients:

  • Communicating electronically with delegates.

  • When purchasing items, asking where are they made, by whom and if they are really needed.

  • Ensuring accurate numbers for meals so that food waste can be minimised.

  • Discussing and review with the conference committee if any social responsibilities can be incorporated into the conference.

Once upon a time, this was considered a big ask for organisations to do because they thought that it would cost more or that somehow the conference would be boring, that delegates would miss receiving a “souvenir bag”. But most now see the benefits, not only for the planet, and are keen to work with us in creating a sustainable conference.

Whilst some things like switching from plastic lanyards to ones made from bamboo can be more expensive, savings can easily be made elsewhere. Like including conference details such as speaker bio’s in an email instead of a booklet. Most delegates will have access to a smartphone to check details if need be and most venues will have wifi for delegates to use. 

We believe that one day soon, hosting a sustainable conference won’t be considered an optional extra, instead becoming something taken for granted. We are committed to being part of the solution, instead of adding to the problem. We hope you will join us.