ICCA, in collaboration with Destination Canada, presented a groundbreaking survey on the integration of sustainability into business events, bringing key collaborators together online to focus on this essential industry-wide issue.
A total of 248 responses were received globally across all geographic regions. Responses were received globally from across the regions, with most responses coming from Europe, followed by North America. A diverse mix of respondents from various professional profiles with more than half being association professionals (56%), followed by suppliers (21%) and corporate meeting planners (10%).
A fifth of the decision-makers are from the Baby Boomers generation at over 58 years old, but with only 7% of the members. As these generations get older, it is the Millennials, or Gen Y that is of particular interest to us, as their values and attitudes have profound effects. At between 27 and 42 years, they represent 10% of the decision makers and a much larger 30% of members.
Millennials are more aware of company activity than any other generation and are eager for business leaders to be proactive about having a positive impact on the world. They increasingly expect companies to deliver social and environmental change and work collaboratively to tackle global issues. Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. Millennials are also very social media savvy and are drawn to marketing campaigns that promote interaction, create engagement and deepen the experience. The idea of communities being welded together, be that virtually or physically, is an attribute of this generation too.
Global rotation from one continent to another emerged as the dominant pattern for the largest and/or annual events (36%). This rotational approach can have implications for sustainability, considering the carbon footprint associated with frequent long-distance travel. National rotation (26%) and regional rotation (15%) were also common, suggesting the potential for more sustainable options at a smaller scale.
Meeting planners are showing interest in sustainability that encompasses environmental and long-term organisational sustainability. Whilst they are exploring new revenue streams and adapting their service delivery in a post-pandemic world, they remain committed to their core mission of knowledge enhancement, training, education, and professional standards, with international association meetings serving as vital vehicles for achieving these objectives.
Ensuring the success of the meetings means careful and meticulous planning that starts with the Request for Proposals (RFPs) design. A third of respondents found that sustainability was not at all or only a little integrated with their RFP design, meeting planning and meeting execution of their future meetings. Sustainability was also found to be only somewhat integrated by 21% in RFP design, 26% in meeting execution and 28% in meeting planning.
When respondents were asked about their most important criteria for procuring events, venues, goods, and services, a significant finding emerged. Cost ranked highest, with 74% of respondents considering it a crucial factor. Following closely, 61% of respondents emphasise the importance of accommodation, venue capacity, and space.
The survey on sustainability integration in organizations reveals varied commitments across different operational aspects. A key finding is that event and strategic planning have the highest levels of sustainability incorporation, with 73% and 62% of respondents respectively embedding it in these areas. These figures indicate a strong commitment to sustainability at a high level, reflecting its integration as a core organizational value.
However, more detailed elements like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Event Code of Conduct, Annual Reports, and Policies show lower levels of sustainability adoption. For instance, only 31% have integrated sustainability into KPIs and 33% into their Event Code of Conduct. This suggests that while general and strategic planning are more receptive to sustainability efforts, operational specifics like KPIs and codes of conduct are less frequently addressed.
The survey also found that 42% of organizations have sustainability embedded in both their mission statements and policies, with 40% reporting sustainability information in their annual reports. These elements are crucial for transparency and accountability in implementing sustainability in environmental, social, or governance aspects.
The lower incorporation in more detailed, operationally specific aspects might be due to the higher level of effort, commitment, and detailed change management required. These areas demand more concrete action, transparency, and accountability, making them more challenging to implement.
For more details, read the ICCA Sustainability Report.