Why eventprofs must heed public opinion on sustainability

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There is a huge disparity between how the public believes businesses should be behaving around sustainability and how businesses are actually conducting themselves, according to new research.

Exactly half (50 per cent) of senior business decision makers said that they have no net zero strategy, according to the survey commissioned by the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business and carried out by YouGov. However, almost three quarters (74 per cent) of British adults surveyed say that businesses should have one.

There is also a demand from the public that businesses act responsibly and have a positive impact. One quarter (25 per cent) of British adults said a business’ purpose should be to make a positive impact on society, while a further 42 per cent said businesses should balance profit with social and environmental justice.

However, the survey shows that public pressure may have little impact. When asked what would inspire businesses to act more responsibly, only 7 per cent of businesses said a fear of public boycotts would make them more sustainable.

So, despite the British public expecting and believing that businesses should be taking an active role in social and environmental issues, businesses are not seeing that as a determining factor in their business decisions.

For event professionals, sustainability is one of the hottest topics around. Increasingly, businesses across the sector are adopting the triple bottom line accounting framework of people, profit and planet. Corporate requests for proposals (RFPs) have gone from not mentioning sustainability just a few years ago to being a key element. Carbon measurement tools for events are appearing at a rate of knots. Sustainability is everywhere.

And with good reason – events will be on the front line of the sustainability fight. The survey shows that your event attendees are overwhelmingly likely to believe that businesses should be doing more on sustainability. And events are one of the most visible parts of a business, where the attendee interacts with your brand. So if people attend your events and see actions which are not or do not feel sustainable, that trust will be broken and your brand and event damaged.

While the results of the survey do not paint the world of business in the best possible light, they also show a huge opportunity for eventprofs.

Professor Ian Thomson, director of the Lloyds Banking Group Centre, says: “This could be a brilliant opportunity for businesses. 28 per cent of people said they want to choose the most sustainable option, if given clear and trustworthy information about the environmental and social impact of a product whereas only 13 per cent of businesses believed the same.

“Sustainability and responsible behaviour aren’t just challenges for businesses, but also a chance for them to build a brand based on trust and help futureproof their companies against further legislation (which the survey showed is a popular sustainability measure amongst the general public) and avoid hefty costs further down the road.”

As you’d expect, there’s plenty of discussion of sustainability in the forthcoming May issue of M&IT, out this month. We’ve spoken to Dale Parmenter, CEO of DRPG, about why he believes the net zero target isn’t ambitious enough, plus we’ve also got an interview with Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, where she talks about all the sustainability measures in place at the upcoming IMEX in Frankfurt.

Paul Harvey
Written By
Paul Harvey
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.

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