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“A sustainable event must be able to leave behind a positive legacy in the community”

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Companies that decide to organize events with ESG criteria demonstrate a firm commitment to environmental protection, equal opportunities, and inclusion. That is the belief of Gema de La Rosa, sustainability manager of AENOR, an organization that certifies companies from all sectors to promote meetings that lead to a better world. After successfully holding its third sustainable annual general meeting, MAPFRE is one of them. We’ll explain how to do it successfully.

Why is this type of event important? AENOR

Organizing any kind of event involves an impact on the environment, resulting from both consuming natural resources and generating waste and emissions. That is why companies that decide to organize an efficiently and sustainably managed event demonstrate a firm commitment to environmental protection, equal opportunities, and inclusion, and are able to strengthen the transparency and consideration of their groups of interest. In this regard, it’s key to know what the event’s interest groups expect, what impact the event could have, and what opportunities could be created.

What advantages would you highlight?

The main advantages of this type of event are the contribution they bring to new production and management models, based on ethics and a strong commitment to sustainable development. I would also highlight the resulting cost savings, through controlling resource consumption and the efficiency of the different production processes, which are key in decreasing the environmental impact. And, of course, the improved image it brings. Let’s not forget that this type of event demonstrates a solid commitment to sustainability. 

“Sustainability, concern about the environment, and equal opportunities are social demands, and that creates trends”

Do you think that more of these events are being held? Is there more of a trend now than a few years ago? 

Yes, definitely. We’re seeing more and more organizations working in this line, and that is because they are incorporating sustainability into their business strategy. Furthermore, society is demanding products and services that share their values and I think that, without a doubt, sustainability and concern about conserving the environment and equal opportunities are social demands. In fact, platforms helping event organizers to incorporate ESG criteria into their internal processes have begun to be developed to facilitate this work. 

What aspects do you think companies currently consider the most important in this type of activity? Environmental or social aspects? 

The focus has mainly been placed on environmental aspects, although a sustainable event must be able to leave behind a positive impact in the community that hosts it from a social and economic perspective. In terms of the environment, some events make use of mobile apps so that attendees can learn about the carbon footprint associated with the transportation method. As for catering services, there is a growing investment in using local, seasonal, and fair-trade products that are organically farmed, as well as using biodegradable containers and packaging, a way to avoid using plastic. Attendees are also charged for cups and tableware to promote reusing them. The use of natural light or supply with renewable energy sources is also encouraged and, alternatively, LED lights. Eco-friendly merchandise is promoted as well. 

“It’s key to know what the event’s interest groups expect, what impact the event could have, and what opportunities could be created”

What new trends have you identified when this kind of event is held? 

Since 2016, when we certified the first sustainable event, the annual general meetings of one of the Ibex-35 companies, we have seen how other sectors have joined this trend, such as, for example, cultural events like movie or music festivals. 

What is the hardest part of having these events run smoothly? 

From the beginning of the event planning, environmental protection methods have to be included, since the first objective must be decreasing the impacts. Along those lines, environmental measures must be implemented to decrease the effects during and after the event, which means promoting measures designed to reduce and recycle waste and CO2 offsetting.

“Organizing a sustainable event requires planning and commitment from organizers and participants”

Is it important to measure the impact of this type of event? 

When a sustainable event is launched, you have to ensure that the defined sustainability strategy has been correctly implemented. This is done based on a prior assessment of potential social and environmental impacts at each stage of the event in question, always aiming to minimize these impacts as far as possible. 

What would you recommend to companies that have not yet organized or held a meeting of this kind? 

Organizing a sustainable event requires planning and commitment from organizers, participants, and everyone involved in the organization. To this end, it’s important to take into account sustainability criteria throughout the entire life cycle of the event. The initial stage is the time to design the event’s global sustainability strategy. That’s followed by the organization stage, when the concrete aspects of the event and its services are determined. In the stage in which the event is held, planned activities are implemented, and it’s important to strengthen communication and monitor the operation of the project in terms of sustainability. In the dismantling and assessment stage, the final one, the results obtained are assessed with the intention of implementing improvements at future events. The reference for this certification is ISO 20121, an international standard that provides recommendations on how to comply with these requirements.

“Sustainability has become a differential variable and it provides opportunities to all sectors” 

How do you think companies and society at large are progressing in their commitment to sustainability? What challenges are being faced? 

Sustainability has become a differential variable in terms of both corporate strategy and products, and it is a fundamental value that provides opportunities in all economic sectors. Because of that, management strategies and tools must be put in place in order to get past the economic crisis, guide that strategy by integrating sustainability principles into all of our operations, and facilitate the future development of citizens and organizations. It is a fundamental value that provides opportunities in all economic sectors. It is time for sustainability and responsible social progress.


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