The Sustainable Meeting operating model comprises a new and sustainable way to plan and implement B2B events. It is based on sustainability work for corporate events carried out by Helsinki Marketing together with Woltti Group and is part of Helsinki’s efforts to achieve the sustainable development targets set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda. The aim of the pilot is to develop a responsible event organisation tool for international meetings and congresses.
Helsinki aims to be the most functional city in the world and is committed to offering more sustainable lifestyles for each and every resident. The goal is to do everything a little better, more responsibly and more sustainably all the time – as well as to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Helsinki Marketing’s Sustainable Meeting operating model has been developed together with Belgian sustainability consultant Mélanie Delaplanche Cahut, who has previously headed and consulted on corporate event marketing in Paris, London and Brussels.
Work on developing the Sustainable Meeting operating model began by defining what sustainability applies to in Helsinki Marketing’s events. The key criteria and indicators were defined by both parties together in order to measure and develop the sustainability of events.
The event venue plays a key role
The Sustainable Meeting sustainability targets were listed already in the offer requests sent out for organising the event. Offer requests were sent to meetings venues that participated in the pilot for Helsinki’s “Think Sustainably” service. From the offers that were received, Helsinki Marketing selected Finlandia Hall as the venue.
Finlandia Hall was given a form to fill in to help measure the sustainability of future events. Figures and indicators were requested in five different areas: the size of the event venue, energy consumption, water consumption during the event (total amount), waste sorting, and indicators for food and drinks, such as the amount of organic ingredients, responsibly sourced fish, vegetarian food, water and disposable tableware, for example.
Some of the questions on the form referred to annual consumption and others to consumption for individual events. The form also provided information about property maintenance, restaurant operations and quality management. Although Finlandia Hall already had some of the information for annual consumption, it had only once before collected information for an individual event when the client was applying for EcoCompass certification a few years ago. The team at Finlandia Hall was keen to learn more and obtain indicators for individual events with the help of the Sustainable Meeting operating model. While collecting data and obtaining precise measurements still requires some learning and brainstorming, they want to develop and create processes for themselves to help them do so reliably in the future.
In addition to the event venue, a critical role in terms of sustainability was also played by catering services and event planning. The members of the working group brainstormed, for example, what kind of catering would be most sustainable in practice, how decisions related to sustainability were communicated, and how the visual appearance and content of the event were planned sustainability.
The first event to be organised by Helsinki Marketing in accordance with its Sustainable Meeting operating model was only the beginning. A sustainability report for the event is being compiled to help further develop the operating model, the available indicators will be evaluated on the basis of the experience, and the operating model will be used to create a new tool for organising more sustainable events in the future.
Good results were obtained from the pilot event. It attracted over 100 participants, and extremely accurate measurements were obtained for its carbon footprint. Energy consumption was measured only for the spaces used for the event and without using general computed averages. In order to measure food waste, Finlandia Hall collected and weighed all leftover food from this specific event. The carbon footprint for the entire event was 294.75 kg or 2.89 kg/person. The average carbon footprint for comparable events is approximately 6-8 kg/person. The smaller carbon footprint was achieved in part by serving only vegetarian food, which has around a 50% smaller carbon footprint compared to red meat. Food and drinks accounted for around 60% of the event’s total carbon footprint, demonstrating the importance of sustainable catering.
Communications were employed to reduce the amount of food waste by reminding invitees repeatedly to notify if they were unable to attend the event. Invitees were also informed that the reason for doing so was to reduce food waste. Despite these communications efforts, 30 people who had registered for the event did not attend. Food left over from breakfast was then served again for lunch, and the remaining food was served to staff members. Food left over from lunch was served to staff members the following day for lunch, which is standard practice at Finlandia Hall. The total food waste from the event was 12.25 kg or 120 g/person.
Even though Finlandia Hall is a major congress centre that has many meeting spaces in different sizes, we wanted to measure the energy consumption for our event alone. The maintenance team at Finlandia Hall did a good job responding to our needs. The total energy consumption for the event was 454 kWh, 57 kWh of which was generated during the event by solar panels on the roof of Finlandia Hall. The weather conditions for quite optimal for solar energy production during the event, as the sun was shining and the temperature was around 9 degrees Celsius. The amount of energy produced by the solar panels during the event would be sufficient to power a laptop computer 8 hours a day for two years or charge a mobile phone for around 32 years.
Participants were served tap water in washable glasses, all signage was displayed on electronic screens, and the same name tags were used for the third year in a row and were saved for use again at the next event. Only the menu for the buffet was printed on paper.
Using public transport or walking to get to the event was also strongly recommended in communications, as transportation plays an important role in the carbon footprint of events. Consequently, almost 90% of participants arrived at the event without using their own car.
The total carbon footprint of the event was 294.75 kg, and the cost of compensating this amount is less than 10 euros. Helsinki Marketing decided to compensate for the event by donating €200 to the Baltic Sea Action Group.
Helsinki Marketing’s future events will be organised in accordance with the Sustainable Meeting operating model. The pilot event helped develop a responsible event organisation tool, Sustainable Meeting Guidelines for international meetings and congresses in Helsinki.