Megatrends: Next Gen Sustainability

ESG is a communication tool that plays an important role in convincing sceptical observers, and especially loud Millennials and Gen Zers, that the company’s actions are sincere. An article in the Financial Times pinpointed an underlying problem with sustainability reporting: the proliferation of frameworks that threaten to overwhelm the reporters. What we really need is a coherent and comprehensive corporate disclosure framework to ensure flexibility and drive progress. And the next-gen is here to help.

While the ESG reports have gained popularity in some markets, they are having a rather difficult time appearing in the events industry – understandable with the complexities involved in planning any sort of conference or meeting and the many overlaps that appear with other industries. However, I would like to give credit where one is due. We have a surge in signatories of initiatives, such as the Net Zero Carbon Events, or the IAPCO Plastic Pledge, and we see venues and professional congress organisers (PCOs) that are working on sustainability reports of their own. Associations are taking things into their own hands too, increasing requests for sustainable event operations, as well as aligning themselves with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and other frameworks. Anything that prompts action and informed decisions based on measurements is a huge step forward that we must commend.

What triggers these new commitments is not only the pressing issue of rising global temperatures, and the environmental consequences that they bring around the globe with worsening weather conditions that endanger humans, animals and their habitats in equal measure. This is but one side of the story. There is a pressure that comes from the new generation of professionals stepping into the workforce, who have a firm grip on taking action.

Both Millennials and Generation Z are much more attuned to the need to stop just talking about climate change, and actually doing something about it. They review and consider employers based on their commitment and factual participation in solving the issues at hand. As soon as they rise through the ranks, as is the case of Millennials now occupying senior positions, they work to influence bigger and faster change when it comes to sustainability.

Those two generations are also making now a large pull of event participants across fields, as we observe with our Kenes Group conferences. And they are ready to voice any mishap or greenwashing that they see, reaching out publicly via social media. Event professionals cannot afford anymore to just say that they will change and do better sometime in the future. The meetings industry must take an action now.

For those that have been riding this train for a while, this all comes natural and what they continuously focus on is improving and integrating more of the practices that gain popularity. They have ESGs, or versions of these reports, and strive to inspire others with their actions. They become trusted brands for the new generations. They gain one more differentiator to help them position themselves better.

Those that are new to this must not be afraid. This train is large enough and there is room for everyone. The point is to get onboard. Today. The risk of being left behind waiting may cost these organisations or event brands not only future business. They may also miss a unique opportunity of connecting with their audience and doing something together. They may try to silence a voice that is much stronger and louder – those of two generations that are used to speaking up and acting now.

A way to get on board for associations is to create young committees and to give them enough power and creative freedom so that they can integrate what is new and pertinent within the work of the solid structure.

The question is are we ready to listen? It will open conversations and connections that organisations may have not anticipated and, in the process, will ensure that WE, the collective whole, work at minimising the negative mark of human activity on the environment – on our home, with its full makeup of people, biodiversity, a future filled with possibility. And in the process, WE will agree on a coherent and comprehensive corporate disclosure framework for those pesky ESG reports to ensure flexibility and drive progress.

By Ori Lahav, VP Clients & Operations