Business Events and the Planet

The climate crisis must be addressed head-on by the business events industry.

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, President & CEO, PCMA

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, President & CEO, PCMA

Renowned anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall has said of the climate crisis, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” We are at a tipping point now where we, as an industry, must make a significant difference and contribute to the solution rather than the problem.

We tend not to deal with things until they become a crisis. Climate change may seem invisible to some people because it hasn’t really affected them personally. Perhaps they’ve never been inconvenienced by a natural disaster that is a direct result of global warming. But even extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg — there is so much more damage to the planet that our human activity is causing that we don’t see below the water line.

That’s the reason why Convene’s editorial team focused their efforts on making all the pieces of content in this issue tie back to sustainability — to demonstrate that we need to consider all of our decisions and actions through the lens of climate change. It’s not something we can afford to turn our attention to only occasionally.

Our industry must be a driver for change — and organizations, including PCMA, took a big step forward by signing a Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, presented at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

The November/December issue of Convene is the first-ever single-topic edition of the magazine.

In 2020, with much of the global population curtailing travel during the pandemic, our carbon and CO2 emissions were reduced by more than 6 percent globally. We need a reduction of approximately 7.6 percent to make an impact in a post-industrialized world, so clearly, we have a lot more work to do.

As human beings, we need to come together. It’s part of our DNA. In doing so, we must ensure our industry is doing our part, and that’s through leadership. We must walk the talk so that sustainability measures like you’ll see at Convening Leaders 2022 Jan. 9-12 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas — e.g., using digital signage whenever possible and providing water stations instead of individual plastic water bottles — are just table stakes at events.

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that digital events — although they will continue to have an important role in our omnichannel business events strategy — cannot replace all face-to-face events. Never traveling to meet face-to-face is not the solution. When Convene Deputy Editor Barbara Palmer interviewed Laura Lopez, whose team organized COP26, she said that attempts to meet digitally to continue conference talks were a failure. Leaders need to hammer out important policy negotiations about energy and the environment in person.

As we push for cleaner fuel for transportation and other big infrastructure changes that need to take place, we should consider how carbon offsets can lessen an event’s environmental footprint. Because while we can’t solve the climate crisis overnight, we can take measured steps that add up to the kind of difference we want — and need — to make.

More to Hear

Parts of this column were taken from a conversation I had with VisitScotland’s Malcolm Roughead and Neil Brownlee on VisitScotland’s “COP26 and the Journey to Change” podcast series. You can listen to the podcast on VisitScotland’s website.