Is a carbon neutral event a sustainable event?

A carbon neutral event is not really a possibility. Carbon neutrality infers a complete carbon footprint has been assessed and within an event, this is not a practical undertaking.

It is not enough to simply buy offset in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your event. There are many facets and complexities to an event. Using the calculators provided by many offset providers may be easy, however can also be highly inaccurate. It is much more effective to take an integrated approach to address sustainability impacts, with the option of using offsets to balance greenhouse gas emission that cannot be avoided.

Seek guidance on what are industry accepted norms for calculating CO2 emissions. Don’t take guidance from offsetting retailers! Read PAS 2060 which sets protocols on the processes around claiming carbon neutrality. Read the GHG Protocol to understand Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and read event industry guidance on how this applies in our sector. It is generally accepted that measuring CO2 impacts from direct and indirect electricity and some travel and transport is appropriate for events. PAS 2060 says that anything that is predicted to be more than 5% of possible GHG emissions should be measured, if practical. The ‘if practical’ is the important part. It is often impractical to try and measure, for example, freight impacts for every delivery to an event site, or even more impossible and impractical for most events, the embedded energy in materials and supplies (including food and beverage). As the measurement of CO2 emissions in our industry matures, more research and benchmarking projects will be undertaken and we will all be able to draw on this to predict what various elements of our event causes what percentage of emissions. It is not practical for each event to undergo such detailed measurement and analysis.

It must be noted though, that there is a lot of information which can be gleaned from detailed CO2 emissions analysis as it is an enlightening thing to understand where your big hits are coming from, and where reductions are possible. Focus on understanding your event’s CO2 emissions profile in order to manage reductions, rather than using it as a communications and marketing device to claim neutrality!

So you can see that it is not appropriate to claim your event is ‘carbon neutral’ without heavily underscoring it with your process and what is measured. It is bordering on greenwashing if you measure energy used, offset it and then claim carbon neutrality. Be very careful using these terms.