Digital Event News January 2022 - Page 54

54 Opinion January 2022

What does Net Zero mean for the events industry ?

Gavin Newman , CEO of iVent discusses how the move to virtual and hybrid will help corporates plan for net zero .

When we started iVent 12 years ago the volcanic ash issue was upon us , causing airlines to cancel flights or take huge detours to avoid their engines seizing up .

Airlines were gas guzzling monsters anyway and with remote communication becoming better in terms of technology , the green agenda started to move up the list of arguments for organisations to move to virtual events . I started to look over speedboat catalogues as our newly launched virtual events business would obviously soon take over the world .
That unfortunately wasn ’ t to be , as corporations , whilst having a green policy , had no clear strategy about its implementation and most just paid lip-service to it , a box-ticking exercise .
Fast forward to 2021 and following COP26 , Net Zero 2050 has been well-chronicled in recent weeks – to slash emissions in half by 2030 and meet the target of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 C for planet earth - as the current end game will be 4C if we stay on our current course , which would be catastrophic for the planet .
So this is no longer about a “ nice to have ” in one ’ s corporate strategy . This is now being legislated for so it is no longer optional .
All organisations will have to carefully plan how they choose to engage both nationally and internationally with their colleagues , clients , customers and prospects , taking into account the forthcoming net zero legislation .
What if the reduction in emissions is too slow ? Will the laws that need to be introduced to counter that mean tighter
restrictions on travel and events ? It ’ s a very real possibility . We need to have contingencies in place .
The pandemic has shown the world how online meetings and virtual events can deliver successful outcomes across all sectors of business , associations and education and net zero will naturally mean further growth in the virtual event space with a sector value forecast to be worth $ 774 billion by 2030 .
I initiated our move to running carbon neutral events in January 2019 with our tree planting programme and from January 2022 , we will be ensuring our virtual events are carbon negative . Being neutral isn ’ t sufficient to meet our ambitious net zero targets - we need to go one step further ,
I am a huge supporter of faceto-face events but more so of our drive to net zero to ensure we leave a habitable world behind for our families , rather than having to jet-off to a Martian colony with Elon piloting us .
My thoughts are that in-person events will always thrive but they will be fewer and the majority of small events will all move online .
“ I AM A HUGE SUPPORTER OF FACE-TO-FACE EVENTS BUT MORE SO OF OUR DRIVE TO NET ZERO TO ENSURE WE LEAVE A HABITABLE WORLD BEHIND FOR OUR FAMILIES , RATHER THAN HAVING TO JET-OFF TO A MARTIAN COLONY WITH ELON PILOTING US .”
The big trade expos will remain as physical events but will most likely also have a hybrid element . That word hybrid is fast becoming as ‘ face-palmy ’ as “ pivot ” and “ unprecedented ” .
The push-back on virtual was huge when “ Zoom fatigue ” kicked in 18 months after lockdown 1.0 . But that seems to have dissipated and the events sector has settled into a more comfortable rhythm with virtual .
So COP26 has shown us there is consensus globally to work towards our net zero horizon and the events industry can take huge steps to support this . However the technology needs to continue to move forwards so that we don ’ t experience even more exasperating levels of ‘ Zoom fatigue ’.