New Tech to Help Events Reach Net Zero

Much of the event industry has committed to becoming Net Zero, eliminating global greenhouse gases associated with events. New event-focused carbon management tools are intent on making the journey to net-zero easier than expected.

Recently, Isla launched a “footprinting” tool, aptly named TRACE, designed to simplify event carbon measurement and reporting. At its core, a platform like TRACE provides supportive tools for event professionals to reach net zero by giving access to data that could, ultimately, result in better decision-making and, thus behavioral change.

The platform’s analytics and reporting are generated immediately, measuring emission impacts, including energy, travel, production, and waste, providing data on live, hybrid, and online events. Further, data captured is based on the GHG Protocol and GRI Standards, potentially removing the need for event professionals to procure the services of third parties. Event professionals enter emission figures into the dashboard, like waste generated, and receive a report based on the platform’s findings regarding the carbon footprint alongside areas of improvement while tracking their progress — a process usually conducted by outsourced personnel.

TRACE is not the only platform on the market; other developers have seen a gap and responded accordingly. Take American Express Meetings & Events, which has launched the Sustainable Meetings Program that provides advisory services to help measure and reduce the carbon footprints of events. A Carbon Neutral Events platform uses an American Express GBT carbon calculator to help manage, measure, and reduce event emissions.

Another tool that may soon enter the market is EventSustainability. While the product is in its trial phase, it encompasses measuring and reporting, aligning with ISO 20121 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the SDGs.

Besides aiding professionals in improving carbon footprints, in some cases, platforms also aggregate data anonymously to provide an overview of the industry’s carbon emissions, a goal for an organization like TRACE. “You can’t ever really tell what you want to analyze in data until you have the data,” said Ben Quarrell, Isla co-founder.

There are, however, risks associated with data. For example, someone can manipulate event data on a platform, resulting in a skewed perspective of an event’s impact, potentially leading to greenwashing.

Further, most platform designs don’t allow for carbon event verification — this process would require an independent third-party audit. In short, if an event professional controls the data while conducting an audit for verification purposes, it is like being the player and referee in a sports match, potentially compromising data integrity.

“By using TRACE, we’re not saying, you’re being sustainable …. we don’t offer any kind of carbon-neutral certification,” Quarrell explained. “[We are] trying to educate the industry to move away from these shiny things, like badges, and talk about data.”

Quarrell feels industry literacy around sustainability will change over the coming years as the industry becomes more well-versed, stating that TRACE has worked to minimize data risks by offering robust training, drawing from a vast knowledge base.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the journey to net zero and potential risks, event professionals can see these platforms as an opportunity to add more value. Or, as Quarrell said, “It’s about being better than your last event.”