The Role of Supplier Partner Accountability in Event Sustainability

By: ITA Group
chefs educating incentive travel attendees on sustainable eating

Sustainability has been a buzzword in the events industry for years. And while integrating sustainable solutions into events hasn’t always been a priority, brand leaders have shifted in recognizing its importance. Organizations are making bold social impact pledges about responsible consumption and production models, clean water initiatives, and actively fighting world hunger.

For event professionals, delivering sustainable event practices, like sourcing and waste-reduction, should be as important as having great food and beverage. Moving from promises to action starts with all of us—clients holding event agencies responsible and event agencies holding supplier partners accountable. Developing strong action plans with supplier partners is critical for ensuring high-level goals are met with on-the-ground action.

Planning, Partnerships & Practices to Encourage Sustainable Operations 

“Going green” should never be an afterthought. Yet with so many details to manage, it can be hard for event planners to integrate sustainable practices once on site. Incorporate sustainability initiatives early in the event design, establishing a way to measure and report impact against key business imperatives, such as carbon offset, amount of food donated and value of donations/fees paid to local organizations.

Related: 7 Tips for Sustainable Events in Post-COVID-19 Group Travel

From destination selection and menu planning to giveaways and give-backs, each aspect of an event can be considered through a sustainability lens. Planners can start by understanding how different partners can help.

B Corporations

Choose suppliers that have aligned values, such as those with benefit corporation status (Certified B Corporations™). B Corps are for-profit companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. If you’re looking for a logoed apparel supplier, for instance, selecting a B Corp can help ensure products are made ethically. 

Social Impact Organizations or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Working with credible organizations to produce giveback activities can ensure your positive intentions don’t have unintended “voluntourism” drawbacks. Guidestar searches for U.S.-based nonprofit operations by location, saving you time researching. 

We’ve woven social impact stories throughout domestic and international events. Partnering with a school in Tanzania, an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, and a homeless shelter in Dallas engaged attendees and made a positive impact on the communities we visited. 

Venue & Transportation

An event agency or destination management company can vet partners based on brand goals, document your sustainability plan, and remind front-line staff of the contractual commitment when finalizing orders and preparing services. They can also ensure you receive timely, accurate reporting from airlines and transportation partners about carbon use.  

Food Waste Reduction

One practical step toward a more sustainable event experience involves reducing and recovering food waste. Food service vendors may already have a waste diversion program in place, but often need client support to set it in motion. Recovered food helps alleviate local food insecurity through intermediary organizations, like the Food Rescue Hero Network, that work with shelters and community fridges where people in need can access event leftovers. 

Related: 4 Sustainable Event Design Strategies to Reduce Food Waste

Questions to Encourage Supplier Accountability 

Asking the right questions at the right time creates accountability from planning through event execution. Start broadly with, “How might we partner with you to implement the sustainability management systems we want to see in our supply chains?”

Then, get specific. When negotiating a catering contract, you could approach the topic by asking:

  • What plant-based meal options are available?
  • Are there any local producers we can work with to source food? Are any of those producers certified organic?
  • What overage percentages are you working off of?
  • What containers are compostable or reusable?
  • What food rescue processes and partnerships are available? 

If your organization is serious about meeting sustainability goals, it's essential to have partners you can rely on, not only for planning, but for follow-through on tracking and reporting.

Want to learn how our experts can help you design more sustainable events? Let's Talk about ideas for creating engaging experiences that align with corporate social responsibility goals. 

ITA Group logo
ITA Group

ITA Group custom-crafts engagement solutions that motivate and inspire your people. ITA Group infuses strategies that fuel advocacy and drive business results for some of the world’s biggest brands.