If you’re wondering what it means to host net zero events, you’re not alone. Here we give a brief explainer to shed some light on the concept and how to start your journey to achieving it.


What is Net Zero?

‘Net zero’ is much as the term implies – a state where carbon emissions released into the atmosphere are reduced to close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions removed or re-absorbed from the atmosphere. However, there are some nuances which are important to note.

The first is that the term doesn’t only refer to carbon emissions but includes all greenhouses gases which contribute to climate change.

Another is that it implies an effort has been made to reduce these emissions as much as possible. These resulting reduced emissions can then be offset – where ‘offsetting’ means paying for a project to remove an equivalent amount of carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

Carbon capture projects can include reforestation, creating renewable energy, carbon-storing agricultural practices, and waste and landfill management.


The pledge

While this sounds straightforward, the practice of creating net zero events is far from simple, especially because there are so many stakeholders. This is why the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) in collaboration with several global event industry organisations created the Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, to help organisations across the full event industry value chain worldwide achieve net zero by 2050 (at the latest) and a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Included with the pledge is a roadmap of how to achieve this goal, which broadly looks like this:

  • 2023 – define and plan the boundaries of your roadmap
  • 2025 – measure and embed sustainability in your business and your events
  • 2030 – reduce carbon emissions from improved efficiencies
  • 2035 – replace carbon intensive activities with sustainable alternatives
  • 2040 – remove any residual carbon emissions with accredited carbon capture or removal processes
  • 2050 – Net Zero

You can find out more about it at www.netzerocarbonevents.org.


Where to start

If you’re feeling daunted at the amount of work entailed in hosting net zero events, EGF chairperson Morwesi Ramonyai advises you simply start by measuring your carbon impact because “You cannot manage what you don’t measure”. Critical carbon measures for events that you can start collecting today include energy use, water use, waste output (with specific data on what type of waste was produced – landfill, recyclable or compostable waste) and travel and transportation related emissions to name a few.

Once you have this data you will have a better understanding of your impact, as well as a benchmark to measure future events and business activities against with the view to continue reducing your carbon footprint over time.

This article first appeared in the May 2023 issue of Business Events Africa.