Transportation & events: omission of emissions?

Transport to and from meetings and events, and the carbon emissions which result, make many of us want to put our head in the sand.  We can hope that the problem will go away, but it sits there, a liability needing resolution.  Across the world, and in spite of commitment to reduce cost, climate impacts and delegate stress, travel to and from events represents an events’ largest exposure to risk from violating sustainability principles.

We’ve seen many studies and examples of the impact of travel (and here)  but fewer practical examples which outline solutions which can be replicated by event owners internationally.  Some fantastic designers are exploring big solutions which bring real promise to destinations.  Many such solutions, however, will bring benefit to events only in the distant future.

 What can be done today?

  1. Measure your transport impacts: Include carbon dioxide emissions from delegate travel and local transport.
  2. Set clear goals for improvement: Identify measureable targets, track progress and share performance on your website, newsletter or after action report.
  3. Choose wisely: the clever experts at The Carbon Consultancy have collaborated with NGO parter Cool Earth to create a search tool which provides better flight selection options. The tool includes carbon emissions as a decision factor in choosing flights.  By evaluating airplane type, age of fleet, staff training and which routes offer direct flights, this tool calculates complex data and provides simple and clear estimates to inform the buyer.
  4. Pursue sponsorships: The UN Global Compact Leader’s Summit gained Price WaterhouseCoopers as a sponsor for event sustainability. The package included their participation in event measurement and approving the recommended offset project
  5. Engage delegates: Provide recognition on name badges for delegates who travel ‘climate smart’ (also, registration site tip here)
  6. Regional events, connected virtually
  7. Work with CVBs to promote local transport options

Carbon emissions are part of meetings and events.  When we acknowledge them with measurement, we increase the likelihood that these emissions will be seen as a liability and will encourage investment in sound practices to meet targets of drastically reduced emissions.

Looking forward to practical tips and thoughts from your own experience!


  1. Shawna McKinley says:

    Good reminders and helpful tools, thanks! Don’t forget about freight, too! For larger exhibits and trade shows this one often slips under the radar. So always good to determine what scope applies (such as show management hauls) and find a supplier that will account for fuel use, shipped weights and carbon. Hopefully they also operate a lower-emitting fleet that schedules to consolidate shipments efficiently too. Thanks Michael!

  2. Hugo Kimber says:

    technically the measurement of event transport emissions should be simple to automate, especially as the delegate registration process holds and stores participant origin details. it cannot be so difficult for these registrations to both store origin airport or railway station and/or transport mode. this would kick the measurement process forward rapidly, reduce measurement costs and enable emissions reduction. after years of using often poor offline data for our events industry clients, this simple upgrade of delegate registration would take us forwards and enable better decisions on transport and location can be further supported by better information at the point of booking for participants.

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