During Cannes Lions Live - this year’s virtual version of the advertising industry’s annual get-together on the Côte d’Azur - Dentsu International, one of the largest global media agencies, revealed it is cutting air travel by 65% as part of its plans to reach net zero by 2030.
This is a big deal, both for the advertising industry and for a company operating in 145 markets worldwide with more than 65,000 employees.
Dentsu had previously said it would look at ‘Flights’ as one of five environmental pillars - alongside ‘Technology’, ‘Research & Advertising’, ‘Professional Fees’, and ‘Buildings & Fleet’.
Now it has set an ambitious target, which will fundamentally change the way it speaks to clients, runs business pitches, stages events and meetings, and conducts global business.
At the start of this year, global professional services network EY also revealed plans to achieve net zero - this time by 2025. Once again, reducing business travel emissions is a key ingredient.
Shannon Wayt Sessoms, TME Sustainability, DEI and M&E Programme Leader at EY, told a recent webinar audience: “Air travel was responsible for 75% of our global emissions in 2019 so we will work with internal stakeholders and clients to encourage the use of virtual collaboration technologies, limit flying to events and eliminate flights for one-day meetings completely.
Despite being a little Zoom fatigued, we need to work proactively with our people and supply-chains to say, these are our goals and here’s how we’re all going to work together to reach them. We will promote virtual meetings and events as a priority, before hybrid and then localised meeting hubs and we’ll see this filter down through destinations, venues and all EY suppliers.”
With reduced air travel now an Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) priority across industry sectors, virtual meetings technology and online event platforms like Glisser have a key role to play in a more sustainable future for business. Glisser’s technology platform enables companies to power unique and engaging event experiences for their customers, partners, investors and employees, face-to-face, online, and in-between.
Analysts that have spent time calculating the carbon footprints of in-person versus virtual events have found consistently that virtual has a smaller footprint, even when conservatively over-estimating the carbon emissions from digital communication technology.
The CO2e emissions are around 160g per hour for video conferencing and 36g per hour for streaming videos. That means that over a three-day event, a participant’s emissions move from a potential 2.52 tonnes (the equivalent of a flight from Asia) to 4.8kg CO2e, which is a 99.8% emissions reduction.
In addition to their reduced carbon footprint, virtual events also typically generate less waste due to the provision of digital-only materials (so no printing or paper wastage ) and no large-scale food and beverage service.
During a typical three-day event attracting 100,000 people, the carbon footprint from food alone can vary between 7.19kg CO2e for meat eaters and 2.89kg CO2e for vegans.
These hungry mouths would have to be fed anyway but without accurate consumption patterns, events often over-order and wastage can be significant.
As an extension of Glisser’s ESG commitment to helping companies across all industry sectors reduce their carbon emissions and contribute to a net zero future, we've launched a sustainability report and calculator designed to help planners clearly see the impact of transitioning their live events to virtual or hybrid. It will help them to calculate the carbon savings from the associated reduction in travel, food and beverage, venue heating and cooling, among other factors.
In the meantime, our technology platform is enabling businesses like Clyde & Co, Simmons & Simmons KPMG, Pfizer and many more to power unique and engaging event experiences without the need to get on a plane.
As an aside, the aviation industry also has ambitious plans to reduce its carbon emissions.
Steve Raynes, Head of R&T Business Development and Partnerships at Airbus told a recent Leaders in Business Sustainability virtual event: “We signed up to challenging aviation CO2 targets in 2008 and plan to reduce the levels that existed in 2005 by 50% in the lead-up to 2050. We’re changing the curve in two ways - through sustainable aviation fuels and by introducing ZEROe, the world’s first zero-emission, hydrogen-fuelled commercial aircraft by 2035.”
Airbus knows that, with a growing number of industry sectors striving for net zero within the next 20 years, air travel needs to innovate in order to sustainably evolve or risk a real threat to its existence.
That threat is felt acutely by every high carbon emitting industry and the meetings and events industry is no different.
The move to online events and meetings may have been born from necessity caused by the global pandemic but through our innovative and continued product development and talent up-skilling, virtual event technology platforms are also our answer to the planet’s carbon crisis.
Check out our blog on 6 Essential Elements of a Sustainable Event for more on this topic.