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What are the current challenges to the sustainable events industry?

It’s clear that sustainability is no longer a ‘trend’ or a ‘buzzword’, it’s an integral component to world business, including the events industry… however that’s not to say it’s without its challenges. At Zentive, we’re focused on events that not only feel good, but do good too, and in our mission to create truly eco-friendly events, we’ve seen some challenges currently facing the sustainable events industry…

Lack of national guidance, globally

At the moment, our industry like many others, is pretty much winging it, holding ourselves accountable to different targets with no government enforced legislation on environmental protection. This problem essentially overarches many of the others we’re going to touch on, as without a government body to set the bar, provide training or clarity on targets, there is going to be a huge variation in sustainability policies and a strong risk of greenwashing, intentional or not.

Abundance of ‘green’ accreditations

We’re all probably aware of B-Corp, and for good reason, the standards they uphold to achieve the accreditation are the toughest around, meaning you know the business is doing good when you see this symbol. Then we have ISO20121 which came after the London Olympics and although over 10 years old, it’s still relevant in addressing the management of improved sustainability throughout an entire projects cycle.

Outside of this however, we have countless accreditations and awards like Green Mark, ECOsmart, Green Tourism, Green Key, Green Mark, Planet Mark… but all with a varying degree of tangible sustainable practices needed to achieve them. As a buyer, without doing your research it’s easy to be misled seeing a supplier boast an accreditation that actually may mean very little in terms of sustainable practices making a difference.

Supply and demand

In terms of sustainable suppliers with a clear evaluation and transparency of their supply chain, impact and reduction strategies in place, our industry isn’t spoilt for choice! It understandably takes time for existing suppliers to update their processes and ways of working, and equally although we’re seeing new, eco-friendly suppliers enter the game, the supply isn’t quite up to the demand yet. Consequently, that’s also driving higher prices for those who do hit the mark.

Support from event attendees

A sustainable event is going to look a little different to events that delegates may be used to attending, and sometimes change can ruffle feathers. For example, choosing a plant-based menu will heavily reduce the carbon footprint of an event, but many attendees may be used to meat and not like having this alternative forced upon them. Similarly, deciding not to provide plastic water bottles when on the move during incentives is fantastic, but may frustrate people who didn’t come prepared with their own bottle to refill. The easy way around this is to communicate your goals from the offset in all event messaging, and make clear what changes delegates can expect to see.


We know you’ve heard it before, but we’re here to say it again. Travel is a challenge to sustainable events. The human species relies on travel to make a 21st century way of life happen, especially the events industry, where our primary purpose is to gather people from different corners of the nation, continent, and globe. Without improvements in sustainability from particularly the aviation industry, our hands are tied, do we simply not host events? Many airlines are making positive changes with S.A.F and electric ground fleets, but we’re still a long way off a sustainable airline industry.

Even if we focus down on the UK alone, with train strikes happening monthly and prices still increasing, this sustainable option of travel is often lost in favour of driving or flying, any method more reliable and cost-efficient. Again, it’s up to the government here to make positive changes that encourage travel on sustainable routes rather than increase domestic airline routes…

Reliance on offsetting

It’s something that airline KLM was recently sued over and it’s happening all over, companies not changing their ways, but inviting customers to pay to offset their emissions.

Now, this doesn’t mean that offsetting alone is bad, there are some fantastic projects that contributions can go towards such as renewable energy investments, community projects introducing sustainable technologies, waste-to-energy technology, and wildlife conservation to name a few. The key with offsetting, is to use it alongside a sustainable event strategy that proactively makes sustainable changes during conception, planning and delivery of the event. Only at the review stage of an event should offsetting come in, to account for emissions you really couldn’t avoid.

Challenges are omnipresent in the events industry, and as per usual, we’re seeing these as an opportunity for growth rather than a negative obstacle. There are so many players in our industry who are making good progress towards creating a sustainable service, and the more we talk about our efforts, the more others are likely to follow the crowd. This translates from B2B into B2C as well, because as a trusted agency, or supplier, we have a responsibility to educate our consumers around making sustainable choices. The more we can teach them about the subject, the more likely they are to change their mindsets and put the pressure of demand on a sustainable service, no doubt helping us to overcome a few of these challenges.


About Zentive Agency

Zentive is a sustainable events agency in London focused on doing good. By integrating technology and following sustainable event practices, we create eco-friendly events that help you connect, reward and motivate your audience whilst leaving a lasting positive impact on the world. We believe in constantly pushing the boundaries of event planning and execution, embracing cutting-edge technologies, creative concepts, and immersive experiences. Our goal is to ensure that each event we organise leaves a lasting impact on attendees, participants, all stakeholders along the value chain, and the planet.


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