It’s time to ban work conferences – they were rubbish anyway
Is your work outing harming the planet?
Conferences and trade shows are the equivalent of the ‘school trip’ to staff members, often wrapped up in the guise of being a place to research other companies and suppliers – but we all know the main reason to go is to stock up on all the freebie pens.
But is it worth paying expenses to send your staff off on their jollies for a day, will it really benefit your business?
According to UK waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk, conferences do not provide any information that cannot already be sourced online or gained by speaking to representatives over the phone or through emails.
“It’s a complete waste of time and energy putting a conference together,” says company spokesman Mark Hall.
“You have people travelling the length and breadth of the country to turn up, and the amount of energy used is unnecessary – get with the time and move it all online. That’s what LinkedIn is for.”
“It’s an environmental crime”
It’s no big secret that if you want to make it in business, it’s all about making connections – but do these really need to be face-to-face?
While it’s true that conferences and trade shows can provide learning opportunities and in person interactions with potential future contacts, they also carry big carbon footprints, according to UK based BusinessWaste.co.uk
The average conference attendee emits approximately 145KG of CO2 emissions per day, but this can often be as high as two tonnes per person if there is extensive travelling such as flights involved, and the average number of attendees at one conference is approximately 258 people.
You do the maths, that’s a lot of CO2 for one conference.
“The carbon footprint of each person travelling to a conference is unnecessary damage being done to our planet,” says company spokesman Mark Hall.
“It’s an environmental crime being committed, and physical attendance should be stopped. All conferences should be online events.”
Online events are nothing new, and there are many benefits to them such as being able to reach a broader audience, and no travelling means they are significantly cheaper for employers to cover the expenses for.
And if 2020 has taught us all anything, it’s how to use Zoom.
Hall: “Seminars and shows can still be held via video link apps such as Zoom, with question and answer sections at the end so people can still feel like they are able to engage with the group and presenter.”
Virtual conferences would be an ideal way for big and small companies to generate business to companies further afield due to the worldwide connection of the internet, and events could still generate revenue by charging for participation.
“It’s a no brainer really.”
Wrap them up…but not in plastic
Travelling isn’t the only damaging aspect of attending conferences, as they are often jam-packed with single-use items including name tags, badges, plastic bottles, and laminated guides.
Emma is a consultant from Leeds, and tells us that she came away from the last show she went to with bags of plastic items, “Each stand hands you out bags of brochures, stress balls, keyrings, all kinds of corporate tat that no one really wants or has a need for.”
“And just when you think you’d seen enough plastic you go for lunch and all the vendors are using plastic cutlery and disposable cups.”
Plastic pollution created by conferences can easily be reduced, by providing catering with washable plates and cups, and asking exhibitors to go plastic-free with their giveaways.
The change could be as simple as providing stainless steel drink bottles to attendees and setting up refill spots around the venue, in order to combat the thousands of plastic bottles being thrown away daily at these events.
Mark Hall from BusinessWaste.co.uk believes that the amount plastic produced by conferences and shows just provides more evidence that these events should be made illegal to physically attend as the waste created is damaging the planet.
Hall says: “These events not only require people to travel long distances, but they promote the throw-away culture that we urgently need to move away from to save the planet.
“Going plastic free, although a great step in the right direction, won’t be enough to slow the rate of climate change, which is why we are asking for laws to make them illegal.”
“The future of our planet is not worth risking for free pens.”