How to Get Your Boss on Board with Sustainable Events

June 17, 2019

Julia Spangler

Julia Spangler is the owner of Ecosystem Events, a sustainable events consultancy company. Julia helps organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver powerful sustainability stories. 

When I was in my previous career in marketing and communications, I worked on a team that planned corporate events. My role was graphic design, so I didn’t usually offer input about much other than fonts and colors.

At the same time, being green was super-important to me in my personal life. And I saw lots of opportunities for my team’s events to be more sustainable.

I wondered for a long time how to propose the idea of greener events to the team. Would my boss and the team leaders think I was being presumptuous? Would they be willing to change the way we had always done things?

Presenting new ideas to leaders can be intimidating, especially if you’re suggesting changes to deeply-ingrained processes. If you’ve been wanting to start a conversation about sustainability with your supervisor—or if you’ve tried before with no success—here are my suggestions for how to get buy-in from leaders to go green at your events.

If your boss doesn’t care...

Some people feel emotionally motivated by the idea of helping the environment—and some people don’t. If your boss is one of the latter, skip the pictures of sea turtles and instead make a strong business case for why sustainable events will benefit your company. Focus on green suggestions that will generate cost savings. Calculate the net savings of implementing your ideas so you can show how much sustainability will add to the bottom line.

If your boss cares but hasn’t taken action...

If your boss says things like “I hate seeing all this wasted food” or “I wish we didn’t have so much stuff to throw away,” they may care about sustainability but not have the time to learn about solutions. Start by proposing one concrete solution to a sustainability issue at your events. Do the research and map out the steps your team would need to take, the people and budget required, and what the results would be. Be sure to highlight any cost savings or other benefits like improved image or increased value for your clients.

Share compelling examples.

Find examples of your company’s competitors who are going green. Alternately, think of companies or business leaders that your boss admires, and find out what they’re doing in the area of sustainability. The general concept of “industry best practices” may not be enough to convince your boss that sustainability is worthwhile, but a specific example from a company they care about may help ignite their motivation.

Be willing to take on the work yourself.

Offer to do the research and legwork to make the change happen. Your boss may be willing to allow you to take on a passion project as long as it doesn’t take time and focus away from your primary job responsibilities.

Do what you can without buy-in.

Make all of the cost-neutral or cost-saving sustainable changes you can within the scope of your job responsibilities. Take advantage of green options offered by vendors you work with, and focus on preventing waste in the decisions you make in the course of your job.

Measure the results of your changes.

Keep complete records of the cost savings realized by your changes, along with statistics like the amount of waste diverted or the tax value of donations. Save any positive comments you hear about the changes from your guests, customers or other audience. Organize your data with dates so you can show trends over time as the programs continue. The purpose of the results data is to prove why the green changes were worthwhile and to build a case for doing even more.


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