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Sustainable Events

3 Considerations for Making Your Meeting More Sustainable

Get these pillars of sustainability right to hit your environmental goals.


Sustainable meetings are no longer a nice-to-have, and meeting planners are acting accordingly: 80% of planners say they consider sustainability measures when planning events, according to the American Express 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.

But what those measures are, and their potential impact, vary depending on the gathering – a sustainability initiative that makes sense for one meeting might be unfeasible for another. As you work toward lessening the environmental footprint of your meetings, keep these actions and principles in mind.

Consider Your Vendors

Without your suppliers, your event won’t happen the way you want – and similarly, your environmental goals won’t unfold the way you want unless your vendors are on board. But before you can align, you need to make sure everyone knows what’s at stake. 

“There’s a disconnect between planner and supplier expectations,” Mariela McIlwraith – president of Meeting Change, a consultancy focusing on the strategy of social and environmental sustainability for meetings and events – told Marriott Bonvoy Events in 2023

Good communication can help make sure those expectations are clear to everyone. “Much of these gaps can be bridged with conversation and engagement between the stakeholders, identifying how to meet each other’s needs and drive the sustainability agenda forward,” Denise Naguib, Marriott International global vice president, sustainability and supplier diversity, has said.

McIlwraith recommends asking vendors for sustainability information, identifying team members at your suppliers who demonstrate passion for sustainability and being receptive to their ideas about how you can collaborate on meeting goals.

Naguib’s sentiment echoes McIlwraith’s: “I encourage all of us to remember that we are likely not in exactly the same place, but our collective intention is in the right, sustainable direction.”

Venues committed to sustainability may be able to provide support in assessing vendors’ sustainability, as with Marriott International’s Responsible Sourcing Guide.


Consider Your Destination

One of the clearest routes to sustainability is to keep it local. Food, decor, entertainment, even programmatic things like nametags and general supplies – if you source local, you’re probably creating a smaller carbon footprint than you would if you were having everything shipped in. 

Marriott’s THE EXCHANGE, Travel Partners Conference in March 2023 is a master class in letting the local resources guide an event. The meeting was hosted on Oahu, but not a single item was shipped in from the mainland. “We even hand-carried all of the name badges,” said Michael Clarke, Marriott International senior director of B2B programs and events.

Consider local activities and resources such as catering partnerships with local farms, hiring local designers for swag and donating compost to local organizations. Not only does this make your meeting more sustainable, it can also help anchor your event in a sense of place, helping make it more memorable for attendees.

Consider Your Venue

Your venue should have the resources to operationalize their sustainability goals – and, by extension, support yours.

When researching venues, look for concrete commitments with an action plan to back them up. High-visibility initiatives such as water stations and recycling bins are helpful, but keep an eye open for behind-the-scenes actions that demonstrate a company-wide devotion to sustainability – and for acts that show a willingness to go beyond the baseline.

For example, Marriott International’s Serve 360 program aims to ensure that by 2025, all of its hotels will have sustainability certification, 95% of its top 10 priority categories will be responsibly sourced and food waste will be slashed by half.

Truly sustainable meetings go beyond partners, destination and venue, of course. They include your staff, your metrics, your attendees and your programming. But approaching these three pillars of your event will set you up for a sustainable meeting, and a sustainable world.

Our Commitment to Sustainability

Join us in making a positive and sustainable impact. We integrate sustainable measures across our event experience, to ensure that we are following best practices.