Why Event Planners Need to Prioritize ESG and DEI in 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure the venues and vendors you work with align with your company’s ESG and DEI values.
  • Be intentional and incorporate these values and responsibilities from the start of the event planning process.
  • Prioritizing ESG and DEI makes a company more attractive to potential employees and customers.

Over the past two years, organizations across industries have turned their attention to issues of environment, social, and governance (ESG) as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). There is now a general consensus that these responsibilities are essential to a company’s identity and decision-making processes. 

In the recent webinar ESG + DEI in Events: What Planners Need To Consider for 2022, panelists discussed the value that ESG and DEI bring to the events industry, and how organizations can implement relevant strategies to improve event production and execution.

For event companies, defining ESG and DEI values is important because it also sets standards for the venues and vendors you choose to collaborate with.

“You don’t want there to be a disconnect between where you’re having your event and the very values that you represent as an organization,” said Erika White, owner and principal consultant for Griffin White Consulting, LLC and Tourism Diversity Matters. 

One aspect of ESG is environmental responsibility. Shameka Jennings, principal and chief events officer at EventsNoire, noted some ways to prioritize sustainability when planning an event, such as sourcing local vendors, choosing eco-friendly venues, and donating unused foods.

Transportation is another area where sustainability can be integrated. For example, you can choose a post-conference reception that is within walking distance or ask fly-in attendees to offset their carbon emissions. 

Another key consideration is accessibility for people who have a disability. Sam Evans, certification manager at the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), emphasized the importance of understanding the “real needs” of disabled people. This requires including disabled people in the event planning process or reaching out to a disability inclusion organization to gain knowledge. 

“Make sure that your empathy exploration doesn’t result in sympathy because that doesn’t build bridges,” Evans said. “Empathy to understand helps us grow and be inclusive.”

Ensuring accessibility in virtual environments is especially relevant now that digital events are more common. Captions and sign language interpreters, for example, can make an event inclusive of attendees who are hearing impaired. As one-quarter of adults in the US, Canada, and the UK live with a disability, the market for accessible products and services is not at all small.

“The more we can do to be inclusive intentionally and by design to optimize the human experience, the better opportunity we have to share our message and create a place for belonging in our virtual events as well,” Evans said.

Tracey Jarmon, chief of staff at CapEQ, points out that investing in ESG and DEI is a value-add through the business perspective as well. Both consumers and employees care about a company’s ESG values, and studies show that companies with higher ESG scores experience lower cost of capital and higher market earnings.

“Aligning this with your values can increase your customer acquisition and revenue when it’s done authentically,” Jarmon said.

Doing it authentically means prioritizing ESG and DEI responsibilities from the very beginning of the event planning process. Plugging in solutions at the tail end can come off as performative. Instead, integrate ESG into request for proposals (RFPs) and company policies to ensure that these decisions are intentional and part of the governance structure.

The panelists also shared several resources that companies can use to take action on ESG and DEI efforts.

  • The Big Hack by Scope and the WebAIM Million review digital platforms and websites on accessibility. 
  • Disability:IN and the Valuable 500 are networks that focus on disability inclusion. 
  • Event planners can partner with Goodr to combat food waste. 
  • In the realm of DEI, products like MindStand and Equimetrics help measure a company’s culture and performance. 
  • CultureBrokers goes beyond metrics and helps companies form policies and plan for action. 

Companies can also strive to achieve B Corp Certification, which demonstrates a certain standard of environmental and social impact.

Listen to the entire ESG and DEI conversation here.

The Event Leadership Institute now offers a new course, Event DEI Strategist, which provides the strategies and skills to successfully become a DEI champion throughout the entire event planning process and within your organization.