Gavin Newman, CEO of iVent discusses how the move to virtual and hybrid will help corporates plan for net zero.
When we started iVent 12 years ago the volcanic ash issue was upon us, causing airlines to cancel flights or take huge detours to avoid their engines seizing up.
Airlines were gas guzzling monsters anyway and with remote communication becoming better in terms of technology the green agenda started to move up the list of arguments for organisations to move to virtual events. I started to look over speedboat catalogues as our newly launched virtual events business would obviously soon take over the world.
That unfortunately wasn’t to be, as corporations, whilst having a green policy, had no clear strategy about its implementation and most just paid lip-service to it, a box-ticking exercise.
Fast forward to 2021 and following COP26, Net Zero 2050 has been well-chronicled in recent weeks – to slash emissions in half by 2030 and meet the target of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 C for planet earth – as the current end game will be 4C if we stay on our current course, which would be catastrophic for the planet.
So this is no longer about a “nice to have” in one’s corporate strategy. This is now being legislated for so it is no longer optional.
All organisations will have to carefully plan how they choose to engage both nationally and internationally with their colleagues, clients, customers and prospects, taking into account the forthcoming net zero legislation.
What if the reduction in emissions is too slow? Will the laws that need to be introduced to counter that mean tighter restrictions on travel and events? It’s a very real possibility. We need to have contingencies in place.
The pandemic has shown the world how online meetings and virtual events can deliver successful outcomes across all sectors of business, associations and education and net zero will naturally mean further growth in the virtual event space with a sector value forecast to be worth $774 billion by 2030.
I initiated our move to running carbon neutral events in January 2019 with our tree planting programme and from January 2022, we will be ensuring our virtual events are carbon negative. Being neutral isn’t sufficient to meet our ambitious net zero targets – we need to go one step further,
I am a huge supporter of face-to-face events but more so of our drive to net zero to ensure we leave a habitable world behind for our families, rather than having to jet-off to a Martian colony with Elon piloting us.
My thoughts are that in-person events will always thrive but they will be fewer and the majority of small events will all move online.
The big trade expos will remain as physical events but will most likely also have a hybrid element. That word hybrid is fast becoming as ‘face-palmy’ as “pivot” and “unprecedented” .
The push-back on virtual was huge when the “Zoom fatigue” kicked in 18 months after lockdown 1.0. But that seems to have dissipated and the events sector has settled into a more comfortable rhythm with virtual.
So COP26 has shown us there is consensus globally to work towards our net zero horizon and the events industry can take huge steps to support this. However the technology needs to continue to move forwards so that we don’t experience the exasperating levels of Zoom fatigue.