CWT Meetings & Events says that sustainability will continue to be an even more important business consideration for the $840 billion industry in 2020. The company’s research is outlined in a feature included in a report, “The Future of Sustainable Events.”

As activists protest in some of the world’s best-known destinations demand action on climate change, companies are increasingly taking notice.

“The sustainability of the meetings and events industry, in fact of the entire travel industry, is at the forefront of companies’ and planners’ minds in 2020,” said CWT Senior Vice President and Managing Director Derek Sharp.

“It’s driven by news coverage of climate change but, more importantly, it’s supported by the next generation of travelers — the millennials who are poised to become the biggest group of business travelers globally from 2024 onwards, and the centennials who are right behind them.”

“These are people for whom travel has become commonplace and accessible in a way that it wasn’t for older generations,” Sharp added. “They want to continue meeting in popular destinations, but they are also hyper aware of the need to adopt sustainable practices that respect the environment and local communities wherever they go.”

Major millennial-focused surveys are finding that climate change is the greatest concern for this generation. Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2019 has found that climate change is the greatest concern for this generation. Millennials are skeptical of business’ motives and do not think highly of leaders’ impact on society, their commitment to improving the world, or their trustworthiness.

Only 37% of millennials believe business leaders make a positive impact on the world, and more than a quarter (26%) said they don’t trust business leaders as sources of reliable and accurate information. Leaders’ commitments to helping improve society (45% said they generally are) and behaving ethically (49% said they generally do) also divide opinion.

In response, companies and meeting planners are adopting various initiatives, including offsetting air miles with carbon, eliminating plastic waste, opting for locally sourced and produced food and drinks, or choosing ethical suppliers.

The trend of carbon offsetting for air miles is becoming more prevalent.

Highlights of the report underscore that consumers and employees around the world are seeking out companies and brands that reflect their values. Sustainability is no longer an add-on to business practices. It encompasses a holistic way of doing business that creates positive and meaningful change.

Major international initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are helping to drive home the message that, in 2020 and beyond, sustainability and responsible business are no longer just a feel-good item on HR’s agenda, but have real consequences for a company’s brand and bottom line.

Image: Harvard University