Sustainability Double Take — Year-End Reflections from SITE’s Sustainability Committee Chair

Sustainability remains at the top of the agenda despite the ups and downs of 2021, with our industry ready to commit to a more renewable, regenerative future. We’re pleased to share two takes on this topic as the year wraps up.

Today’s post comes from SITE Global Sustainability Committee Chair and International Board of Directors member Benoit Sauvage. Benoit originally shared his thoughts in an engaging interview with the Porto Convention & Visitors Bureau. We’ve included just a few of his insights, especially those most relevant to incentive travel, here.

On current sustainable practices in the events industry:

Our industry has a large impact on the economy, society, and the environment — but it also has a large voice. As we know that business cannot drive a society that fails, we understand as an industry that we need to lead by example and walk the talk.

Doing less harm is no longer enough. Our future now lies in circularity and regeneration. We need to seek to restore and replenish what we have lost, build economies and communities that thrive, and allow the planet to flourish, too.

To achieve these goals, the events industry needs to play a key part in the global transition to a zero-carbon economy and work to reduce emissions approximately 45% by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050.

On how corporate social responsibility (CSR) and incentives can work hand-in-hand:

CSR has amazing positive financial and well-being impacts on our local communities. It promotes and enhances education, health, well-being, and more sustainable business practices. It also creates bridges between our travellers and destinations’ local communities.

According to the SITE Index Benchmark Study, seven out of 10 incentive programs include at least one CSR activity. In my opinion, it is very important to integrate local communities into your events, to give them a voice, and make sure everyone receives a better [sustainability] education.

And finally, what might be next in a new year:

As we emerge from this terrible pandemic wellness is the new CSR. Companies are tending to directly reward their employees through wellbeing programs, as well as individual incentives.

Also important, all of [our] virtual activities have put a lot of stress on servers worldwide, leading to drastic increased energy consumption. This over-consumption has negative impacts that were too often undermined during the pandemic. The United Nation Climate Change Secretariat is currently working on a calculator that will help meetings and events stakeholders better understand their virtual impact and solutions to offset it such as purchasing UN Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).

With this said — and as grateful as I am to have had this amazing technology to help us cope during the pandemic — despite all of the activities we organized and participated in, I still did not find a virtual way of experiencing the sound of the wind in the palm trees while the sun sets on the Caribbean Ocean…

And as a special bonus — a very deserved shoutouts to SITE Global leadership!

As an association, SITE did outstanding work under the leadership of Jenn Glynn (2020 President) and Aoife Delaney (2021 President), together with the International Board of Directors and SITE Foundation’s Trustees, to keep members informed about the latest industry trends and constantly evolving global protocols, and to keep education at the forefront of the association.

Many thanks to Benoit for his reflections above — and here’s hoping we all get to experience the palms swaying and beachside sunsets Benoit describes somewhere (preferably at a sustainable destination!) in 2022.

And if you’re looking for more sustainability insights to cap off your year, be sure to read Carla Mott Ancona’s recent Motivate entry.

Written by

Benoit Sauvage

Benoit Sauvage



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