Case: C40 World Mayors Summit
C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities in collaborating effectively, sharing knowledge and driving meaningful, measurable and sustainable climate action.
1. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST POSITIVE IMPACT OF YOUR EVENT?
The 2019 C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen was the largest event C40 has ever held, both in terms of the number of attendees, but also in terms of the scope and ambition of the content. More than 120 cities were represented, and delegations included 76 mayors, 25 deputy mayors and 54 high-level speakers from all over the world.
Creating a worldwide climate coalition working towards a common goal, fuelled by hope and determination, was the biggest positive impact of this event. C40 and the City of Copenhagen as the host of the event, wanted to offer participants the experience of sustainable and inclusive event management. Alongside the main summit, the city of Copenhagen developed a citizen focused climate festival, Live Like Tomorrow, which culminated in a climate march of over 11,000 citizens. This truly engaged the city and its citizens in the event, benefitting the city, the planet and the international event participants.
2. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEGATIVE FOOTPRINT?
Naturally the air travel of our international guests accounted for most of the event’s CO2 emissions. However, efforts were made to reduce international travel. As part of the registration system and communication, all guests were recommended to travel by train when possible. The summit sessions were streamed on Facebook with more than 90,000 views and uploaded to YouTube afterwards, making it possible to follow the event without being there in person.
Regarding on-site transportation, airport transfers and other in-city rides for Mayors and VIP speakers were arranged with a Danish taxi company that uses electric vehicles. The City of Copenhagen offered free public transport passes for city delegates and other speakers. Furthermore 100 bikes were accessible free of charge to all summit attendees, as a way of promoting the Copenhagen way of life. Free shuttles were also available for three days, looping between the main venues.
The official hotels were selected based on their environmental accreditations and were certified as ‘green key’ hotels. The Tivoli Hotel in particular made a big effort to include green messaging in their catering. These efforts for instances involved showcasing carbon data on menus to make all guests aware their food’s footprint. All food served was fully vegetarian and menus consisted of seasonal, local and/or organic food. Refilling of the lunch buffets were based on observation, reactivity and adaptability, to prevent and avoid unnecessary waste. This allowed for the reuse of unprepared food. As Denmark has drinkable tap water this was made the only water available and no plastic bottles were needed. Food waste was recycled as compost (18kg/day/1,700 guests).
Finally, we had developed an in-kind partnership with Oatly, a Swedish oat milk brand which ran a vegan coffee bar in our networking lounge. They served 700 flat whites, lattes and cappuccinos during the summit, raising awareness about sustainable dairy-free milk alternatives. It was a great talking point and really added that little bit extra to the lounge area.
C40 and the city of Copenhagen collaborated to ensure a close to zero-paper event. There were no leaflets or brochures, so printing was limited only to the most necessary paperwork. Instead, we used online promotional tools (e.g. online registration, online communication material and resources, digital screens), and accreditations were made of recyclable components, to be collected and recycled at the end of the event.
Minimization of waste was one of our key goals, which that no single-use items were used and that waste was sorted, collected and recycled via an appropriate system. We also applied a no goodies principal -- even for high level stakeholders. Instead, the City of Copenhagen offered them an immersive Danish experience with free passes to the city’s Culture Night. This enriching alternative was very much appreciated!
3. WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY PROUD OF WHEN IT COMES TO SUSTAINABILITY?
Ahead of the Summit, C40 had an ambitious vision of sustainability and inclusion for this event. We are particularly proud to have co-built the sustainability profile of the event alongside the City of Copenhagen and all our partners and funders: the PCO, the hotels, the caterers, the suppliers and the subcontractors. We made this ambition clear to our guests on our website, on the summit app, and on-site at the event. This was praised by several of our speakers on stage or following the summit remotely, and they have gone on to become live ambassadors of our mission. This also inspired the mayors and leaders at the event, who then brought inclusive and alternative practices back home with them.
4. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED TO HAVE DONE BETTER REGARDING SUSTAINABILITY?
A longer planning phase would have enabled us to make the summit sustainability profile stronger and more innovative. For example, getting a better overview of the guests’ modes of travel and thus being able to track travel more precisely in our registration system. We would also have loved to put more effort into the virtual participation options, which could have broadened the impact and reach of the conference.
5. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING VENUE SPACES?
Creating an overarching branding strategy and incorporating it into all aspects of your event with the intention of inspiring your guests to act sustainably, will make it a unique, immersive experience that they will want to share and remember.
Engage in a dialogue with the venues about sustainability measures and set high standards for the climate profile of the event. Sustainability often spurs innovative ideas and solutions (and often cuts costs). Drive up demand for ambitious sustainability to make it the new standard!
6. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION?
Check the national and international sustainable standards of hotels. Evaluate how willing they are (or not) to play an active role in your guests' experience: are they happy to support your sustainability efforts or would they prefer to stick to their own standards?
7. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL & TRANSPORT?
Copenhagen is a city perfect for green transportation solutions. For airport transfers or in-city transport, ensure to identify the most sustainable options: walking, cycling, public transport, electric cars, taxis and buses and look to create partnerships when possible. This can become a key part of your event’s green strategy.
The Copenhagen market is short on fossil fuel-free busses, so plan well ahead if you need to transport a larger group by bus.
Identify at a very early stage how you want to calculate and to compensate for the transportation emissions of your event. Make it a priority and raise awareness on the registration platform, on your website and on the event’s app. If you are dealing with a large number of international guests, consider tracking modes of travel on the registration platform in good time.
8. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING SUSTAINABLE FOOD?
The key is to establish a partnership with the caterer and to co-create the offer. Choose seasonal and local products, and organic ones when possible. Adapt the offer so that food waste is kept to a minimum at buffets. The easiest way to lower the carbon footprint associated with catering is to serve only vegetarian food and to include several vegan options.
Part of the success is ensuring that your delegates know why you’ve made that choice. Be an educator and share information -- such as the event’s CO2 impact -- in a simple and visual way with your guests. This is how they can become more aware and adapt their behaviour accordingly. You could include the origin and quality of the food and encourage them to take two servings, rather than not to be able to finish their plate. Using tap water and avoiding single use items should also be promoted throughout. Because this all was presented as a sustainability decision, we receive no complaint from anyone. On the contrary, these catering choices were praised as “walking the talk”.
We worked with the venue, who weighed the wasted food each day, and we sought to raise awareness about the wasted food the following summit day.
9. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING THE SUSTAINABLE USE OF MATERIALS AND COMMUNICATION?
Strive to apply the “reduce, reuse, recycle” principle to all stages of your event: before, during and after. Deliver a close to zero-paper event: avoid any leaflets or brochures, limit printing to only the necessary paperwork, avoid goodies, collect waste, recycle, and make all this policy visible so that everyone can endorse yours efforts and contribute on an individual level.
Use digital options wherever possible: screens instead of paper signage, tablet computers instead of paper (registration, seating plans, etc.).
Scenography can also be built using all the above principles: local and recyclable materials, plants and flowers, no single use plastic, etc.
10. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY?
Having a socially responsible approach implies not only paying attention to all possible environmentally friendly solutions, but also to the inclusive ones. Ask yourself: who are the people behind these products? It may surprise you how many amazing ideas and actions a little curiosity can lead to. By asking yourself that question you can contribute to social inclusion and an ethical, local circular economy. Making your guests aware of your creative solutions and your commitment to inclusion will in turn make them direct supporters, and hopefully later direct promoters, of local socially inclusive quality projects. This in turn can give a great sense of meaning to your event. It is this unique pursuit of social justice and taking responsibility as an organisation that will make people remember you. Not simply being professional event organisers, but event organisers with a purpose, will make you stand out.