Case: C40 World Mayors Summit

Photo: Jean-Charles Caslot / Kristian Brasen / C40 WMS

C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.

Stéphanie Bonno
Head of Events
C40 World Mayors Summit 2019

E-mail: sbonno@c40.org 

C40 Worlds Mayors Summit Webpage

1. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE POSITIVE IMPACT FROM 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 the scope and ambition of the content. More than 120 cities were represented, and delegations included 76 mayors and 25 Deputy Mayors, as well as 54 high-level speakers from all over the world.

Creating a worldwide climate coalition with great inspiration, hope and determination, was probably the most positive impact of this event. C40 and the city of Copenhagen as host city wanted to offer the experience of sustainable and inclusive solutions in all aspects of the event organisation. Alongside the main summit, the city of Copenhagen developed a citizen focused climate festival, Live Like Tomorrow, which concluded with a climate march for over 11,000 citizens, which truly engaged the city and its citizens in the event with benefits for both the city and the international event participants.

2. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEGATIVE FOOTPRINT?
On international transportation, obviously, international guests' flights accounted for the biggest CO2 emission of the event. As part of the registration system and communication, all guests were recommended to travel by train where possible. The summit sessions were streamed on Facebook with more than 90,000 views, and uploaded to YouTube post event, so it was 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 organised with a Danish taxi company using electric vehicles. The City of Copenhagen offered free public transport passes for city delegates and other speakers and, in addition, 100 bikes were accessible for free to all Summit attendees as a promotion of the Copenhagen way of living. 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 large effort to include green messaging in the sustainable catering efforts were made visible with menus showcasing carbon data, so all guests would be aware. All food served was fully vegetarian and menus were established with seasonal, local and/or organic food, and refilling of the lunch buffets were based on observation, reactivity and adaptability, to prevent and avoid unnecessary waste. This enabled the reuse of unprepared food. Denmark has clean tap water, which was the only water available, with no plastic bottled being used. 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 of dairy-free alternatives with a smaller footprint. It was a great talking point, and really added a little bit extra to the lounge area.

C40 and the city of Copenhagen jointly ensured to deliver a close to zero paper event. No leaflets or brochures, printing limited to the minimum such as only necessary working papers. Instead, we used online promotional tools (e.g. on-line registration, on-line communication material and resources, digital screens), and accreditations were made of recyclable elements and were collected at the end of the event to be recycled.

Minimization of waste was one of our key objectives, which led to no single-use items and waste collection via an appropriate system of waste sorting, collection and recycling. We also approved a no goodies principal, including for high level stakeholders: instead, the City of Copenhagen offered them an immersive Danish experience with free passes for 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 sustainable and inclusive vision 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, from the PCO, the hotels, the caterer, all the suppliers and subcontractors. We made this ambition visible to our guests, on our website, on the summit app, and on-site. This was praised by several of our speakers on stage, who then became live ambassadors, whether in the room or following the summit remotely. This also inspired our Mayors who went back home with practical inclusive and alternative solutions.     

4. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED TO DO BETTER REGARDING SUSTAINABILITY?
A longer planning phase could have enabled us to make the summit sustainability profile stronger and more innovative. For example, getting a better overview of guest modes of travel, implementing it into the registration system to track travels. We would also have loved to make a bigger effort out of the virtual participation in the conference, which would have broadened the impact and reach.

5. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING VENUE SPACES?
Creating a genuine branding continuity from one space to another with the intention to inspire and nudge your guests to act sustainably, will make it a unique immersive experience that people will feel, share and remember.  

Engage in a dialogue with the venue space on sustainability measures and set high standards for the sustainability profile of the event. Sustainability often spurs innovative ideas and solutions (and often cuts cost). Drive demand for high ambition sustainability to make it the 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 efforts and to play an active role as well and to make it visible, or do they prefer to stick to their 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 transports, ensure to identify the less impactful mobility solutions: Walking, cycling, public transport, electric cars, taxis and buses and look to form relationships with them. This can become a key part of your event’s green message.

The Copenhagen market lacked supply of fossil free bus solutions. Therefore, if you need larger number of group bus transportation, plan well ahead.

Identify at a very early stage how you want to calculate and to compensate for the travel and transport carbon footprint of your event. Place it at the core of your policy, and raise awareness on the registration platform, on your website, on the event’s app. If possible and a large number of international guests, track modes of travel early on the registration platform.

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, organic ones as much as possible, and adapt the offer to the observation of the buffets to limit food waste to the minimum. The easiest way to lower the carbon footprint associated with catering is to serve only vegetarian food, including several vegan options.

Part of the success is ensuring that your delegates know why you’ve made that choice. Be an educator, share information such as the CO2 impact in a simple and visual way with your guests, so they become more aware, and adapt their behaviour accordingly. You could include the food origin, quality, invite them to serve themselves twice rather than not being able to finish their plate, use tap water and no single use items. Because we presented it as a sustainable choice, we did not receive any complaint from anyone about this, in fact to the contrary it was praised as a “walking the talk” action. 

We worked with the venue, who weighed the wasted food each day and we sought to communicate about the waste to raise awareness the following summit day.

9. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER ORGANISERS REGARDING A SUSTAINABLE USE OF MATERIALS AND COMMUNICATION?
Have the ambition to apply the reduce, reuse, recycle principle at all stages of your event preparations as well as on site. Deliver a close to zero paper event: Avoid any leaflets or brochures, limit printing to only necessary working papers, avoid goodies, collect waste, recycle, make all this policy visible, so everyone can endorse these 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 with 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 responsible approach implies paying attention to all possible environmental-friendly solutions, as well as to inclusive and socially responsible projects. Question yourself about who are the persons behind the products. With a little curiosity, it can be surprising to see how many amazing ideas came to reality, contributing to social inclusion and a virtuous local circular economy. Bringing these creative ideas to the awareness of your guests, making them direct supporters and, hopefully later direct promoters, of next-door socially inclusive quality projects also gives meaningful sense to your event This uniqueness is also what people will remember. Being purpose makers and not simply professional event organisers guarantees for sure greater achievements and successes.