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With the rise of green marketing, it can be difficult to determine which companies are making significant and measurable progress towards their eco-friendly commitments.

On 7 July, the United Nations released The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, assessing global progress towards the implementation of the 17 goals set out in the UN’s 2030 action plan. The latest data indicates that, as it stands, we are heading towards a 14% increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, even though a decline of 43% is necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Sustainable investing and decision-making in the hospitality sector is more important than ever but it’s not always easy to separate marketing jargon from proven reductions in carbon emissions. In a recent interview with Conference News, 15Hatfields’ General Manager Warren Campbell provided tips to help event planners identify and avoid greenwashing.

1. Accreditation

When researching a venue’s sustainable credentials check for nationally and internationally recognised accreditations. To be independently accredited by a reliable body should involve a robust audit and measurement of impacts across the entire life cycle of a venue. Not simply a goal to be achieved, accreditation is something to be maintained as part of a long-term commitment to measuring and reducing a venue’s carbon footprint.

Following our accreditation as the UK’s first Platinum ECOsmart Venue, we were invited to join the Greengage Platinum Inner Circle. We meet regularly with fellow representatives from the UK’s most sustainable events venues to share ideas for tackling common environmental challenges such as food waste.

2. Evidence

Don’t be afraid to request data, benchmarks and successes from a venue to substantiate its claims. Venue operators should have a thorough understanding of the waste streams and data regarding resource management, recycling and energy usage should be available. A short walk from 15Hatfields, our event catering partner Eden Caterers is able to track food miles on request, to ensure quality ingredients are sourced with carbon footprints in mind.

3. Influence

Venues are fed by a range of suppliers from catering and linen suppliers to recycling and waste management companies. In-house auditing is an important first step but for a venue to become truly sustainable, its suppliers must be committed to joining them on this journey. Enquire about how venue staff are collaborating with suppliers, the kinds of questions that are being asked, and supplier audits that have taken place.

Of course, as more suppliers become involved, complications and delays may arise. When we committed to eliminating all single-use plastic from our venue and supply chain in 2019, we encountered many surprises and challenges. This is why transparency is so important as we support each other in finding sustainable solutions.

4. Site visit

Beyond the room and set-up, what do you notice as you walk around the venue? Are recycling bins readily available? Are the staff informed when it comes to the environmental work of the venue? With the range of reusable and refillable options available, if a venue is serious about sustainability, you will not find disposable cutlery or single-use plastic packaging.

When planning a conference, fine dining dinner or meeting at 15Hatfields, you will see reusable jars and bottles made from recycled glass around our venue. We are also passionate about the creative ways discarded plastics can be repurposed and would recommend sourcing recycled materials when furnishing and decorating. Our poseur tables, reception desk and bar are all made from recycled plastic.

5. Advice

In order to make significant reductions to carbon emissions by 2030, communication and teamwork are needed across the hospitality industry. A venue may have invested in the latest energy efficiency measures but are they forthcoming with tips to help delegates save energy at your event? Take note of venue managers who are proactive in giving advice on how to reduce the environmental impact of your event. It’s also worth checking venue websites for advice pages and digital booklets that assist with the event planning process. Check out 15Hatfields’ best practice guides to running a sustainable event, becoming plastic free and preventing food waste.

To read Warren’s full interview on the rise of greenwashing, see page 18 of the sustainability issue of Conference News.

15Hatfields is the official venue of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), which as an organisation campaigns around the UK Government’s Environment Act to ensure cleaner energy and carbon emissions reduction goals are achieved. CIEH has launched a Climate change hub to support Environmental Health as a profession in contributing to the climate emergency agenda.