6Connex Releases Findings on Virtual Event Sustainability

One positive side effect of the pandemic has been decreased global carbon emissions due to the lack of travel and other activities. Sustainability has become an increasingly important topic within the events industry over the past few years, and many organizations are taking note of how certain pandemic-era necessities, such as virtual meetings, can contribute to more sustainable practices moving forward.

Virtual event platform 6Connex has released findings from an independent study that it commissioned on virtual event sustainability, which was conducted by engineering and consulting firm WSP. The study, which examined seven virtual events hosted on the 6Connex platform in 2020, found that in-person events would have generated 40 times more carbon emissions on average than their virtual counterparts.

In conducting the study, WSP examined typical event activities as well as their impact on carbon emissions, which included transportation, waste generated, and energy consumed. The seven events that were analyzed were representative of the types of virtual events normally hosted on the platform, including a healthcare conference and an HR conference. Attendees at these virtual events ranged from 560 to over 18,000.

While virtual events are not completely emission-free — there is energy consumed to power servers, for example — they are undoubtedly more sustainable than in-person events. Of course, this study only examined events on one platform and is relatively limited in scope, but it provides a more concrete idea as to how much of an impact virtual meetings and events have on carbon emissions. Notably, WSG concluded that the most significant emissions would have been generated by travel to and from the events.

Although in-person events are coming back strong and cannot always be replaced by a virtual version, it will be important for event organizers to consider not only the potential cost savings of digital options, but also the undeniable environmental impact.