Reducing WFA’s carbon footprint

Reducing WFA’s carbon footprint

Marketing Organisation & Strategy
4 minute read

WFA is committed to doing its part in the fight against climate change. WFA Senior Connections Manager, Hanne van de Ven, shares on the organisation's journey to reduce its event-related carbon footprint.

Article details

  • Senior Connections Manager, WFA
11 December 2022


We all know that the earth is getting warmer, but we are not helpless. The latest IPCC report shows us that we still have the power to define the extent of the disruption that climate change could deliver.

WFA is committed to doing its part. In early 2021 we started rethinking our 2025 strategic plan around 3Ps – Planet, People and Purpose. Part of this plan was to make our day-to-day operations carbon-neutral.

As you might expect, events are responsible for the majority of WFA’s carbon footprint and during the COVID-19 pandemic, when all events were virtual, our footprint dropped significantly.

So when in-person events became possible again at the beginning of this year, we could not simply revert to our pre-COVID programme.

What did we do?

Reduce travel

Travel has by far the largest impact on the carbon footprint of our events. For example, at Global Marketer Week in Athens, 60% of the total carbon footprint came from delegate travel.

One of the ways to minimize this footprint is opting for a more sustainable mode of transport such as train or bus. Of course, travel is heavily dependent on distance and sometimes delegates do need to fly. In such cases, opting for an economy seat can help. In Athens there were 27 delegates who flew business class. If they had taken economy, emissions would have been reduced by 64 tonnes CO2e.

As an event organiser, WFA can have the most impact by reducing the number of in-person events. This year we decided to host just seven in-person events, compared to 44 in 2019.

We also trialled our first WFA Connect in November this year, where we brought our members together in Amsterdam. Since many of our members are actually based in Amsterdam, very few had to fly in. We will be running this format in New York and Singapore next year.

Venue selection and holding them accountable

There are many factors that we consider when selecting a venue. Besides the location, size and availability, we now also look at the sustainability policy of the venue.

Some venues already have this in place and are able to provide information on:

  • energy use and efficiency;
  • waste management and recycling;
  • local/organic/seasonal/ethical kitchen.

For our Forum Connect in Amsterdam, we selected a venue that no longer used natural gas and where the kitchen sourced local, organic and seasonal ingredients. Whenever possible, they chose sustainable alternatives and suppliers ranging from natural fruit juices to Tony Chocolonely’s fair-trade chocolate.

It’s not always possible to make a booking decision based on sustainability credentials but we always ask for these to try to encourage venues to create them. Encouraging venues to think about sustainability is the first critical step to building a bigger pool of options.

Become waste free

During Global Marketer Conference in Athens, our partners at the Hellenic Advertisers Association (SDE) worked with JUST GO ZERO by Polygreen to collect and process all organic waste, recyclable waste and cigarette butts. A total of 489 kg of waste was collected of which 76% was successfully recycled into value added products:

  • All the organic waste was converted into 96kg of fertilizer;
  • By aiming for a paperless event only 6kg of paper waste was collected; and
  • Less than 1kg of cigarette butts was collected for processing to upgrade to secondary solid fuel.

For future events we will continue to seek to work with a local waste partner.

Measuring progress

To keep track of our progress and identify areas for improvement, we partnered with sustainability professionals Green Circle Solutions. First, we calculated the footprint of 2019 to create a baseline from a time when we were still holding in-person events. You can see the outcome of our audit in the table below, showing that we have significantly reduced our footprint in 2022.





WFA Forums

312 tonnes CO2e

106 tonnes CO2e

206 tonnes CO2e


654 tonnes CO2e

236 tonnes CO2e

418 tonnes CO2e


966 tonnes CO2e

342 tonnes CO2e

624 tonnes CO2e


Offsetting alone is not the answer and the primary focus of any sustainability strategy should be reducing the carbon footprint. That said, offsetting is still part of the strategy and by working with certified and credible projects we aim to become carbon neutral.

To offset the 342 tonnes CO2e we emitted this year, we decided to support the creation of woodlands in UK by working with Forest Carbon, an initiative certified by the Woodland Carbon Code, a quality assurance standard backed by the UK Government.

What’s next

We managed to reduce our footprint by 624 tonnes CO2e. Although the reduction is impressive, this is the low-hanging fruit and we are only at the start of our journey.

Reductions will likely be smaller and more difficult to make in the future, but we’re committed to make changes wherever we can.

Stand by for more initiatives and action in 2023.

Article details

  • Senior Connections Manager, WFA
11 December 2022