Sustainability has become increasingly important in today’s meetings and events industry. To preserve our planet, but also because companies attach more value to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Events that carry out a convincing value proposition with sufficient consideration of CSR and sustainability goals, provide extra value to customers, prospects and the environment.

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Amsterdam is one of Europe’s top destinations for green meetings. Just how sustainable is Amsterdam and how can these features be used to organise a successful green event in Amsterdam? 

Amsterdam continuously strives to improve its environmental footprint. The city tops the European Sustainable Cities Index and is characterised as “a balanced city where needs of citizens, business and the environment are all served well”. Here is how Amsterdam gets its high sustainability rankings and why these are important evaluation criteria for meeting professionals.

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Eco-friendly transportation within Amsterdam

The energy use and CO2 emissions caused by meetings and events are largely determined by the choice of location. Greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution related to travel have the biggest impact on the environment in the organisation of an event. Research shows that an average of three-quarters of all tourist CO2 emissions (business and recreational combined) comes from transportation. 

Amsterdam is one of Europe's most sustainable cities when it comes to transport. It owes that position partly to the high proportion of cyclists and pedestrians in its transport mix. Approximately 40% of all travelling in the city takes place by bicycle and 30% by walking. 

Electric bus charging Amsterdam sustainable transport

On top of that, since 2019, all trams, subways and many buses run on green electricity. Several taxi companies - including TCA, the largest regular taxi company in the country - use hydrogen or electric taxis. At least 75% of the commercial canal boats went electric and now qualify as emission-free. And the city is investing in projects and pilots regarding Smart Mobility and Mobility as a Service (including shared electric cars and electric scooters). Altogether, this makes Amsterdam one of the most eco-friendly cities to travel around and get from A to B - from your hotel to the venue, restaurants and historic sights

Read more about sustainable transportation in Amsterdam.

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Reduce the ecological footprint by train travel or CO2 emissions compensation

Besides sustainable transport within the city, there are numerous eco-friendly options to get to Amsterdam to attend an event. Trains from London, Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, Frankfurt and Berlin all arrive at Amsterdam Central Station on a frequent basis. You can already reduce carbon emissions by 70% when travelling by train instead of taking a short-haul flight. 

Still prefer to take a flight? Airline combination Air France-KLM offers its customers an option to compensate CO2 emissions, called CO2ZERO. With a small contribution you invest in CO2 reduction projects and you can make your flight CO2 neutral. The airline was one of the frontrunners in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the sixteenth consecutive year in 2020. The DJSI rewards the most responsible companies based on analysis of their economic, social and environmental performance.

Sustainable event venues and catering

Venues are often asked about their implementation of green initiatives as part of a bid and they are finding that initiating sustainable practices is as good for business as it is for the environment. Therefore, it’s no surprise more event venues put sustainability firmly on the agenda. 

Due to its compact size, venues in Amsterdam are all easily accessible by public transport (running entirely on green power) or bike. But there are other questions to consider, such as the energy performance of buildings. Some locations produce their own power by using solar panels, others use green power and operate in an energy-efficient way (think of heating/air conditioning, thermal insulation, adapted room size, natural lighting, renewable energy, rainwater, efficient equipment, etc.). 

Many venues focus on proper waste management, minimising and sorting waste during and after the event. Catering options often include regional, seasonal and organic products. Considering a small, high-quality product range – instead of a wide variety of catering products – can also prevent food waste

Contact Amsterdam Convention Bureau if you have any questions about sustainable venues or need help making the best choice for you.  

Gustav Mahlerplein (Credit: Thomas Schlijper) Amsterdam

Pioneer in sustainable hotels

Amsterdam is one of the pioneers in sustainability in the hotel sector. Many hotels in the city are actively working to achieve the best possible sustainable business operations. By now, Amsterdam boasts more than 70 hotels with a Green Key certificate, especially among 4 and 5-star hotels. These hotels comprise well over half of all hotel beds in Amsterdam. Green Key is an international sustainability quality mark for businesses in the tourism and recreation industry. A company will only be awarded a Green Key quality mark if it’s doing substantially more in terms of environmental policy than required by law.

Green Globe is another global certificate for sustainable accommodations, carried by several hotels in the city. Moreover, two years ago a group of hotels in Amsterdam joined forces in the Circular Hotels Leaders Group. They explore opportunities for circular business practices, regarding the hotel’s carbon footprint and the areas of energy consumption, food, furnishings and laundry. Meeting professionals can take these sustainability credentials into account in the selection of the hotels they propose to participants.

Sustainable leisure activities in Amsterdam

Plastic Whale, a sustainable, environmentally friendly startup in AmsterdamImplementing a sustainable angle in the leisure part of your event programme is easy in Amsterdam. The City of Amsterdam is aiming to become a completely emission-free city by 2030 and wants to be circular, carbon-neutral and climate adaptive by 2050 (link in Dutch). 

Sustainable projects and activities in leisure and tourism are therefore embraced and encouraged in Amsterdam. One initiative is the Zero Waste Expedition (link in Dutch): a project for museums, theatres, music venues and other cultural institutions with the main goal for 84% of all waste to be reused as raw material by 2022, enabling more recycling and the production of new raw materials. Participants include The National Maritime Museum, NEMO Science Museum, KIT Royal Tropical Institute (all three are also event venues), Hortus Botanicus and Hermitage Museum.

Another green leisure activity is organised by social enterprise Plastic Whale: the first plastic fishing company in the world that gives your event participants the opportunity to jump aboard and battle against the plastic soup while exploring Amsterdam’s famous canals. Looking for more regular leisure activities? Amsterdam is also known for its conscious shopping possibilities and organic restaurants, offering organic, sustainable and local options.