BP Develops Free Meetings Carbon-Reduction Tools

BP’s Andrew Carne talks:

  • Working with BP’s sustainability division on meeting and event initiatives
  • Ways the new tools can help reduce or offset event emissions
  • The effect of virtual event elements on emissions 

Energy and petroleum company BP, through its procurement department and its BP Target Neutral sustainability division, has updated its carbon-emissions calculator for events and created a low-carbon toolkit, each of which are free for any planner to use. BTN senior editor Donna M. Airoldi in late April spoke with BP global procurement manager of meetings, events and collaboration Andrew Carne about the tools. An edited transcript follows. 

BTN: How did your department come together with BP Target Neutral to create the carbon calculator and event toolkit? 

Andrew Carne: We started offsetting all of our business travel air, getting all the data from our travel agency. For my area of meetings and events, we don’t always have that data quite so readily available. Having seen that the [Target Neutral] team had offset things like our sponsorship of the Paralympics, it was a meeting of the minds. We said that we needed a toolkit that goes beyond just a calculator. It’s more of a toolkit that enables all event planners to have something that is hopefully easy to use and apply some science to it. … With offsetting sometimes, there is some rough estimation involved, though we try to rule that out. We realized that [for] the offsetting part, there’s advice we can give to make sure [events are] low carbon in the first place. We don’t want to just rely on offsetting. 

BTN: It’s interesting that anyone can use the toolkit and calculator, even other companies, and work with BP Target Neutral, which provides carbon credits at cost.

Carne: Absolutely. We have folks inside BP who predominantly use it, of course, because it’s BP tagged. But absolutely, it’s all there, all the details with the carbon that you buy, and effectively where that goes, to the projects that we work with. This is something that can hopefully enable many others. We don’t profit from it. It’s just doing good. 

BTN: The thrust is to reduce carbon where you can, and where you can’t, offset, yes?

Carne: That’s it, definitely. You’ve got the calculator, which would calculate what your carbon number is at the end. But then the next step would hopefully be to pay for that offset through the tool. They have projects around the world which can do everything from making sure we have more efficient stoves in one part of the world to a more sustainable farming project in another part. Some people want to choose which part of the world their money might go toward, but at the moment that’s very limited. Generally speaking, we’d rather make sure that everybody’s getting a fair share of the project, rather than it all going toward the Americas or Europe. … Hopefully, as it grows and we learn more from our own path of sustainability, we would learn [from] the usage as well. It’s still fairly new. We haven’t had a lot go through it, because not many events have happened in the last 18 months. We’re looking for feedback and collaborations. 

The lifecycles of our relationships are long, and we can embrace those principles to drive something fantastic that goes well beyond traditional business priorities.”

BTN: What has been the acceptance rate or usage of the calculator?

Carne: It’s growing. I wouldn’t say every event I know has used it. But I would say there’s some really good examples of it. It does fall to quite a lot of the larger events where we’ve got maybe more external focus, because the core aim and event objective is probably about how we’re moving from an international oil company to an international energy company, and how sustainability and carbon-neutral is the heart of our operations now. Since we relaunched, it’s been in the heart of Covid anyway, so unfortunately, we haven’t had as much as we want. But the good news is there are things starting to trickle through, and we are seeing some really good uptake on that and interest.

BTN: Have you been able to reduce or offset emissions from your events since the calculator and toolkit were introduced? 

Carne: Yes, it’s hard because of Covid, but like a lot of things, you start small around the edges and then maybe you grow that up. Just looking at merchandise and at food and food waste, they’re getting smarter there for registration in the first place. It comes down to data. If you ask everybody where they’re coming from and what food they want, you can mitigate things as well. And where there might be food waste, it might be, ‘We already know what we’re going to do with that food waste. … We know three different places where we want to take that food.’ And we’re really asking that question of why you need to give something to somebody, if you are, how does it align to BP’s strategy? Is it merchandise? What use is another squeezy ball? We’re an energy company, let’s see what we could be doing in relation to that. We want to tell people about our journey in these events, and our ambition and our aims. How we do that is a really important piece. 

BTN: You have a MeetingsBooker.com partnership for instant booking of small to medium events. Is that portal connected to the carbon calculator? 

Carne: I’m in conversations on how we can collaborate and integrate those two. We want to be able to say how we can connect it fully to Target Neutral and move from there. Hopefully, we can make it simple, like, ‘Do you want to offset? Click.’ 

Putting carbon-reduction initiatives front and center can really drive and influence behaviors. I don’t think it needs to be big and scary.”

BTN: Could anything be added to attain an even more accurate identification of an event’s carbon footprint?

Carne: Digital is within all of our events now, whether it’s virtual or hybrid. There’s lots to do there, and I think we could see some growth there. Our IT department [is] doing some fantastic work at lowering carbon and offsetting carbon as well in their usage of servers and everything else. I think we can learn from that and almost apply some science toward what a virtual meeting or a digital meeting may look like. That’s probably the biggest growth area as we learn what hybrid and more virtual events actually mean for BP.

BTN: What else would you like to add to the calculator?

Carne: One of our new aims is to unlock circularity, and circular relationships within procurement is a big focus for us. In meetings and events, we could do this with highly visible elements. For example, we may be a client of a hotel chain. Name any of the big hotel chains and we obviously are putting bed nights and meetings and events in there. But those hotels have lots of people parking there, and they might want to have electric vehicle charging stations, for example. Airlines are another clear one, supplying biofuel. We really want to be able to say we have this circular relationship that benefits our net zero [carbon-emission] aims but also is a signal that shows that this is what we’re doing within our regions, cities and solutions. The carbon-neutral calculator will be one element of looking at all of that. But there’s much more to it, and I’m really excited to see how we do that in BP as a whole. The lifecycles of our relationships are usually long, and therefore we can embrace all those principles to really drive something fantastic that goes well beyond what you would say are traditional business priorities. 

BTN: What else should planners consider?

Carne: It’s all about starting small. Even the smallest actions can help. I think that’s the tagline in the toolkit, actually. Putting carbon-reduction initiatives front and center can really drive and influence behaviors. And the skeptics might say there’s a lot more to focus on for BP, and they’d be right, and that’s what we are doing. But it does start with everybody’s behavior. We can influence people’s behaviors and our own behaviors by doing that, looking at single-use plastics, looking at public transport, encouraging venues to do the right thing and reduce food waste, etc. I don’t think it needs to be big and scary. Sometimes [planners] might want to just offset part of it. That’s a great step. Let’s learn from it as we do it, and I encourage everyone to do that and take that way forward. That’s why we’ve got the calculator, which hopefully helps.

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