Three Rules for Choosing a Good Sustainability Event

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

Today, I'm attending the first day of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Sustainability Summit, a 2-day conference on sustainability in the food and agriculture sector. While it's still early in the event, I'm pretty confident in saying that this event is going on my "top five" list of must-attend sustainability conferences. 

If you are like me, you are bombarded with sustainability-related events. Festivals, webinars, virtual conferences, workshops, training -- it's overwhelming. So I try to be really picky about how I choose events. Here are my criteria (and how the FMI/GMA event is stacking up):

1. Ignore the "sustainability 101" events. They have their place, but I'm not interested in sitting in a room while someone goes through a PowerPoint presentation of 10 Reasons You Should Go Green. Instead: choose events that dive deeply into a specific topic. The FMI/GMA Sustainability Summit is geared towards food and agriculture companies (and their related value chains) that already know the basics and are hungry for specifics on best practices, case studies, and techniques for improving performance.

2. Ignore the "sustainability for everyone" events. Sustainability is a huge topic, and trying to cover it all generally means that the presentations will 1) be all over the place, and 2) be at such a high level that they fall into the "sustainability 101" category. Instead: choose events that target a specific audience. The FMI/GMA Sustainability Summit caters specifically to the food and agriculture industry -- so all the material is geared towards that audience. Because SSC services a number of clients in that sector, it's a perfect fit for us.

3. Figure out who will be there. Don't just focus on the topics to be presented -- one of the biggest values of attending an event is getting to meet fellow participants. I tend not to attend events that are mostly populated by fellow sustainability consultants -- I love networking with my peers but it's difficult to justify spending several days out of the office and the cost of travel to attend a meeting that has little possibility of new business development. Instead: identify the people that you want to see, and make sure that your events deliver that experience. The FMI/GMA Sustainability Summit is jam-packed with awesome people from awesome companies that I wouldn't normally get to interact with in person.

I'm sure there are other ways to choose a good event -- but right now I want to get back to the event. Because I'm so choosy about which events to attend, I want to make sure I get the biggest bang for my buck once I'm here! In the meantime, if you have an additional "rules to choose a good sustainability event," please add them in the comments area or join the conversation on Twitter @jenniferwoofter.