For a Sustainable Tomorrow: Workday’s Commitment to Eco-Friendly Event Practices

Workday Life
5 min readApr 22, 2024

At Workday, our commitment to our core values drives our actions every step of the way. We prioritize people and the planet in all that we do. When it comes to our events, sustainability is a top priority, focusing on four key areas: measuring carbon impact, partnering with sustainable supply chains, waste reduction, and fostering engagement.

Traditional events require vast amounts of materials, energy, and transportation, all of which leave a substantial carbon footprint. The build-up and break-down of exhibits often involve extensive use of temporary materials that end up in landfills. Additionally, it’s important for companies to think about the travel emissions associated with events and consider strategies that can support in mitigating those emissions.

We are acutely aware of these challenges and address them head-on by implementing measures to reduce the carbon footprint. We are actively working to change the mindset that conferences are wasteful or environmentally detrimental. Through careful planning and strategic partnerships, we aim to set a new standard for sustainability in the event industry.

I have more than 10 years of corporate event experience and am currently the lead of Operations & Experiences for Workday Rising, our flagship event drawing over 15,000 attendees annually. Operations covers both program operations in how we work and partner together, where onsite operations covers things like budget, housing, food & beverage. The soul work comes in with Experiences, in weaving in our Workday culture around sustainability, wellbeing, giving & doing, and of course fun. As a Board member of the Society for Sustainable Events (SFSE), prioritizing sustainability practices is instrumental in how the event industry needs to innovate. I’m committed to leading the charge in creating a sustainable future for our events.

I was recently honored to be recognized as a Climate Champion by the Business Council on Climate Change for my passion and efforts in building sustainable events.

An Award-Winning Event Sustainability Model

The Events Industry Council recently recognized Workday Rising with their Sustainability Events Standard Certification. The EIC Sustainable Event Standards are specific standards for environmental and social responsibility within the events industry. Created by the EIC Sustainability and Social Impact Committee in partnership with industry professionals and leading sustainability practitioners, the requirements provide event planners and suppliers with prescriptive actions for producing and delivering sustainable events.

We had set a goal to achieve the BRONZE Event Industry Council (EIC) certification, but were thrilled to receive the GOLD, meaning 80% of the sustainability criteria components have been met. The certification process takes a few months — and requires key partnerships with our vendors like George P. Johnson & Freeman, and the venue. It starts by looking at the program to see what things we can do to make the biggest impact like booth construction, food and beverage, carbon emissions, and more. An independent auditor reviews all of our documentation to validate that our efforts meet the criteria for the certification. We can now use this process as a baseline for our future events — and build upon to reach the highest EIC certification, PLATINUM.

Creating Eco-Friendly Events with Integrity

Ensuring sustainable event design goes beyond production logistics; it involves selecting vendors who align with our core values and keep the planet in mind when creating materials. We are now weaving sustainability into our entire event process from RFP’s, contracts, and negotiation conversations. We equally balance logistical and sustainable requirements as part of making a decision to approve a vendor or venue. Having partners that share the passion always makes it not only easier, but more fun — as there is so much opportunity to improve, innovate, and make an impact.

Aside from production, it’s important that we promote, educate, and share our decisions with attendees to maximize our impact on sustainability. As an example from last year’s Workday Rising event, we had a big sign by the meals area that let attendees know that intentional menu design saved over 25,000,000 gallons of water. This water savings is equivalent to filling San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf 50 times over.

This year, education was fully personalized, enabling attendees to learn about projects and select which ones to support as part of Workday’s effort to offset travel emissions. They could choose between clean water, clean cooking, and nature-based options. Lastly, I make a point to ensure that sustainability becomes part of our conference program strategy by having it show up in a keynote and a session, in addition to the menu, the expo floor, online, and more.

Prioritizing the Planet with Event Travel

Over 90% of carbon emissions from Workday Rising stemmed from travel. Offsetting all attendee travel by purchasing high-quality carbon credits, brought our carbon emissions from travel down to just under 8%. We focus on circularity as part of event design to ensure that waste is sorted, and anything purchased can either be donated or repurposed. In 2023 100% of our built assets (booths) were sent back to vendors for reuse, we worked with a Liquidonate to donate over 3,000 items to 10 local non-profits. Going forward we are looking to prioritize venues that purchase or create renewable energy.

At a smaller, but still significant scale, we’re proud to say we didn’t have any plastic water bottles at either the Moscone Center or the Chase Center for the Customer Appreciation Party, along with eliminating single use plastic utensils, serve-ware, and condiments.

Sustainability for a Brighter Future: Forever Forward

From offsetting travel emissions to promoting sustainable practices throughout our events, we’re continuously innovating to minimize our environmental impact. By weaving sustainability into every aspect of event planning, from vendor selection to attendee education, we’re leading the charge towards a more sustainable future.

Join us in our journey towards a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. Together, we can make a meaningful difference and pave the way for a brighter future.

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