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Aiming for sustainability when holding events

The Helmholtz Sustainability Summits are a platform for discussing sustainability in relation to research and administration within the Helmholtz Association. In organising these events, we ensure that environmental, economic and social sustainability is a key part of the planning and implementation process. We strive to reconcile all three aspects when organising the summits, implementing as many sustainable measures as possible and communicating them transparently.

Event management

An ‘event-specific’ management system was essential to ensuring that the Helmholtz Sustainability Summits would be held in a sustainable manner. This process included analysing and optimising environmental, financial and social impacts in advance, across the entire value chain. The Helmholtz Association’s sustainability coordinator has been trained in event-specific sustainability and environmental issues. The coordinator advises and supports the event team at each centre to ensure all events encompass as many sustainable measures as possible. As a result, sustainability and the environment increasingly form part of the core considerations in planning, implementation and follow-up. Clearly documented processes and measurable goals are key to the success of our sustainable event management. When planning and implementing the Helmholtz Sustainability Summits, we choose to work with companies that have a proven track record of operating sustainably. We also strive to work with local partners with recognised certifications and environmental credentials. When working with event service providers and suppliers, we check that human rights are fully respected.

Aiming for sustainability when holding events

The Helmholtz Sustainability Summits are a platform for discussing sustainability in the context of research and administration within our association. We ensure that environmental, economic and social sustainability is a key part of the planning and delivery of the events themselves, implementing as many sustainable measures as possible and communicating them clearly.

Procuring sustainable event services

For a summit to be organised sustainably, the entire supply chain must also be sustainable. Before procuring goods and services, we insist on obtaining proof of the origin of materials and products used and information about service providers’ environmental and health policies and business ethics to make sure that we are credible and transparent event organisers. For us, sustainable procurement means purchasing goods, materials and services that are environmentally friendly and resource-efficient. They must have minimal health impacts and suppliers must guarantee socially responsible working conditions. It is incumbent upon us as responsible planners to understand the social and environmental standards of our event partners, even when supply chains extend to developing countries. To commission a service provider, we also need to see a clear overview of their staff working hours. After analysing the information, we select locations, hotels, catering companies, suppliers and event service providers who can prove that they operate sustainably and leave the smallest possible environmental footprint. By working with local providers, we also foster a positive impact on sustainability for the region.

Managing participants

Through our contractual partner, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), we use a central online platform to manage all event-related data, covering registration and other administrative information. This serves as an efficient and sustainable way of planning and running events. We also benefit from the paperless online registration process and do not receive any enquiries by fax.

Venues and accommodation

In addition to being mindful of environmental impact, it is crucial to obtain proof of corporate responsibility in terms of sustainability when selecting hotels and conference locations. We also look for evidence of active diversity management, social competency, wage equity and accessibility credentials. To keep local transport costs to a minimum, we choose accommodation that allows participants to travel to the event by public transport. We usually select a conference centre that belongs to a member of the Helmholtz Association as a way of keeping costs down. We make sure that the venue is accessible. All of these criteria come into play when selecting the venue.


When it comes to selecting catering partners, we are mindful of environmental and social responsibility standards. We encourage the use of organic vegetables and animal products for the dishes prepared. Dishes and drinks are carefully selected, with an emphasis on regional produce. We avoid air-freighted produce from overseas, such as exotic fruits, fish and meat. To ensure that everyone can enjoy their meals, we enquire in advance whether participants have any special dietary requirements, cultural specifications, allergies or intolerances. Participants receive information about the sustainability of the food and drinks served by our catering partners.


People with physical, cognitive or age-related impairments should have the same right to access an event as people without disabilities. Accessibility is essential for equal participation. We publish information on accessibility on the event website and request that participants inform us of their needs. The service staff are happy to give participants detailed information about the accessible facilities and inclusive services at the event.

Getting there and around

Well in advance of each event, we inform participants about the most environmentally friendly options for travelling to and from the venue. As part of the registration process, we ask whether they plan to arrive by plane, train or car. The Deutsche Bahn event ticket allows participants to travel easily and comfortably at a low price that is fixed nationwide. They can also travel on long-distance trains that use 100 percent green electricity and thus reduce the carbon footprint for our event. Our environmentally friendly mobility concept also covers an extensive range of public transport and green mobility options.

Preventing, reducing and compensating for carbon dioxide emissions

Calculating the carbon footprint of an activity is an essential part of climate protection. We calculate all the greenhouse gas emissions generated by each Helmholtz Sustainability Summit using Atmosfair carbon dioxide values. The emissions are offset via the CDM Gold Standard, compensating for the one-and-a-half-day event and the planning leading up to it. Transport, catering, overnight stays, energy consumption, materials used, waste and logistics outlay are all included to cover the activities of partners, service providers and organisers.