Liam Dowd is the managing director of Sustainable Business at Reuters Events. Liam has worked within the Sustainability space for over 11 years, mostly at Ethical Corporation before it was acquired by Reuters. Liam has a strong passion in addressing the environmental and social challenges that we face. Away from work he regularly volunteers at local youth centres to help engage and educate the next generation that may need support or inspiring on the opportunities ahead of them.
You are leading probably the biggest sustainability themed event organizer globally. What are the most important topics that sustainability professionals are interested in today?
Sustainability has certainly expanded in scope and remit over the past few years. Several years ago a head of sustainability could answer to the material issues that their business faces, now a company needs experts in a variety of fields to be on top of the material issues to the business. Becoming a net neutral or net negative business is certainly one of the biggest topics at the moment. That brings a whole swathe of challenges with it, but the one we’re increasingly seeing a need for information and answers is addressing Scope 3 emissions
And which are the topics that we do not focus yet but will really shape the sustainability agenda in the coming years?
We have tried to evolve with the industry and with that cover all issues within Sustainability. One topic area that wasn’t greatly covered 3+ years ago, which has now become a critical issue to business is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This Social risk, and opportunity, will become increasingly important for business – and their Boards – to not only understand, but also strategise for.
Events have been particularly impacted by the COVID crisis. When do you think business will be back to normal?
I’m not sure it will return to what it was pre-pandemic. In 2022 we plan on returning to our large-scale events, but I certainly don’t see the Sustainability professionals attending as many events in a 12-month period. People will restrict their physical access to just a small selection of physical events, they may compliment this with virtual attendance of others. Obviously, that means we have think about what we offer at our events, and the value that they provide to ensure our events are the ones that our community wants to attend, and more importantly derive the most value from attending.
Based on the participation on your conferences/events, how do you see the Central Eastern European region? How many participants do you have from the region?
Over the years we have seen participation from Central Eastern European businesses, but not to the level of other Europeans regions – nor to the level of what we’d hope. I would hope that as the EU Taxonomy takes hold, and more businesses and regions look to Sustainability as the business imperative then I would expect to see greater involvement, and leadership from this region
Your events are usually in London or Western Europe. Do you plan to have events in some other location? Did you think about the CE region maybe?
Our events are hosted in the locations that our research shows most demand / interest. We’re always open, and keen to host, events in areas where there is a want. We’re keen not to run an event for an events sake, we want to ensure our events add value and are different to what we currently offer. Running more events would no doubt only increase our environmental impacts. So there needs to be a strong reason, and want, for new events. That said, events can be small and intimate roundtable discussions – they don’t all need to be large 500+ conferences.
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