In an environmental push, is ditching conference swag


By Steven Melendez

Swag—items like tote bags, water bottles, keychains, USB keys, and others, all emblazoned with company logos—is a longstanding tradition at corporate conventions, industry meetups, and job fairs.

In an environmental push, is ditching conference swag

But the productivity software company says that it’s doing away with such tangible giveaways, starting now with its annual Elevate conference, being held in early November. The move is part of’s push to be more environmentally conscious. 

“Giving back and doing good are among the main pillars of our company culture,” says Yuval Azulay, Elevate’s VP of programs. “We wanted the conference to be more connected to our corporate culture and goals.”

In an environmental push, is ditching conference swag

So, instead of giving away tote bags of unnecessary and unwanted trinkets, which often end up tossed or forgotten in a back closet, says it will have a tree planted for every person who registers for the conference. That’s part of a push by the company to plant 265,000 trees over 18 months. The company is working with Ecologi, which manages corporate climate programs, on the project. It supports efforts to plant the trees across four sites in southeastern Africa.


Planting the trees, which are selected to be native species friendly to the local environment, is intended to help combat climate change. And there are further environmental benefits in the fact that isn’t distributing massive amounts of merch at its conference.

Ideally, of course, the swag-free experience will also make existing and potential customers feel better about The company plans to survey conference attendees about the absence of giveaways, which, at past Elevate events, have included notepads, pens, webcam covers, and phone grips, emblazoned with the company and conference logos. 

Azulay says plans to phase out physical corporate giveaways altogether by early 2023 and to share the results of the program with the public, partly in the hopes of motivating other companies to consider eliminating giveaway items. That won’t happen overnight: The Advertising Specialty Institute, an industry group, describes the world of “promotional products” as a $23.2 billion industry. But now may be as good a time as any to start, as companies are wanting to emphasize environmental goals and the conference world is regrouping after the impact of yearslong pandemic disruptions, which naturally slowed the flow of swag


One challenge for, Azulay says, may be at events where representatives from other companies come bearing swag. Rather than arrive totally empty-handed, Monday reps could give out discount codes for its service, or QR-code-printed cards that let attendees choose a charity for the company to send a donation, he says. Besides, he adds, those other companies will likely be watching to see how quitting swag is working for

“Everyone is looking to what we do and how we are going to experience this project,” he says.

Fast Company