A “green” or sustainable meeting “is one designed, organised and implemented in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts and leaves a positive impact for the host community”, says the Green Meeting Guide, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Why green your meetings and events?
It’s good for business
With corporations acknowledging that sustainability makes good business sense, and trade and professional organisations and government-owned enterprises increasingly required to meet strict green criteria, event planners are seeking to incorporate more sustainable practices into their meetings, conferences and other events. In their request for proposals (RfPs), event planners are asking about a venue’s green credentials, giving preference to those venues that can show a clear commitment to sustainability. According to FutureWatch 2010, an in-depth report compiled by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and American Express, 76% of meeting planners in Europe, Middle East and Africa reported that CSR will be a focus for their organisations (63% in the US). And a 2009 EventView survey found that 66% of planners will or had already implemented green initiatives. If hotels do not capitalise on these opportunities, they will lose out on a share of this lucrative market.
It’s good for the environment
If a five-day event serves 2,200 people breakfasts, lunches and receptions using china instead of plastic disposables, it prevents 860kg of plastic from going into a landfill, according to figures taken from the 2008 Meetings Strategies Worldwide report. The report also calculated that by not pre-filling water glasses at tables during three days of served lunches for 2,200 attendees, 2,000 litres of water could be saved.
It improves your reputation
Green meetings demonstrate your hotel’s commitment to sustainability in a very public way.
It reduces costs
While, in the short term, there may be costs—for example, for educating staff and suppliers, buying organic food, investing in the local community—the longer-term impact should result in cost savings thanks to improved efficiency through the consumption of fewer resources (energy, bottled water, paper, etc.) and the reduction in waste produced. “Many people believe adding environmental and sustainable options will be significantly more expensive,” says Emma Wellman, chair of the Association of Event Venues Sustainability Working Group and sustainability advisor at Earls Court and Olympia in London. “Some choices are [more expensive], but others save money, so exhibitors and organisers can balance groups against each other . As more people request sustainable options, this will drive the price down, too.”
It spreads sustainable best practice
Meetings and other events are a great opportunity to raise awareness of sustainability not only among participants but also among staff and the local community. It will also demand higher environmental and social standards of your suppliers.
It creates social benefits
You help the local economy by providing jobs and giving business to local suppliers, and by integrating social elements into meetings and events (e.g. volunteering), you develop stronger relationships with the community.
1. Establish a “green” business culture. Without long-term strategic commitment from managers, a company’s sustainability policies are likely to have little credibility or impact. Only by creating a deeply rooted company culture that encourages all staff to pursue energy-efficient, waste-minimisation and ethical practices, will a hotel reach its meetings and events sustainability goals.
2. Awareness-raising. Make staff, service providers and participants aware of the reasons for your sustainability objectives. To be motivated to implement these, everyone needs to know why reducing their environmental and social impact is important. Communicate all aspects of a sustainable meeting event so that all involved, from the host company to participants, know and are proud about the achievements and results, and ensure success and a lasting legacy by providing information before, during and after the meeting.
3. Measurement, monitoring and reporting. Measuring the environmental footprint and quantifying the achievements of the meeting is not only essential to build credibility but is more often required by investors and other stakeholders to support claims that its meetings are “green”. Collect quantitative data on key aspects such as energy consumed and reduction in CO2 emissions, waste generated, including the percentage reused, recycled and composted and hours invested in community service. Base these figures on the number of participants and the duration of the event or compare it to a benchmark. Note that bench marking across brands, locales and property types can be a challenge in establishing a “fair” range as consumption varies widely due to factors unique to each hotel, including climate, hotel size, amenities and occupancy rate. Evaluate the results in terms of what did and did not work and what needs improving, and share with stakeholders.
4. Procurement. Those responsible for procurement must consider how to minimize the environmental impacts (and maximize the social benefits) of the products and services purchased for the meeting or event, from energy suppliers to tea and coffee, stationery and office equipment. Inform potential suppliers of your green objectives and criteria and establish their commitment to CSR through codes of conduct and a contract
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