As ‘green’ initiatives are becoming more and more established internationally, social responsibility is now the most important—and most difficult—issue leaders must address if the industry is to remain viable over the long term.
The meetings industry, some feel, is not yet ready to address social responsibility. We’re asking too much for businesses, many of whom are only now beginning to integrate ‘green’ practices, to try to tackle issues of social responsibility. Really? Certainly we can ask for fair wages, equality and diversity as we ask for recycling, carbon measurement and the elimination of bottled water? 600,000 people die in China each year as a result of overwork. Child slavery flourishes and women continue to be paid less than men for the same position. Green is good, but the real rewards will come for the meetings industry and for local communities when we find a way to better integrate social responsibility into the organization of meetings and events—but soon and on a global scale.
Recently, Shawna McKinley posed an important question to members of The Green Meetings Industry Council asking, in essence, “ What does Social Responsibility mean for the meetings industry and how will we measure it?”. What follows is a re-working of my responses to that lively conversation.
What does social responsibility mean for the meetings industry? With such great complexity, and the variance in regional norms, finding a single checklist of recommended steps may result in something too generic to be meaningful.
An important step is for businesses to define ‘social responsibility’ for their organization, perhaps using the new ISO 26000 as a guide. Note that socially responsible initiatives should focus on long term benefits, rather than feel good one-time events. In addition, organizations should seek to support those projects or NGOs which align with the core values of the event or company.
But how to find suitable projects and organizations with which to align?
Some solutions might be found on the new and exciting trend in the creation of online sites which match charities with businesses or individuals An example is LeapAnywhere Act Bolder provides opportunities for organizations to define causes and invite others around the world to join them (Note that the ‘challenges’ can be pretty basic). Yet another is Social Vibe. For talented individuals, Catchafire. See these suggestions for good charities to support. Lastly, Good Intentions are not Enough is a great site and can help organizations avoid common pitfalls of social responsibility initiatives.
Social media can facilitate some of the needed solutions but there’s no replacement for business leaders seeing the gaps in their sustainability plans and innovating solutions to provide a response. What actions are being taken in your company?
In addition to your thoughts and feedback, please share sites and solutions and ideas which can be helpful to accelerate action in support of socially responsible initiatives. Check out the responses to Shawna’s initial question by joining the Green Meetings Industry Council group on the Linkedin site. Lots more good topics there, too.