Sustainability as a competitive differentiator

Today I have the pleasure to be in the magic city of Medellin, Colombia speaking at the first International Symposium on Events and Conventions. The events industry in Colombia is in serious development at the moment with a growth of 47% during the last year alone. The leaders of this event realize that sustainability and quality are critical components for the development of the MICE industry, and invited me to share some best practices and trends from around the world.

My session was entitled “Sustainability as a Competitive Differentiator”.  In the presentation that you can see below, identified over the years from organizations who have used sustainability to deliver increase value to their stakeholders.

  1. Leaders Lead: They stop watching the game from the stands and they get on the pitch. They take a proactive role to inspire their teams to learn and implement more sustainable actions. They take a dynamic role in their industry and community to champion and advocate for more sustainable practices.
  2. Leaders understand the context: They research and educate themselves and their organisations to understand the social, economic and environmental trends and risks (ie. Climate Change). They understand how these risks will affect their business, and identify the opportunities that are available to create new or improve existing services/products.
  3. Leaders connect and collaborate: They understand the power of using their existing networks and joining new ones to engage with their stakeholders. They listen, they learn, they share, and most important they form partnerships to advance sustainability within their own organisations, industry and community.
  4. Leaders integrate and innovate: From a clear understand of the issues and expectations of their stakeholders, Leaders integrate sustainability into their operations. They don’t add on sustainability as an additional service or product; instead they embed sustainability into the standard operating practices across their business. Leader understand that sustainability is a core component of their “quality management strategy” and uses it to inspire innovation across their business.
  5. Leaders measure performance and its value: They are fanatic about measuring the impacts and results of their sustainability initiatives. They investigate and analyze their impacts, and use data to make decisions and investments that deliver value for their organization and their stakeholders.

ps. Colombia is an amazing destination. I totally recommend that you consider it for your next event, incentive or conference. Amazing service, great people, beautiful country.

Sustainability and quality – lets have a group hug

I am honoured to have been selected as an “influential” voice – by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).  For the last few months I have been part of a ASQ working committee looking at how we can better integrate sustainability and quality. This has been a key learning exercise for me, as I know a lot about sustainability but did not think I knew much about quality.

As I started to review my TQC training that I did 20 years ago at HP, I was struck how similar the two worlds are. Then I was down-founded by the the lack of integration of quality and sustainability in the meetings and hospitality industry.  Paul Borawski, the president of the ASQ, in a recent blog post   asked what was the big challenge facing quality?  My answer is simple – it’s time for a group hug and to get the quality people talking to the sustainability people and vice-versa: Many of us are focused on the samStrong Teame thing: ie Zero

  • Quality: zero defects, zero customer complaints
  • Sustainability: zero waste, zero water usage, zero human rights violations

Delving deeper  I reviewed the ASQ/BSR white paper CSR and Quality: A Powerful and Untapped Connection,” and discovered a few more key similarities and considered how they relate to the Meetings and Events industry:

  • Making hidden costs visible: From a quality perspective, hidden costs related to wasted materials, wasted energy, distracted employees, dissatisfied customers, and poorly performing products can amount to 10 to 40 percent of total costs. Similarly, sustainability can use lifecycle approaches to highlight costs buried deep in the event value chain. For Symantec at the moment we are looking at the costs to design, recycle and dispose of merchandising and branding materials used in an event.
  • Corporate governance: In quality, senior management holds complete responsibility for quality problems, and quality is made in the boardroom. The majority of quality problems are the fault of poor management rather than poor workmanship. Likewise, sustainability success is directly related to CEO commitment, as I can testify at MCI.
  • Empowerment: “Quality at the source” refers to an approach in which workers are given the authority to stop a production line if there is a quality problem or offer a customer an on-the-spot refund if the service is not satisfactory. Empowerment is also a primary pillar in promoting supply chain sustainability. In our industry event manager need to have the education and freedom to make purchasing designs and create new processes in favour of sustainability.
  • From reactive to proactive: In quality, prevention and continuous improvement are more effective than inspection. And in sustainability, supply chain monitoring approaches used alone fail to address root causes for social and environmental challenges. Its not about recycling event waste and offsetting carbon emissions. Its about design events from the first moment to be more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. If sustainability is a core element of meeting design, then the actual implementation becomes much simpler.
  • Internal alignment: According to the total quality approach, each department views other departments as internal customers, causing barriers to fall. This kind of cross-functional approach is useful in identifying and managing sustainability issues. Both quality and sustainability, therefore, encourage internal collaboration both vertically (from the CEO level to the factory floor) and horizontally (across departmental silos).

What do you think? Are there any great cases of quality and sustainability working together in your workplace?

With the introduction of the ISO20121 Event Sustainability Management System, organisations have a great opportunity to review processes and design innovation into their management journey. Quality does not need to stifle innvovation as some people complain. Working on projects such as the Danish Presidency of the EU, we have really learnt that sustainability and quality go hand in hand.

For more info on how to join together your sustainability and quality initiatives – check out the SRO webpage, this ASQ presentation and also this great article from John Elkington:

Disclaimer I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

Tap Water Presidency Wins Gold IMEX-GMIC Green Meetings Award

I´m feeling very proud as last night, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs collected the 2013 Gold IMEX-GMIC Green Meetings Award for the organisation of the 2012 European Union Presidency. Working with the Danish government, My team and I helped the ministry to implement a sustainable management system and to become the first organisation to achieve the new ISO20121 certification. The results of this project earned the nickname – the Tap Water Presidency due to its focus on sustainability and cost effectiveness, that resulted in a €40million saving compared to previous Presidencies.

Over 15000 people participated in the 150 events that were organised at three venues in Denmark, making this one of the most ambitious and largest sustainability projects in the meetings industry. To learn more about the approach and legacy of this unique project please read the new case study report entitled ‘Driving Change Through Collaboration’ .

We have have been consulting to the Danish Government, Visit Denmark and the Copenhagen Convention Bureau since 2008. Advisory services included developing a national sustainability strategy, development of a communication campaign, production of videos, a training roadshow and production of the European Sustainable Events Conference. More info on www.sustainableeventsdenmark.org

2013-05-22 22.40.02

The proud team from Wonderful Copenhagen, SAS, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Visit Denmark and MCI celebrating winning of IMEX Green Meeting Award

Results: 2013 ICCA Scandinavian Destinations Sustainability Index

Yesterday at the ICCA Scandinavia Chapter meeting, I had the pleasure to release the 2013 ICCA Scandinavian Destinations Sustainability Indexwinners_2013_index_

MCI conducted this benchmarking study to compare and analyze the sustainability performance of 20 cities across the 5 Nordic countries of Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. This was the second edition of the study, and demonstrates how the ICCA Scandinavia Vision to create a Sustainable Meetings Region is delivering results and improving sustainability across the region. The first Index was launched in June 2012

Winners

First place this year is shared by Uppsala and last year’s winner Gothenburg (see photo).  Turku was recognised as the city with the best improvement with a staggering 85% improvement over last year. Respect should also be given to Reykjavik, Stockholm and in fact all the participants for working on this pioneering project. 2013 index

Key highlights from this year:

  • 7% Overall improvement across region
  • Growth fromn 16 to 20 cities included in the Index
  • A significant 12% improvement in the “software” performance of the region. This means that there is a greater development of sustainability strategy, communication, certification and engagement.
  • 47% of CVBs now have a publicly available sustainability policy
  • 74% of CVBs now have information on their webs about the sustainability of their destination

At the regional meeting yesterday, Anne and I ran a workshop with 50 people to share conclusions, success stories and to brainstorm how Cities can continue to improve.

Going global

This project is unique and we know of no other in the meetings industry. Other destinations, regions and corporations can learn from this initiative that started in 2010. It demonstrates how through the leadership of a few individuals who encourage collaboration, sustainable change can happen.

We will be writing up the findings in a report to be published in April. The 2013 Index project was funded by VisitAarhus. Research and consulting was implemented by my team in MCI Sustainability Services. We intend to improve the Index for 2014 and are looking for input and additional partners so that we can improve. Our dream is to expand the Index to include other countries and regions. So Vancouver, Melbourne, Germany – all you leaders of sustainability; We invite you to come and benchmark against your Scandinavian colleagues.

Bearing Responsibility – Events and the Community

ImageCommunity Projects have been a part and parcel of events for decades – that will never change. What will change is the sophistication of the various projects. Gone are the days when guests happily gather around a solitary tree planting ceremony, participating only through rapturous applause. Increasing awareness of wider sustainability issues and activism are driving bolder approaches to event community project planning and your guests want to get involved and create more of an impact.

It’s the usual innovators who are at the forefront of this; Ovation Bear, Ovation Global DMC’s honorary CEO, conducted an informal straw poll of his global offices and identified 5 Innovative stories of sophisticated community integration at Events:

1. More often than not, the integration of the local community comprises a one-off bolt-on activity designed to tick the CSR box. Conversely, Ovation is increasingly working with clients to be more strategic in approach. This involves looking at how local communities can be deeper integrated into the event planning process. A recent example of this approach is an Ovation Canada project where social enterprise suppliers are being given preference over less socially aware suppliers. With handmade delegate bags and sustainability conscious food suppliers, this conference will have a lower carbon footprint than many comparable.

2. Another leading light in the area is “The Connection Crew”, a winner of Deloitte’s 2012 “Social Innovation Pioneers” award. 25% of this London-based crewing & AV company are ex-homeless people who have been trained up as technicians and crew for events.

3. At a 10,000 pax conference our team supported in Asia, a marketplace was constructed at the conference centre for 40 local artisans and community groups to sell organic produce, handmade artefacts and gifts made from responsible materials on site. Co-ordinated by our ground team, this powerful tool, ensured both the organisers and delegates spend was supporting long term economic prosperity in a developing nation.

4. All our Ovation offices can offer clients a selection of charities to partner with but our caring team in Barcelona chose one charity to focus their energy on over last year.  Fundación Fátima is home to 32 children aged between 0 and 12 years without families. With Spain facing its biggest economic crisis ever and public funds being slashed to an absolute minimum, the orphanage was seriously struggling. By putting the Foundation at the centre of a engagement strategy, they organised a number of creative fundraising activities, personally took the children out on day trips to the zoo and FC Barcelona and partnered with Ovation client Symantec to support the shelter through their annual conference. After pitching for an event with Supermarket chain Lidl that included a CSR activity, Lidl decided not to run the event but still wanted to help Ovation’s chosen charity and donated Christmas presents to all the children.

5. Ovation’s Strategic Partner in Greece, Kipling Events, recently organised a community event to coincide with a company training academy. Using the same trainers who were in town to train the Ovation staff, Ovation invited 85 volunteers from Greek NGOs, foundations and associations to attend special sessions delivered by the Ovation experts. The results were transformational for those in attendance; by sharing management strategies from a high-growth global business the organisers were able to spark new thinking and energy in a sector really suffering the worst of the economic downturn.

The last example is potentially a game-changing CSR opportunity. Do you have the power to transform cities and countries where you hold events by using the intellectual capital held by those in attendance?

By thinking big, events have an opportunity to generate a stronger legacy in helping communities, supporting economic prosperity and protecting the environment.

Contact Ovation to find out how you can support and activate your corporate values through live events.

Horsemeat and the events industry

There is much soul-searching in the UK and now the wider European Union after the discovery of horsemeat in a large number of beef products.  Discovered in both lower quality products and supermarket chains right up to the more costly and reputable options, the story is rapidly evolving across the F&B and retail industries. Although some of our continental cousins regular dine on “steak cheval”, this constitutes a major scandal for the public at large and the EU are scrambling to advise their national members. Read latest developments here  . More than 200 million beef burgers have been withdrawn from sale in the last month in Ireland alone and the crisis threatens to sully some very large brands, notably Findus who’s 100% beef lasagnes products, whether 320g, 360g or 500g all have horsemeat present.

So what has this got to do with the meetings industry ,or for the sake of this article -the “meatings industry”?

Price isn’t everything

The principle lesson is  that price is not everything- those among us in procurement in any sector would be wise to focus on seeking value rather than the lowest price- if you force your suppliers to make unhealthy cuts, evidence illustrates they will have less qualms about making unhealthy and in some cases immoral decisions.

Image

Courtesy of Thinkstock

Know your Suppliers

It seems simple, but many organisations do not know where there are getting their goods from and in this case, even what those goods are. For our business we build deep relationships with our suppliers, in many countries we’ve actually organised what’s called the “MCI Pub” where we invite all our local suppliers to a social event just to get to know them better and build relationships. Senior staff become waiters for the evening and serve the suppliers in an ironic reversal. For more advanced clients, we evaluate the sustainability credentials of all the hotels for their event and produce a ranking on the event website to consider along with price and star rating- such scorecards for the supply chain are increasingly evident across a number of industries.

The Search for Authentic Brands

In dark times such as these, customers are looking for brands they can trust- open, honest transparent and engaging brands. Think of all the authentic brands over the years that have been bought out by the larger corporations; Body Shop by L’Oreal, Innocent Smoothies by Coca Cola and Ben and Jerrys by Unilever just to name a few. People buy from brands they trust and we’ve helped a number of leading brands demonstrate their sustainability principles, really bringing their values alive through live events- the key touch point for your customer and suppliers to engage with the brand. For those among us who say “who cares about CSR?”.  Here’s the evidence- responsible business matters and if you aren’t taking responsibility seriously with your supply chain it might come back to haunt you, lets ask Findus in a few months time.

Local Sourcing

The good news to come out of this crisis is that the local town butcher across Europe will benefit greatly from the failure of companies to take responsibility seriously. When people ask us “how do we green our event?” . We answer simply, when it comes to F&B- FLOSS! Floss is the abbreviation for Fresh, Local, Organic, Sustainable and Seasonal and there’s a growing movement around the world promoting local suppliers to homes and industry- go check them out!

www.eatwellguide.org

Fueling Success: MCI Community Academy

In support of our industry colleagues and the people of Greece, MCI decided to locate its annual training meeting in Athens, Greece. Despite the crisis, Greece remains a wonderful location for events and meetings, and as a leading global agency we were pleased to show our support.

In addition to our business commitment, we wanted to find a way to give back to the local community as part of our CSR program. Brainstorming the idea with our friends at Greek NGO Boroume, we researched various community action projects but came to the conclusion that one of the best ways we could help the local charities was to share some of our core business knowledge and expertise. The idea is that by sharing management strategies from a high growth global business we could spark some new thinking and enhanced collaboration in the local non-profit sector.IMG_2607

MCI Community Academy

So after 1 quick month of planning, yesterday we were very proud to have organised the first MCI Community Academy. We had 85 managers (paid and volunteer) from Greek NGOs, foundations and associations. This was the first time they had come together as a community. Our program was entitled FUELING SUCCESS, and it was  focused on four key pillars. I had the pleasure of moderating these sessions, delivered by MCI’s senior and very inspiring management.

  • Leadership: The Power of Full Engagement – Sebastian Tondeur, Chief Executive Officer
  • Building your brand: Suzanne Fellay, Strategic Communication Director
  • Building your team: Managing and motivating talent -    Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning & Development Director
  • From strategy to action: Jurriaen Sleijster Executive Vice President

Presentations:

As a result of the meeting the audience created the possibility of developing a collaborative NGO platform where they can share knowledge and resources.

Thank you to all the volunteers and to the event sponsors: the Athens Intercontinental Hotel, Kipling Events and of course Boroume

CREATING VALUE – MCI LAUNCHES THE 2011 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

I am very happy to see the launch of our  MCI 2011 sustainability report. Entitled “Creating Value”, the  report tells a story of business transformation and how MCI talent are progressively integrating sustainability into the day to day business of MCI.

Learning from our readers, this year we have attempted to use some of the latest features in PDF to embed video and make it more interactive and readable. We have moved some of the more technical features to a separate document for advanced users.

I am also pleased to say that the report was checked by GRI and received a commendable C-Level Application Check Certificate. It is one of (if not) the first reports by an international events agency to use the new GRI Event Organisers Sector Supplement, which I helped to develop.

 

 

 

 

 

I cant say that writing a sustainability report for such a large global organisation is easy, but it does get easier through practice. This is the 20th report that I have written in the last few years. I see very clearly that reporting drives improved performance of your CSR strategy. It forces you to carefully and thoughtfully write things down do that a greater number of people can understand your vision and intentions. It then forces you to engage these stakeholders and get their input. This consequently can be used to improve results.

Please have a look at the report and I would love to receive any feedback by answering a few questions in our short online survey

More info on our CSR website.

Behind the scenes of a sustainable EU Presidency

“To have success in sustainability – you just have to make it sufficiently hard for yourself that it becomes easy”. This was the advice from Kirsten Aggersborg, the director of the super sustainable Hotel Axel in Copenhagen.

I think there is some real value to this observation, and this is no where more true than with the Danish Presidency of the European Union Council.

By June 30, when the European Union Presidency 2012 Denmark concludes, the Danish Foreign Ministry Logistics team will have supported the organization of 100 meetings serving 15,000 total participants while meeting criteria of the ISO 20121 event sustainability management system.

With a team of just 22 people, the logistics team delivered an EU Presidency at a fraction of the total cost of past Presidencies. The €30million savings were an important result of the strategic meeting design and sustainable event management system

Working with Wonderful Copenhagen, we made the following video to show how sustainable event management is not complicated, but  that it requires leadership, vision, commitment and discipline.

I take my hat off to Andreas and the Government team for demonstrating the business case of sustainable meetings. And also to the Bella Center, for the paradigm shift in sustainability performance in the last 3 years.

MCI Sustainability Services supported the Danish Foreign ministry in the development of the ISO20121 Sustainable Event Management System, and in the application for third party certification. This project will be one of the largest most ambitious implementations of sustainability in the meetings industry.For more info.

MCI have also led a stakeholder engagement initiative to increase the sustainability and outreach of the Danish Meetings Industry. A sustainability report will be available in the summer on http://www.sustainableeventsdenmark.org

Embedding Sustainability into Copenhagen Meetings Industry

Recorded at EIBTM, Michael Luehrs interviews Steen Jakobsen, Director of Conventions at Wonderful Copenhagen. Steen talks about how Copenhagen has embraced sustainability and embedded it into the meetings product and culture of the MICE industry.  Steen shares the approach – called the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol (designed by us), and how leadership, stakeholder engagement and a business approach are critical for success.

You can read more about the work we have been doing with Steen and the Danish Meetings Industry here:  This project know as the Danish Sustainable Events Initiative builds on the COP15 success to make the Danish Presidency of the EU highly sustainable and certified to the new ISO20121. In parallel the project aims to raise up the sustainability performance of hotels, venues and agencies in the rest of Denmark.

 

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