Responsible Business in Action

We’ve just wrapped up the reporting for the game changing Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development organised at the end of last year with Global Initiatives here in Singapore. This unique event was designed to address the 21st century’s defining challenge- By 2050, the global population will hit 9 billion people and the increased demand for water, food and energy will exceed our current capacity to provide.Under the banner of “Transformation, growth and the green economy” the event brought nearly 450 leading business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around the world together to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. Held at Marina Bay Sands, the forum’s conveners  believe that nothing short of a revolutionary approach to the way government’s think and businesses operate is required to meet this global challenge.

Understanding that revolutionary thinking shouldn’t be unique to the delegates attending the room the organisers integrated revolutionary thinking into the way the event was managed and produced with audacious goals and achievements including a 100% vegetarian and local menu, a first for Singapore if not the wider region for an event of this scale and profile, an 88% waste diversion rate and 100% of the carbon footprint from the event offset.

Learn more about how we planned the event in a sustainable way in our video:

Strategic Overview

A strong strategy is key to success, we’d recommend these five areas to focus on if you want to execute your own sustainable event:

Strategic Planning: The planning team leaders met to identify the sustainability risks and opportunities that affected the Forum. A strategy was developed with clear objectives and actions to increase the sustainable performance of the event.

Supplier Engagement: Through a series of meetings with key suppliers, we shared our Sustainability Policy, Supplier Code of Conduct and were the first event to use the Singapore Sustainability Guidelines for the MICE industry (produced by the Singapore Tourism Board).  These helped our suppliers and our event team to review, discuss and improve the event management practices. We achieved basic level for 100% of organiser and supplier requirements and intermediate level for 50% of the event.

Sustainable Procurement: The event management team made a series of conscientious decisions in the purchasing of material and services. This included signage, badge holders, lanyards, printing, catering, communications as well as the selection of venue and location.

On-site Audit: MCI Sustainability Services provided independent assessment on the sustainability practices of the hotel, venue, catering, food and beverage and suppliers. They collected measurement data and documented results.

Review: The results and experiences from our sustainability initiatives were reviewed and learnings incorporated into the planning of our next events in order to improve performance.

Read and download the full sustainability report below

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

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

Protecting Biodiversity Through Sustainable Events in India

Last year Hyderabad, India was host to the groundbreaking COP11 -Convention on Biological Diversity hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Forests. Our industrious team in India managed the logistics of more than 11,500 participants and 900 sessions over 11 long days in hand with leading AV provider Dorier Perfectus.

What’s most impressive is not just the sheer scale and complexity of such an important international event in India but what the team managed to achieve in sustainability including a 91% waste diversion rate. We are  pleased to be able to present the legacy and achievements of that event in the our recently released event report:

Sustainable Event Management Activities

The convention aimed to be a leading sustainable event for India, leaving long term positive social and environmental legacies in Andhra Pradesh and concerns were addressed through all phases of event design and execution, including the following activities:

-       Strategic Planning:  The planning team leaders met to identify a strategy for the sustainable performance of the event and created customized targets.

-       Supplier Engagement: Through a two hour educational event and a series of interviews, 50 suppliers were educated about the objectives of the event; key suppliers were questioned about sustainable practices and offered coaching and recommendations for improved results. In particular, the MCI team worked with the Novotel, waste management company and caterer to improve waste management, catering and sustainability measurement processes.

-       Sustainable Procurement: The event management team made a series of conscious decisions in the purchasing of material and services. This includes congress bags,bamboo stage set and exhibitions stands, exhibition USB sticks, printing, catering, communications as well as the selection of logistics teams that reduced transport requirements.

-       Community Impact: Amongst other great initiatives, a truly innovative engagement project was designed with social enterprises and sustainable businesses at the heart.  In  a unique market place within the perimeter of the Novotel Complex 40 local artisans and community groups were represented at The Biodiversity Haat. Stands featured groups selling organic produce, handmade artefacts and those using responsible materials.. Examples of local producers included the “Bodhana Tiruvalla Social Science Society”  who use bee products to fund and operate a Social Rehabilitation Programme; the Uravu  Indigenous Science & Technology Study Centre, a registered, non-profit trust supporting the livelihood of rural woman through end-to-end programmes in bamboo growth, harvest and product manufacturing. Projects like these within the Biodiversity Haat supported a vast number of Indian social development objectives including training in natural resource management, improving literacy, providing employment and women’s rights through to stimulating organic farming and renewable energy sources.

Enjoy a quick run through of the highlights of the event in our video:

Danish EU Presidency Sustainability Report

Last year Denmark hosted the first ever sustainable European Union presidency, achieving the first ISO20121 certification in the meetings sector. The sustainable actions lead to a €40million saving compared to previous Presidencies. Now we are proud to be able to document and share the legacy and learning  in a new report entitled Driving Change Through Collaboration’.

You can review the report below or please download the  report here. It also provides a good insight in how to achieve ISO20121. We hope you enjoy and do lets us know your questions, comments and feedback.

There were 4 main conclusions to the EU2012 Danish Presidency Sustainability Report

Leadership: Nicknamed the ‘Tap Water Presidency’ by the press, due to the focus on environmental and cost saving actions, the Danish government implemented an ISO compliant sustainability management system for the 100 meetings which hosted 15.000 participants in Copenhagen and the city of Horsens. Local organic food was served – with no additional cost – accompanied by tap water; 100% of all hotel rooms and meetings venues were eco-certified; all suppliers were compliant with the responsible procurement policy; all signage, carpets and branding were made from sustainable materials; and sponsorships were created to install innovative new sustainability technology into the venues and power them through Danish Wind Energy.

Power of Standards: Andreas Clausen-Boor, Head of Logistics for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared “The budget restraints and complexities involved with organizing so many diverse events required a smart, efficient and flexible event management system. Our meeting design strategy and the ISO 20121 standard helped align the political and sustainability goals with practical processes in a sensible and efficient way which saved us over €40million while enhancing the quality for which Danish events are known.”

Legacy: As part of the stakeholder engagement strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leaders from the Danish Meetings Industry initiated and established the private-public partnership ‘Danish Sustainable Events Initiative’ (DSEI). The DSEI leveraged the momentum of the 2012 EU Presidency to showcase and improve sustainability practices not just for the Presidency events but to inspire and educate the national and global meetings industry towards greater collaboration and innovation.

Collaboration: Steen Jakobsen, Convention Director for Wonderful Copenhagen CVB, one of the founding partners of the DSEI commented: “This report captures and shares our experiences implementing ISO 20121. It highlights the power of collaboration, and can significantly help other Presidencies and meeting organisers.”

 

My team at MCI Sustainability Services have worked on this project for the last few years. Once again we have seen the commitment of the Danish government and the Danish meetings industry to innovation, collaboration and sustainability. Their thought leadership helped to advance sustainable event management at a national and a global scale. It also strengthen the positioning of Copenhagen as the ‘Capital of Sustainable Meetings’, and Denmark as a ‘first choice’ sustainable meetings destination. They deserve another high 5!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover the Power of Taking Action

Today Symantec released their first event sustainability report. Written by yours truly, this report celebrates the commitment of the software giant to organising more responsible and effective meetings.

For their flagship Vision conference organised in Barcelona, significant steps were taken to engage suppliers and implement better environmental event practices whilst on the social front they worked closely with NGO partners to support two community projects raising awareness about climate change and social issues.

MCI Sustainability Services were hired as an consultant, to review the sustainability processes, assess practices onsite, measure the event footprint and make recommendations for future improvement. As a conclusion to this stage of the journey we prepared this, the first event sustainability report to transparently disclose the sustainability approach, impacts and progress.

Key results achieved at this year’s event include:

  • $40,000 of costs were avoided through sustainability program
  • The venue, all key suppliers and 59% of the hotels provided sustainability measurement data. Carbon emissions were measured at 1,017 tons CO2e
  • 55% of event waste was diverted from landfill
  • 55% of all food served was sourced locally
  • $15,000 donated to community projects
  • Attendee satisfaction of the sustainability initiative was evaluated at 78%

Respect and congratulations go to the sustainability champion at Symantec – Claudia van’ t Hullenaar, from their EMEA events team. Claudia has demonstrated “the Power of Taking Action” , which became the theme for the report. A big salute goes to the CCIB Congress Center for their commitment and significant improvement in sustainable operating practices over the last few years; and also to all the suppliers who helped make this project a reality (WSP Environment & Energy, Events That Matter Ltd, BK Productions, A-Booth B.V., Kopfwerk, MCI Spain and Active Networks.)

In the words of Paul Salinger, VP Marketing Oracle: “Symantec is among a too small group of leaders who are active in pursuit of sustainable event innovation. The size and attendance at these type of events represents a tremendous opportunity to influence change in corporations, destinations and venues around the world. I commend Symantec for their approach.  At Oracle, our focus on sustainable events has helped us to significantly improve our environmental footprint, avoiding over $1 million in costs and driving innovation into the way we organize OpenWorld.” (check out his sustainability initiative and report at Oracle OpenWorld)

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

A Good Day for Sustainable Hotels

We all have good days and bad days, it’s a fact of life- Friday last week, fortunately was a great day, a re-invigorating day that reassured me that Singapore has some superb examples of a solid approach to sustainability in the hotel sector . At the frontline of meeting and events Guy and I work with a lot of venues, suppliers and hotels on their commitment to the environment and society and boy does their sophistication differ a lot- from the very basic to the leaders in our space. Working internationally, we come across hotels in some pockets of the globe that don’t know their armpit from their elbow when it comes to sustainable practice and it can be disheartening when they wheel out their finest sales person to take us round the hotel, highlighting their “green” golf course or talking about corporate HQ’s policies with no practice on the ground.

Integrated Tree

Integrated Tree

An “ECO Hotel” with substance

Fortunately, Friday was not one of those days. I had the pleasure of a site inspection at the Siloso beach resort . This resort, located close to convention facilities on Singapore’s Sentosa island has really demonstrated what can be done if you build and operate with sustainability in mind, but they’ve really gone beyond the everyday and thought about how they can do it radically differently. The most striking example being the integration of trees. Normally at the onset of a hotel development space will be cleared to build a hotel and perhaps if you are lucky, ornamental shrubs re-introduced once construction is over amongst the paving and water features. Not here, the Ng family wanted to integrate nature, build around it and include it within the structure- this means the existing trees stayed and the hotel and villas were built around them. This actually provided a threat to worker safety during  construction due to the common electrical storms in this part of the world- each  tree could be a lightning  conductor so every one was individually earthed with a copper wire to ensure safety first. The villas around the property have the existing trees either encased in glass (if they are fast growing) or included in the structure with rain umbrellas (if slow growers). 1 Villa has an amazing 17 trees within the structure and in most cases, the design and layout of the rooms was totally dictated by the position of trees meaning that no villa is the same. Upon questioning, the Manager of the hotel revealed that construction costs were 30% higher due to responsible sourcing & planning  and although the hotel took 18 months to build, the villas required 30 months.

roofgarden

The hotels impressive Roofgarden

What else left me impressed and excited? The 95 metre swimming pool, who’s shape was also dictated by trees but most interestingly avoids the more common heavily chlorinated type , using salt ionised spring water-I didn’t take a dip to test out the salt levels but there’s always next time. When it comes to food they’ve created a closed loop organic food cycle using 1 million Malaysian blue worms. Equipped with a fabulous roof garden, they grow 100% of their herb requirement for the restaurant and 10% of their vegetable needs but most impressively  everything stays within the system.  Fruit and vegetable wste from the kitchen gets mashed, then molasses and bacteria are added to promote decomposition. The friendly Malaysian blue worms then feast on the decomposed waste and create “worm castings” (which is worm excrement to you and me). These castings go back into the cycle as fertiliser for the plants and hence the nutrients are constantly recycled, again and again.  Likewise, other types of food waste are broken down with a sophisticated mulcher which even has a capacity to break bones.  Apparently a human body could be mulched in 12 hours with no remnants remaining, there’s a crime drama storyline in there somewhere.

Elsewhere the hotel source unwanted wood from property renovations to build furniture using their own on site carpentry workshop and house a sophisticated third generation modular heat exchange system that collects heat dispersed in air conditioning and uses it to heat water.  When you’ve got initiatives like this, towel and sheet re-changing programmes are somewhat less exciting so we’ll leave it there- if you are looking for a visionary eco-hotel with a conscious in Singapore, look no further.

2012 Sustainability Reporting Trends

One of the hot trends we stated for 2012 was the growth of sustainability reporting. So were we right in our prediction and did the tide turn?

Well no – not exactly. It may not have gone mainstream but there was definitely a growth in reporting in the event industry and more importantly an improvement in report quality. Hotels have been doing a good job for a few years, but this year saw the launch of the first venue reports. On the event side, we did not see so many event sustainability reports produced. But there were some good ones produced. Here is a list of some of my favourite reports and what I look for in a good report.

What makes a good event sustainability report:

  • Not too long: keep it short and to the pointreport_writing
  • Well designed and creative so that it makes you want to read it and go beyond the front cover. I love the growing integration of video and interactiveness.
  • Honest. Tells the bad things and not just the shiny stories.
  • Focus on material issues. Its so easy to use the GRI framework and start reporting about things that have absolutely no real relevance to your event. Focus on the key points: carbon emissions, waste, procurement policy, community engagement etc
  • Holistic: Sustainability is about people, planet and profit. Good reports should cover these three areas in an integrated fashion and not just the green initiatives.
  • Good graphs and benchmarking. I like to see data and also to see it benchmarked against other similar events, or ideally against the same event.
  • Real stories: I love seeing people’s faces and hearing the stories from the real people implementing sustainability

My top reports realised in 2012 that were not written by us were:

Reports written by us:

We use the GRI EOSS guidelines a lot in our work. They help to provide structure, and while they may at first seem very complicated – you can use as a reference sheet. More info here: However if you really want to know about Sustainability Reporting – why don’t you come to the Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting that we are helping to organise in May 2013. www.griconference.org

What are your favourite event reports? What are your top tips? Please let us know. It is time more people other than MCI and MeetGreen were producing and publicly sharing event sustainability reports.

Simple steps that make a difference

This year I have had the pleasure of working with software giant Symantec, to help them on their journey to organize more responsible and better events. As a recognized leader in corporate responsibility, Symantec decided it was time to look deeper into how they run their Vision users conference, and so kicked of the sustainability initiative at this year’s event in Barcelona. One of the areas where they did a particularly good job was with the Social Responsibility projects. Reflecting on this, I was reminded how simple, yet how powerful the inclusion of a community project can be within an event. Not only can it demonstrate a corporations commitment to sustainability but it can serve to animate a conference plenary, connect delegates with the local community and enhance the entire event experience.

In Barcelona as part of their multilevel sustainable event strategy, Symantec supported the global children’s initiative Plant for the Planet, which aims to raise awareness of and respond to the issue of climate change. Symantec supported the organization of an educational training session held within the Vision conference for 50 children from 3 local schools. The Plant-for-the-Planet Academy is recognized as an official project of the UN-Decade “Education for Sustainable Development”, a concept which conveys sustainable thinking and behaviour to children and adults.

Felix Finkbeiner, the 15 year old founder of Plant for the Planet was the inspirational speaker during the opening keynote session.  Afterward this young superstar was joined by Symantec management to plant a symbolic tree in the grounds of the CCIB venue. In response to his plea, Planet for the Planet received 86 pledges to plant 36851 trees: 14 of these were made by Symantec employees, including a significant contribution from one employee who pledge to plant 14,000 trees. Symantec coorporation pledged to plant 10,000 trees, and I pledge to plant 1000.

Felix’s speech is brilliant. The young guy has helped build a movement that has planet over a billion trees. His goal is to plant a TRILLION. Now that’s what I call vision. Here you can watch his dynamic and inspiration performance, which earned the second highest speaker rating of the conference at 89%.

In addition Symantec donated $5,000 and left over conference materials (bags, pens, water bottles) to the Fundación Fatima foster home in Barcelona. This is one of MCI Barcelona`s projects and it was really satisfying to see that we were able to help them another little bit. With the austerity measures in Spain, these organization are increasing relying on donations to get them through these tough times. With the donation the center can now afford to insulate the area where the babies sleep.

In January Symantec will release the event sustainability report which will explain more about their strategy and progress. Watch this space.

 

Lessons for Sustainable Destinations & Events from Singapore- Water and Land

Once a River, now a Reservoir- Courtesy of 50MM Photography

Having lived in Singapore for most of the last 2 months I’ve still much to learn about this fascinating island state but in this relatively short time have already been left impressed by how the government has used sustainability as a catalyst for innovation- providing lessons for any events business.  The conundrum is why has Singapore come on leaps and bounds in some areas of sustainability where other countries are lagging behind?  The answer is fairly simple, resource scarcity is a very real and tangible challenge in Singapore, albeit due to the quirks of international boundaries.  Take water- 50% of Singapore’s water is imported from outside the country so they’ve invested in correcting this imbalance. Water management has had clear support and funding with the result that two thirds of Singapore’s land surface is now a water catchment area with water stored in 17 reservoirs. One of the most impressive is of course, the old Singapore river which used to be tidal. Although instrumental in creating much of the initial fortune of Singapore, shipping here  has long since moved to a larger scale and what was once a muddy and reeking place each day when the tide went out has now been dammed to create Marina Basin, right in the heart of the city. Other great initiatives include NEWater-  wastewater is collected from toilets, sinks and daily use and treated using micro-filtration, reverse-osmosis and UV technology to recycle it into water that’s good enough to drink. This meets 30% of the city’s water needs, a target that will be increased to 50% of future needs by 2060.

Looking at the population of the city, it’s simply boomed over last 25 years, nearly doubling to over five million. Over the same period, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources proudly stated at the recent launch official launch of the new TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) for Business Coalition Headquarters  on the 6th November  that when you arrive by plane- Singapore is visibly 50% green. This has increased from a little more than a third of the city-state’s area to this impressive percentage. Why? Because the Singapore Government has designated it a high priority- and that’s all part of Singapore’s next “green road map,” its 10-year development plan, the country aims to go from being “a garden city” to “a city in a garden.”

Singapore has built it’s success over the years from attracting the best traders, from spices, to opium to the trading of today- stocks, technology and services and Singapore wants to stay at the top of the places people will want to work, play, live, and raise a family. The government intends to increase the country’s National Park space from from about 3,300 hectares today to 4,200 hectares in the next 10-15 years and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 3 such parks on my free weekends already and witnessing live the success of this project relating to biodiversity. One such example for the “twitchers” out there is the reintroduction of the Oriental pied hornbill — the bird’s population has increased from just a pair 16 years ago to about 160 today and here’s one of that small number photographed 2 weeks ago on a simple Iphone.

Oriental Pied Hornbill In Singapore Park- Photo R.Simons

So what are the valuable lessons from Singapore’s national approach for the events business?

  1. Designate sustainability a priority at the very top of the business or organisation and fund appropriately
  2. Understand your supply chain and focus on resource challenges
  3. Recycle whatever you can (including sewage)
  4. Treat your event attendees or employees like you would yourself, provide them with healthy environments, sustenance and lifestyles
  5. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly don’t be afraid to innovate!
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