A bit about eco labels

 So many labels, so much confusion

It’s a jungle out there.  There are over 400 labels known worldwide. (For a review of each of these labels, see the Eco Label Index site) 

Many people comment that with so many labels, it’s hard to know what is ‘good’.  Yet, certifications can provide real value to meetings industry professionals seeking to improve business performance.

For Suppliers:   Eco Certifications provide practical guidance for integrating sustainability into their operations in a fundamental way. An investment in a certification system can save money while helping to earn credibility in the marketplace.  Labels should not, though, supplant constructive dialogue between buyers and suppliers.  If  sustainability goals are to be met, an ever increasing amount of collaboration and innovation will be required.

For planners:  Because most eco labels require a sustainability policy and documentation showing performance improvement over time, they provide planners some reassurance that leaders on site are at least somewhat engaged in the supporting of responsible business practices. Planners can reasonably ask for statistics and examples of actions. Certification, in this way, lowers risk for planners.

 

Certification Snapshot

Green Globe: Green Globe offers a good balance of environmentally sound practices with a focus on social responsibility criteria.  Event planners gain indication that the certified supplier has good systems in place for a responsible business.  Green Globe has different criteria for different kinds of businesses, including offices. That said, criteria for planner offices are not particularly agressive.  This label is a better indication for the level of leadership engagement in sustainability at hotels and conference venues.

Green Key: Originally designed to help leisure travelers better access environmentally responsible locations and activities, this certification is exclusively focused on ‘green’ aspects of business impacts and engagements.  The requirements of Green Key are such that it represents a good first point of entry for businesses seeking to get started with sustainable practices. While international, Green Key has been localized to only a few regions and is not widely recognized in Asia or Southern Europe.

BS8901 / ISO 20121/14001:  These are internationally recognized management standards that are regarded as being robust and holistic. Critics point out that, because the individual organization set the scope and level of improvement required, a business could technically meet certification with only nominal levels of real improvement.  Still, the requirement of solid, proven processes is a strong indicator of leadership engagement and commitment to sustainability.

Nordic Swan: The most rigorous standard for environmental sustainability, the Nordic Swan does not yet integrate requirement for social responsibility issues such as fair wages, diversity, or labour rights. It is a regional label, localized to Scandinavia and does not currently offer certification options for venues.  It is a strong indicator of good leadership and planners are encouraged to consider this when organizing events in Scandinavia.

EU Flower: Developed with good intentions, and requiring a good commitment to environmental sustainability, the EU Flower label is not widely recognized or understood by most in the meetings and events industry.  It lacks criteria for social responsibility and does not offer criteria for meeting venues.

Brief summary

  • Eco labels are valuable indicators of leadership engagement and well run businesses
  • Eco labels help businesses save money
  • Eco labels don’t replace the need for dialogue between planner and supplier
  • Seek out certified suppliers as a first choice to reduce risk to your business or event

Do you have experience with certification labels you can share?  Would you like to suggest changes to any of the above?  Let us know in the comments section.

Sustainable events: Examples & Strategy

When it comes to sustainable events, most professional meetings planners understand the ’why’ but not the ’how’. An intrepid few invest time and effort to piece together different tactics in support of a more responsible event, but rarely does the approach have any strategic plan. Rarer still are the events which produce a thoughtful report which transparently communicates to stakeholders the environmental and/or social impacts incurred as a result of the event itself.  CSR reporting experts like Elaine Cohen have taken note (see post)

A number of imminent, important happenings may help bring order and support to meetings industry professionals seeking to improve their commitment to the organization of sustainable events. First, the release of a report on the organization of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen (COP15) offers among the most recent examples of a sustainable event report. Exhaustive in detail and revealing of both planner failings and successes, the report will provide concrete examples of specific actions planners (and communities) can, and should, take to improve chances for a more responsible event. COP15, the first United Nations event to successfully seek compliance with the BS8901 sustainable event management standard , becomes the first to submit an event assessment report to feature Global Reporting Initiative compliance.

A corollary document to the COP15 report will also be released next week. Titled the “Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol” (CSMP), the whitepaper seeks to provide a framework for planners to integrate existing local and international certifications and standards for sustainable event management. Placing a special focus on BS8901, the APEX green meetings standards and the Global Reporting initiative for events, the CSMP gives clear guidance for developing strategy and for stakeholder engagement, which was a special hallmark of the COP15 event planning process. MCI Sustainability Services is proud to have authored the documents and to have participated in the watershed event and vibrant discussions which informed them. Information about the release of the documents can be found here next week. Here, too. For more sustainable events, stay tuned!

BS8901: not what you think

Unless, that is, you already knew that it’s a package of time honored, business management processes which can apply to almost any business.   There are many things the  standard is not:

  • it’s not a checklist to create a ‘green meeting’
  • it’s not a stamp of approval for your event
  • not just about environmental stewardship (‘green’)
  • it’s not just for event planners
  • it’s not something you ‘phone in’ or enter into half heartedly
  • it’s not perfect

What it is:  BS8901 is all about practical systems for effective business outcomes.  It’s for the owner of the business, not the junior member of the green team.  It’s for committed business professionals who aspiblog2re to realize triple bottom line (economic viability, social justice, environmental stewardship) benefits.  BS8901 is for businesses who want to minimize risk and position for growth over the long term.

The benefit of the standard is not in the marketing value of saying you’re compliant, or in the thinking that it makes you more ‘green’.  The value of integrating a proven business system is what’s on the other side of the challenging process of asking the tough questions about creating a sustainable business model (what is our purpose?  What are our values and why? What is our measure of success?).

This process, both time consuming and difficult for most of us, is not what you thought it was, but it could be the key to your sustainable future.

Check out the updated version of the standard here

Looking for Sustainable Meeting Standards

Further to an early presentation given at Green Meetings Germany, the attached document provides a short and sweet summary about  developing Sustainable Meetings standards.

Driven by industry professionals seeking clear, uniform definitions of absi-logo sustainable event or green meeting, two separate and unique voluntary processes are available to meeting planners, organizers and industry suppliers: BS8901 sustainable event management standard and the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Green Meeting and Events Voluntary Standards.

Please see the attached pdf for more information that should help to reduce the confusion.

In addition , GRI – the Global Reporting Initiative has just launched a project to create guidelines for the sustainability reporting of events. Read more about this sector supplement.

Thanks to Anne and to Amy from Bs8901 and the Apex team for their help with this document.

The Business case for Sustainability in tough times

Following on my Michaels post earlier, I wanted to attached a presentation that we created to really define the business case for sustainability in the meetings industry. The presentation details the opportunities and costs benefits using a whole list of research data collected by us and many of the global top publications and consulting organisations.

Its prepared in a generic way and so is very relevant for agencies, planners, suppliers and destination manager.

In the last week I delivered it to a packed house at the Costa Del Sol Convention Bureaus annual innovation forum and in Lisbon at ExpoEvents.

Green Hospitality and Real Estate Whitepaper

Ernst and Young have just released a fairly good report called Hospitality going green.

click to download

click to download

It reports on how the ‘green’ movement has affected the hospitality industry, and what the lodging sector has done to incorporate sustainable elements into their business models

Its well written and gives a good introduction for someone who wants a wide intro level understanding of global trends. The sections on the developing world were well done, but the European section is a little light.

In terms of certification it mentions in detail the excellent GreenGlobe and Leed systems but it does not discuss the other major systems or standards. I guess this is for a latter report.

Its good to see that the major consultancies are now “helping the cause” and writing about the business case of “going green”.

In summary – its only 16pages and worth the read

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