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!

Scandinavians create Destination Sustainability Index

I am very happy to see that today we launched and published the Scandinavian Destination Sustainability Index, analyzing sustainability performance across 16 cities and 5 countries.

The index  which can be downloaded here, uses 16 performance indicators to measure and benchmark the sustainability commitment and performance of the city government and the destination infrastructure (recycling, renewable energy etc), and the sustainability commitment and performance of the local meetings industry. 

The Index is one of the deliverables of a multi-year ICCA Scandinavian Chapter project to create the world´s first sustainable meetings region.  Already over 50 organizations including Convention and Visitor Bureaus, Destination Marketing Organizations, Venues and Agencies have signed the Scandinavia Sustainable Meetings Accord launched in March 2012. The Accord outlines 10 specific actions, which all signatories commit to, in order to advance sustainable development within the meetings and events industry.

The goal of the Index is to provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each destination and further a dialogue about best practices in the area of sustainable meetings. This project is unique in its scale and collaborative nature.  With the competitive nature of the meetings industry, we are already seeing how the Index we help set strategic targets for the region and drive performance.”

To download the report:

http://www.iccaworld.com/dbs/scandinavian_chapter/dyncat.cfm?catid=4214

Read the full release and down load the new sustainability index here

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.

 

Worlds’ 1st Sustainable Meetings Region

I´m feeling happy and  a little proud today, as a little vision we had, has become a reality..

“Convention Bureaus, Destination Marketing Organizations, Venues and Agencies from the five Scandinavian member countries of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) today signed an Accord to create the world´s first sustainable meetings region. The Accord is the first of its kind in the world. It is a document outlining 10 specific actions to which all signatories commit, aims to advance sustainable development within the meetings and events industry.”

This project is unique in its scale and collaborative nature. For the last two years we have been working with leaders of the Scandinavian meetings industry to define a shared vision for the future of meetings and events.  Now we already have over 45 leaders from 15 destinations across Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland who, with their signature, commit to taking action to measure and benchmark impacts, share knowledge, create products to help clients and develop socially responsible community action projects.

A benchmarking system has been developed using 18 performance indicators to assess the sustainability of infrastructure and practices within the destinations. The system is in a pilot phase, and a full report will be released at the IMEX tradeshow in May.

It is so refreshing and rewarding to work with the ICCA chapter, and be able to have helped them advance towards a more sustainable future.

Click to read the full press release and see the Accord.

Here is the presentation from todays workshop. it contains some facts and figures and trends info..

Sustainable Events: Holiday Season Medley

What better way to close out a busy 2011 than with rousing, inspiring, infectiously enthusiastic, innovative sustainable event initiatives?
We been busy elves of sustainability these last several months and wish to share a few of the events about which we are excited here. As always, we’d very much enjoy hearing about actions and ideas for sustainable events you’d like to share!

We draw attention to the collaboration underway in Denmark. In the lead up to the European Union presidency which will rotate to Denmark in January, 2012, the team that brought you the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol comes Sustainable Events Denmark, a nationwide effort to elevate sustainability as a standard practice throughout the Danish meetings industry as a way to showcase Danish leadership, innovation and design.

Andreas Clausen Boor, Head of Logistics for Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, has been both the spark and, as the client representative, the patron of the initiative. Hear him explain it in his own terms in this great video.

Check out the new industry resource, the Sustainable Events Denmark portal, and share your suggestions, impressions and testimonials: here

The Business of Sustainability

More than half of the world´s population lives in cities. This urban population is responsible for of 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions. With this in mind the future of cities and the future of the meetings industry cannot be imagined without considering sustainability. In this presentation, that I delivered in Singapore I share my views and expert research into the risks and opportunities created by the sustainability revolution and how there is a very solid business case. The presentation provides examples of cities innovating and working together, and then lays out the key elements required to climb mount sustainability.

Let me know what you think?

 

Vulnerability of air travel and its effect on the meetings industry.

Today at the GMIC Conference in Portland Oregon, I led a fascinating panel about the business dimension of sustainability. It focused on how macro trends and issues will affect the meetings industry.

One of the panellist was Dr Ian Lee, an expert on the aviation industry from the Sprott School of Business . In the dialog Dr Lee described how the rising price of fuel will affect the airline industry. In his research, he predicts that by 2015 if fuel costs stay at the current rate there will be only 8 airlines in business in Europe. If the price of petroleum rises to $200 dollars a barrel then there will only be 5 airlines left in business. He expressed that the Industries visions of switching to biofuels are way off and that the science won’t be able to deliver any real results until 2050.

 

The presentation was a real eye opener. If Dr Lee’s projections happen as I expect they will, we are faced with a major shift in the way that we work and travel in the future. I am not a greeny scaremonger – but do strongly believe that destinations and all events businesses need to carefully consider their business strategies. The current business plan predicting constant growth into the next 5 or 10 years – may not actually be valid. In the not too distant future, we may be set to experience an external factor that will create a major culture shift to the way we travel and as Dr Lee suggests a return to the 1950’s style of traveling when air travel was just for the wealthy. This would have serious impacts to the meetings and tourism industries…

You can follow and participate virtually in more of these challenging types of discussions at the GMIC conference. www.sustainablemeetingsconference.com

Green and Sustainable events: can 2011 be a ‘corner turner’?

The many ’2010, a year in review’ lists (random example here) prompt consideration of what meeting industry trends might indicate, if anything, for 2011.  2010 saw many high water marks in the pursuit of greater sustainable event performance which, in list form, might look like this:

10.  The app.  Rapid uptake of smart phones and cool apps to help planners and suppliers integrate a wide array of services and communications in a user-friendly and paper-free way. This link offers a long list of viable apps for planners and, of course this one, too.

09. Food Banks. Creatively finding ways to bridge the gap between food safety and waste, a number of local food banks have been successful in receiving safe, unserved food from events which would otherwise have been wasted. We were inspired to see over 3000 meals go to communities in need during EWEC 2010, Warsaw

08. CVB Leadership.  Struggling for relevance in some communities, many CVB/DMO’s saw opportunity in not only promoting the sustainable features of their city, but worked to build capacity through the sponsorship of education and involvement in groups like the Green Meeting Industry Council

07. Community Action.  Sustainable events go beyond ‘green meetings’ by having effective plans to bring consideration, if not reward, to people in the communities they visit. Although not yet mainstream, many (such as UUA here and *blush* our own here) events are working to include ‘giving back’ programs.

06. Recycled carpets. The Carpet America Recovery Effort estimates that in 2009, 311 million (141M kilos) of carpet (of the 5.9 billion pounds thrown away) were recycled in the USA alone. That was a 19 million pound improvement over 2008, but way, way short of the goal of 40% of total carpet discarded.  Clearly, that huge pile of waste is not entirely from events/exhibitions, but carpet waste is something of a dirty secret in the meetings industry and it’s encouraging to see major players (IMEX, as one example) including plans to reduce carpet use and/or recycling what is used.

05. Hybrid events. Concerns that an integration of virtual elements (live streaming, video links, e.g.) will reduce attendance or bring risk for planners (reliability, cost) –or that virtual events would somehow push aside the need for face to face meetings–seemed to wane in 2010 as many events reported successful initiatives to blend face to face meetings with virtual elements, thereby creating ‘hybrid’ events. Still expensive and still not glitch-free, hybrid events are established as an industry mega-trend.

04. Exhibitor Engagement.  Exhibitions represent great waste, both material and carbon emissions. Efforts, such as those deployed by US Green Build, to engage exhibitors with education and incentive gained some traction in 2010 in spite of this being a sensitive area as planners are not keen to reduce booth space or put limits on sponsor investment.

03. Integrated carbon tracking tools. Practical, smart tools became accepted in 2010 and are being integrated into event registration systems allowing not only greater capture of delegate travel data but also increasing the amount of investment into carbon offset projects.

02. Sustainable Event Reporting.  Perhaps the only real cure against ‘greenwashing’ is effective and transparent reporting.  From the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit to Oracle Open World to the aforementioned EWEC 2010, diverse and influential organizers showed the importance of measuring and reporting sustainable event results.

01. The emergence of standards for sustainable event management. Actually a story from 2009, but continuing into 2010 and 2011 has been the development and release of standards which define criteria for sustainable event management.  Work was completed to advance the Global Reporting Initiative event sector supplement, the APEX green meeting standards and the ISO 20121 standard for sustainability in event management as well as the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol which seeks to integrate and advance the use of each.

The above listed highlights from 2010 bring optimism that 2011 can build on this momentum and perhaps even ‘turn the corner’ for greater, more meaningful action in pursuit of sustainable events by an even greater number of suppliers and planners.  These 2010 highlights, indicate emerging trends for 2011—and beyond—because they represent advantage and benefit to event owners and planners. Each highlight listed here helps to build the business case for an improved, more responsible event industry which can continue to bring reward to communities everywhere.  Thinking that the meetings industry can bring real change across all market sectors is inspiring but such optimism must be fuel for greater effort.

Risk lurks in 2011.  Economies are struggling and people are busy.  Change is difficult. People want action but wait for others to deliver it.  A unbalanced focus on environmental responsibility may compromise needed advancement of social justice.

2011 is here and, for sustainable meetings and events, it’s time we turned the corner.

What highlights did we miss?  What examples need to be shared?  Please share your examples and thoughts here and, if at all possible, make a plan to attend the Green Meeting Industry Council’s Sustainable Meetings Conference next month in Portland, OR, USA and MPI’s European Meetings & Events conference, Dusseldorf, where, among other relevant sessions we’ll  hold a workshop on engaging suppliers for sustainable event success.

Trends in marketing sustainable destinations

Working with various tourism authorities and cities around the world, we have come to see that there are some developing trends in positioning and marketing a sustainable meetings destination.

This presentation uses case studies to highlight some of the key aspects of the pillars of a sustainable meetings destination

  • Leadership
  • Strategy development
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Good governance and communication

Sustainable Meetings, Copenhagen style

COP15 was a transformative event for those closest to it, the organizers and the host city, Copenhagen.  The largest political event to ever happen in Denmark, COP15 brought unique challenges and opportunities. The story of how they worked together to deliver the first United Nations event to ever achieve BS8901 sustainable event management criteria is remarkable and a noteworthy case study for any city.

The strategy and stakeholder engagement approaches they developed were so successful, they’ve been captured in two very special reports: The COP15 Sustainable Event Report and, it’s corollary document focused on high level strategy, The Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol (CSMP). These reports represent the latest, leading example of just how far the meetings industry has come on the journey to more sustainable events.

Webinar Launch!

In honor of Earth Day, the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Coalition will officially launch the two reports. In addition, a free webinar (register here) administered by the team that organized COP15 and the Copenhagen city preparations, will provide background and greater detail to sustainable event management strategy as outlined in the CSMP.

Download your copy of the reports here:

Truly a group effort from the entire coalition team, Guy and I are both proud to have participated in this project as authors of both reports. Please share with us your thoughts and ideas for getting these strategies into action throughout the industry.

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