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.

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.

Business leaders call for clear climate policies

I am at the World Business Summit on Climate Change and with a little help from Reuters would like to share some views from the UN secretary General

Industry should play its part in the fight against climate change by persuading governments to aid carbon cuts rather than lobbying against them, the U.N. Secretary-General told CEOs in Copenhagen today.

Business leaders met in Denmark today at the World Business Summit on Climate change to try to unite behind a common call for long-term climate policies, ahead of the U.N. conference in December designed to forge a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

“For those who are directly or implicitly lobbying against climate action I have a clear message: your ideas are out of date and you are running out of time,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting of more than 500 business leaders.

“The smart money is on the green economy,” he said. “Leaders sometimes are weak because they are short-sighted to get the votes,” he added, urging businesses to lobby for carbon cuts.

Full coverage of the speech can be found here or a written version on the UN Global Compact web site.

MCI is the event logistics and sustainability consulting partner for the World Business Summit on Climate Change, the UN Climate Change Conference, the World Mayors Summit on Climate Change and the UN Global Compact leaders summit

Seeing the Bigger Picture?

In the first of our guest contributions, Hugo Kimber, CEO of the Carbon Consultancy gives us an external view to sustainability in the meetings industry, and how this is indeed more important in these tough economic times.

Seeing the Bigger Picture?

The meetings and events industry comprises some of the hottest global talent in communications and marketing. The industry makes a great economic contribution and is a core part of the marcoms mix. I can see this, as I work with the industry and have plenty of experience of what it actually does. Unfortunately those without this window on the industry, who comprise the majority of business professionals and consumers around the world, don’t get this picture. For many the industry is a glorified party planning business, flying people around the world to great locations to have a great time. This view has not been a problem until recently, as perceptions of waste either financial or resources play very badly in a recession and for the industry this is compounded by the lack of external understanding of its real value. The industry is an easy target.

What has this got to do with sustainability you might think?

Well everything right now. The issue of federal funding for failing companies in the USA and recent press attention focused on money spent by these companies on events, has prompted a wave of industry self justification in response to adverse press coverage. The fact that it needs to do this speaks volumes about its historic ability to convey its importance and relevance to the world at large. This focus on economics is relevant and important, but risks missing the bigger picture on sustainability.

The industry has been very vocal and active on sustainability issues, but there is a risk that this impetus may be derailed with serious consequences for the industry. The grim economic outlook focuses attention on business survival and short term decision making, which is an understandable response, but not always best for longer term success. Mutterings are heard that sustainability is a luxury that cannot be afforded and should be put on the back burner until things improve. In the meantime companies and industry associations focus on communicating the economic importance and other self-sustaining commercial messages.

Here’s the problem.

If sustainability is abandoned at this point, the industry becomes very vulnerable. Today’s press exposure of large amounts spent on corporate events will turn seamlessly into a focus on waste of non financial resources. You can see the headlines: “Giant Company ABC wastes 10,000 tons of Co2 and creates 2,000 tons of rubbish in three days at a luxury event in the Caribbean.” At this point the industry has no reasonable response, unlike its current arguments on its economic value.

Sounds far fetched? – not really.

President Obama expects to bring in revenue of $78.6 billion in the next three years from his carbon permits, the tip of the sustainability iceberg in terms of financial impact. This will have real consequences for high emitters, including the travel and hospitality sector, which the meetings industry is so reliant upon, are already moving into government sights on both sides of the Atlantic. Our collective failure to voluntarily achieve significant reduction of emissions and waste leaves no room for dithering given the climate change impact and makes regulation a certainty. For regulation read increased costs.

To head off this problem the industry needs to get active on sustainability, across the board, following the companies and associations who have made sustainability a priority and deliver substantive action – fast. Activity does not include limited action with an over reliance upon communication. Action on sustainability will not only support long term survival, but will deliver cost savings in the interim. It is estimated that European hotels waste Euro 260 million each year on power, that’s quite a sum to return to businesses who are short of cash. In addition, a recent survey by AT Kearney shows that sustainable businesses are outperforming overall business in the recession – who says sustainability was a luxury we cant afford? More like a necessity we have lost sight and grasp of over the last decade or so and can’t afford not to have.

A focus on the industry’s economic relevance without addressing sustainability now is not a solution. The unfortunate coincidence of global recession and emerging sustainability adoption could trigger a massive failure of strategic thinking by the industry. The adverse consequences of such a failure will seriously affect the climate and communities, at the same time profits and commercial sustainability of the industry will suffer.

Hugo Kimber 9 March 2009

GMIC – Staggering Green Growth

I am at the GMIC Conferance in Pittsburgh. Its mindblowing the feeling of positivity and energy here, when all around in our industry people are negative (not suprisingly)

Yesterday at the board meeting we announced that membership growth had surged by 235% since our brand relaunch in September, with suporting business sponsorship rising by 340%. Additionally we have 3 new chapters in formation (Atlanta, Denver and Florida) plus another 10 in early stage development.

Thats pretty amazing in these tough tough times. However its not suprising. The members of the GMIC understand that sustainability is a critical business strategy in their recession. For example talking to Oracles VP of Communication yesterday, he informed me that they saved 2 million dollars on their last event through their new sustainability strategy. Not surprising that he is rolling it out worldwide.

CSR 2.0: New Era of Responsibility

Speaking in Lisbon yesterday yet again I was asked the same two questions:

  • How will CSR fair in the economic crisis?
  • With all the current financial concerns wont CSR be at the top of the list of cost costing exercises?

Perhaps. It certainly was for some of the large banks who in the last few weeks have reduced or eliminated their ESG and SRI (social responsible investing) analysis sections. However I like to think there were other more serious financial drivers in those organizations such as JPMorgan and Citibank (caused by irresponsible industry lending practices).

Personally I think that there never has been a more important time for CSR. But this needs to be a more business focused and organizationally integrated CSR. CSR needs to get out of the CSR department and become an embedded and critical ingredient of every business unit.

Its time for CSR 2.0

CSR needs to evolve from just environmental focus to a complete responsible and sustainable business focus. There are two key business drivers that should be considered in tomorrow’s csr programs

  1. Sustainable business is good business. As we highlight in our presentation, Sustainability is a key strategy to be used in crisis times. True sustainable businesses are efficient and flexible. They lower operational costs and increase revenues through innovation and adaptation to new trends.
  2. Trust. Recent polls show a dramatic erosion of faith in business. Three of four Americans trust business less than they did one year ago. Only a third trust business to do the right thing – half what it used to be. Among young people, the loss of confidence is especially marked. Governments and corporations face an important task to address this trust issue and CSR will be a key tool in this process

New Era of Responsibility

To remind us all, a true CSR strategy is not just about the environment as many people believe in our industry. Its all about transparency, accountability, human and labour rights, corruption AND the environment; All things that have suffered under the last 20 years of unstoppable growth. Just as mentioned by Obama in his inauguration speech, its time for a “new era of responsibility”. Its time to restore trust in the administrations and in the corporate world. And its time for the meetings and events industry to consider our role in this big picture.

Global Compact 2.0

In MCI and with various clients we have chosen to become signatories of the UNGlobal Compact. The UN Global Compact is a both a policy platform and a practical framework for companies that are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices.

Today the Secretary General of the United Nations gave an inspiring speech to the world leaders in Davos. To those consumed by the effects of the economic crisis he reminded us of the importance of business to be a part of the new CSR community – something he calls Global Compact 2.0. In his eloquent words;

We stand at a crossroads. It is important that we realize we have a choice. We can choose short-sighted unilateralism and business as usual. Or we can grasp global cooperation and partnership on a scale never before seen. Yes, globalization had lifted many from poverty. Yet the spread of free markets and capital did not raise all boats. In fact, it hurt many of the world’s poorest people.

The Global Compact was our enlightened response. It challenged business to embrace universal principles and to partner with the United Nations on the big issues.Ten years on, the Global Compact stands as the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. We can boast more than 6,000 business participants in more than 130 countries. The Global Compact has become a by-word for corporate responsibility.

Its members have moved far beyond mere philanthropy. They have pioneered new standards of “best practice” in the areas of human rights and labor law. In many countries they work to protect the environment and fight against corruption. They have undertaken hundreds of projects in health, education and infrastructure in countries around the world.

Now, a new set of crises prompts a renewed sense of mission. So today I urge you to join a new phase of the Global Compact.

In the meetings industry there are few signatories to the Global Compact. I think as an industry

It is time to get off the fence and take up this agenda seriously” – Ban Ki-Moon

I recommend that you watch the full video or read the text of his speech.

The writing is right there on the wall. Without trust, we cannot prosper

Every downturn is followed by an upturn. If you make the right investments now, you will be laying the foundations to tackle critical longterm issues. You will be in the forefront of a new green economy.

I encourage you to help create a future based on a low-carbon economy – green jobs, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The words have been spoken. Now its our turn to become crusaders of the new CSR. Its time for a new era of responsibility.

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.

Karl Marx predicted it all

I was sent this today, and I think Karl Marx perfectly summarizes whats going on around the world. Its amazing that he wrote this in 1867.

“Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism”

With the increase government control of many large corporations around the world we will see a lot of changes in the forthcoming years. Who knows how this will pan out. My feelings is that it could be good for Ethics, CSR and Sustainability. Yesterdays commitments from Obama about a new energy policy and also his commitment regarding a more ethical Whitehouse are first indications of probable US policy. Its not really surprising since its the governments who will sign the binding targets at the COP15 UN climate change meeting in December and they will want to pass on the risk and job of achieving these targets to the business world. Now that they have so much control in many of the industries and financial world, it will be easier for them to enforce new carbon and renewables legislation. At the same time there may be a greater tendency for governments to become more nationalistic. Yesterday for example in Spain, one of the worst affected countries, the Minister for the Economy called for Spanish industry to buy local. In tough times and with a need to reduce carbon emissions through transport, we can expect to see much more of these types of messages.

So is Karl Marx right? Will we see a return to a new form of communism?

CSR & Business: A love story?

What’s a guy have to do, you know? He fixes your car, charms your boss, connects you with powerful new friends and makes you feel good for being you. Why, then, are you still with the sweaty, lazy guy that won’t pay his rent?

That’s how it seems to me when businesses postpone investments in sustainable practices and cling to traditional, costly business models, especially during times of economic stress. Will more businesses reach out to embrace the promise sustainability or will they continue to believe that the status quo offers them the greatest security?

Sustainability just wants to bring its love and passionate contribution to the business world.. no strings.. no baggage.. a little upfront cost here and there but, look at the return on the investment! Despite what should be love match, and despite a growing number of smart business leaders flirting with CSR plans, much of the business world seems unmoved.

The daily reports of economic pain bring with them the need for smarter, more efficient, business practices. I am not alone in feeling that sustainable business plans and commitments provide a framework and inspiration for success in this difficult economy and beyond. In pure black and white business terms, a business that wastes more profits less. As one example, Sarah Fister Gale, a contributor to GreenBiz, just wrote an article showcasing some companies who are benefiting from sustainable business practices despite the difficult economy:

Clearly, much of the business world is dealing with drama too consuming to initiate even simple improvements, much less a re-tool of their business model and operations. For those that are still able, it’s my hope that they can return the love offered by a strong CSR plan and start living the more profitable, more meaningful life that awaits them.

What have you seen? Will the sustainability revolution fall victim to the economic crisis? Can CSR be an economic savior? Will traditional businesses see value in a truly integrated sustainability plan?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,591 other followers

%d bloggers like this: