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 More than 200 million beef burgers have been withdrawn from sale in the last month in Ireland alone and the crisis threatens to sully some very large brands, notably Findus who’s 100% beef lasagnes products,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.


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!

Deloitte 2015 Sustainability Report

In the recent whitepaper Hospitality 2015, Deloitte paint an interesting picture of how rising populations, resource shortage, pricing increases and consumer demand will effect the hospitality industry. And how sustainability needs to be embedded rather than added on.

The sustainability section makes for some good reading: You can read it here:


Mandatory Reporting on Sustainability

I am at the World Business Summit on Climate Change, which we are helping to organize in Copenhagen as a feed in event to COP15. The event features over 800 CEOs of industry and major climate change experts. As a recommendation to be submitted to the UN at COP15, industry is asking that Carbon reporting becomes Mandatory in a companies statutory accounts.

Today the Climate Disclosure Standards Board in conjunction with the  Carbon Disclosure project and the big 4 accounting firms launched a globally accepted framework, based on existing standards, for corporate reporting on climate change. This will be interesting for your CFOs –

Sustainability and carbon reporting will become mandatory in many countries in the near future. It already is in Denmark, the UK, probably will soon be in Norway, Australia and perhaps even in China. The US is not far behind.

The meetings industry will soon be under pressure to measure their emissions. It wont be optional!Perhaps its time for an industry standard way of measure the GHG emissions of the events sector?

Its interesting that some countries have chosen the Global Compact as their reporting standard. Thankfully sector companies such as MCI and Intercontinental Hotels and associations such as MPI, have already signed the compact so will be ahead of the game.

MCI is working towards its footprint measurement implementing the GreenGlobe Index system and will publish its footprint in the next annual report.

For more info on sustainability reporting

Climate Disclosure Standards Board

All that’s growing is not green: thoughts on menu planning

First, I offer salute to all organic farmers. That said, (insert wince) organic should not be the last word in green menu planning. And, while I’m at it, local isn’t either. How about a menu plan that balances a collection of important factors to find the best sustainable result for the event in question? How about a menu that takes into account the many benefits of local and organic foods, but also the issues of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic, fossil fuel based pesticide/herbicide use?

This is not the first time I’ve thought about this …it comes up all the time. Examples that prompt this posting:

  • Planners tell us that they refrain from sustainable meeting strategies saying that they are too costly, brandishing organic menu prices as exhibit.
  • An “all organic” menu that features wine from Chile and lamb from New Zealand and served in Northern Europe as part of a “green” event
  • Produce grown in the Netherlands requires about 15% more energy (to heat the greenhouses) than those in Spain. Spain, meanwhile, uses about 20% more toxic pesticide than does the Netherlands.

So, the thoughts:

  • Before your event, set goals for your menu planning and share these with your supplier. Maybe it’s 40% local, 20 % organic, 100% seasonal. Decide which issues are most important to you or your client. Make it clear that you seek their support to help you achieve them. Planners can have great influence over the practices and purchases of their suppliers. Suppliers are often surprised to learn of how much cheaper high quality local product is. A good example is bread. Many venues have contracts with food wholesalers that ship bread in from great distances when, across town, a better product can be offered at equal or better pricing.

  • Before assuming that a responsible, sustainable menu is too costly, check it out (bread example above). If a particular item is more costly, another may be cheaper. Think about the entire event and ways that smart choices can offer savings to compensate for your menu planning goals.

  • When planning a menu with a big organic component, consider the emissions when making selections. I think we’re missing the point to ship things great distances in the name of being environmentally friendly, no disrespect to the Chilean wine producers.

  • As for the 3rd point, this gets tricky fast. Most planners don’t have the time or resources to complete a life cycle analysis for every menu item and the variety of dramatic environmental impacts in today’s world of industrial agriculture make thoughtful selections awfully complicated. Until better, faster, more affordable tools are available, consider the following:

Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defence of Food, makes a compelling and supporting case for taking a simpler, yet more holistic approach to food purchases. While he admits that it’s not perfect I think it’s safe to paraphrase one aspect of his argument as encouraging people to think local first, then organic. His thought is that a person will make fewer mistakes with such a practice. So, let’s call that a place to start. Maybe the place to start is reading this book!

short intro:

Steve Ward, Executive Chef for the award winning Doubletree Hotel Portland in Portland, OR, has a practice of purchasing and promoting a philosophy based on his FLOSS principle. Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable. In that order, it’s a great framework for making menu choices. Check out:

Lastly, ask your provider. Most established venues, be they hotels or congress centers, have skilled culinary teams that have the resources to help you make better decisions for your event’s unique particular location or season.

Note that this is a topic being studied by thousands of people in think tanks and universities across the globe. Scratch the surface and a web of confusing issues is quickly revealed. Still, I assert that it’s important to make positive changes where you can, and to bring positive influence where ever possible. A maxim to consider: Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something. What can you do?

Let us hear from you. We look forward to sharing your insights.

Future post sneak preview: Embedded water in food: seeking more sustainable practices

In 2008, a study by UK’s Carbon Trust revealed that a potato chip company could save money and carbon emissions by changing the way they purchased potatoes. Farmers, paid by weight of their potatoes, went to elaborate and expensive measures to add water to their product. The potato chip company, then, had increased emissions due to the frying time needed to remove the additional water. Now farmers are rewarded for low water product and everybody wins.

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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