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)

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.

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.

Launch of GRI event organizers reporting guidelines

Launch of new event reporting guidelines from GRI

In continuation on our series of posts about reporting, we have a great announcement to make: From today event organizers around the world now have a new tool that can help them to report on economic, environmental and social sustainability issues.

The new guidelines have been developed by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and a group of volunteers (including me) from events companies, governments, labour and civil society organizations. Together we have worked together for 2 years to develop the guidance. The public then responded to two Public Comment Periods, before the Working Group took the consultation feedback into account and finalized the Supplement.

Today’s new Event Organizers Sector Supplement (EOSS) will help event organizers to report their sustainability performance in a comparable way. The sustainability reporting guidance, specifically tailored for the events sector, aims to make reporting more relevant for event organizers by defining how to provide qualitative and quantitative information on sustainability issues. In addition to more widely applicable issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and waste, the guidance helps event organizers report on more specific issues including attendee travel, legacy of the event, and initiatives taken at the event to promote sustainability and transparency.

Why report?

It is becoming increasingly important, and is often required, to disclose an organizations impacts (see our post about reporting trends). With trust at an all time low, Stakeholders require more transparency and accountability from corporations, associations and governments. Local communities and event attendees are increasingly interested to know the sustainability strategies behind events and the resulting impacts.

Who is it for?

The Event Organizers Sector Supplement provides reporting guidance that is suitable for all types and sizes of events. The guidance covers the complete project life cycle of an event, from bid to planning, execution and, finally, post-event – including the issue of event legacy. The Supplement can be used to report before or after an event has taken place. So an agency like MCI could use it for its own company report or for one of its events.

What are the benefits?

According to Sebastien Tondeur, our CEO here at MCI and Chairman of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), “transparent reporting is fundamental to organization success and growth.” At MCI we have seen some of the associated benefits include:

  • Brand enhancement and associated economic benefits
  • Financial savings resulting from increased monitoring and evaluation of resource use
  • Increased understanding of potential economic, environmental and social impacts
  • Ability to benchmark and compare data
  • Risk avoidance

Reporting is also about sharing best practices and can enhance learning for event organizers not yet so familiar with sustainability strategy and reporting. This can help to advance innovation and the event experience.

So what exactly is it?

The Event Organizers Sector Supplement is a guidance document that enables event organizers to provide qualitative and quantitative information on their sustainability performance. The Supplement is an amended and expanded version of GRI’s G3.1 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. It has three sections that provide guidance on:

  • Profile: How to disclose your events or organisations strategy, profile, and governance structures.
  • Management Approach: How an event organiser addresses a given set of sustainability topics in order to provide context for understanding performance in a specific area.
  • Performance Indicators: Specific indicators that elicit comparable information on the economic, environmental, and social performance of the organization and/or event.

Is it very complicated?

Yes and no. Its up to you. Currently GRI recommend that you report based on one of three application levels: A, B, C.

  • For C level: an organizer needs to use report fully on at least 10 Performance Indicators, either core or additional, including at least one from each Indicator Dimension (Economic, Environmental, and Social).
  • For B Level: an organizer needs to report on Profile Disclosures, Management Approach (DMAs), and at least 20 Performance Indicators, including at least one from each Indicator Category (Economic, Environmental, Labor Practices and Decent Work, Human Rights, Society and Product Responsibility).
  • A level is the works: basically you need to report on all aspects and indicators in the guidelines.

Where do I start? Do you have any examples

Michael and I have written over 25 reports for MCI and our clients, here are some recommendations with examples:

  • For Beginners: Look at the guidelines and choose a handful of performance indicators that you think are relevant and useful to disclose. You don’t need to do a full C level to start. The most important thing is to start, and the guidelines will help give you structure, indicators and advice. Here are a couple of examples:

o UN Global Compact Leaders Summit Report

o Shanghai Fashion Week Sustainability Report

  • For organizations who have started to report on their events or organisations, aim at doing a C level report. Consider getting an application level check from GRI.

o MCI 2010 Sustainability Report

o UN COP15 Climate Change Conference

  • For advanced reporters, go for gold: Get it verified and assured.

o London 2012 Olympics Sustainability Report

o 2010 Vancouver Olympics

For more information and to download the guidelines

In a future post we will look at best practice in reporting, verification and share a few tips and tricks…

In the meantime, please share insights and experiences, concerns and questions, related to reporting event impacts.

Transportation & events: omission of emissions?

Transport to and from meetings and events, and the carbon emissions which result, make many of us want to put our head in the sand.  We can hope that the problem will go away, but it sits there, a liability needing resolution.  Across the world, and in spite of commitment to reduce cost, climate impacts and delegate stress, travel to and from events represents an events’ largest exposure to risk from violating sustainability principles.

We’ve seen many studies and examples of the impact of travel (and here)  but fewer practical examples which outline solutions which can be replicated by event owners internationally.  Some fantastic designers are exploring big solutions which bring real promise to destinations.  Many such solutions, however, will bring benefit to events only in the distant future.

 What can be done today?

  1. Measure your transport impacts: Include carbon dioxide emissions from delegate travel and local transport.
  2. Set clear goals for improvement: Identify measureable targets, track progress and share performance on your website, newsletter or after action report.
  3. Choose wisely: the clever experts at The Carbon Consultancy have collaborated with NGO parter Cool Earth to create a search tool which provides better flight selection options. The tool includes carbon emissions as a decision factor in choosing flights.  By evaluating airplane type, age of fleet, staff training and which routes offer direct flights, this tool calculates complex data and provides simple and clear estimates to inform the buyer.
  4. Pursue sponsorships: The UN Global Compact Leader’s Summit gained Price WaterhouseCoopers as a sponsor for event sustainability. The package included their participation in event measurement and approving the recommended offset project
  5. Engage delegates: Provide recognition on name badges for delegates who travel ‘climate smart’ (also, registration site tip here)
  6. Regional events, connected virtually
  7. Work with CVBs to promote local transport options

Carbon emissions are part of meetings and events.  When we acknowledge them with measurement, we increase the likelihood that these emissions will be seen as a liability and will encourage investment in sound practices to meet targets of drastically reduced emissions.

Looking forward to practical tips and thoughts from your own experience!

Sustainable Event Reporting: Like eating your vegetables?

Parents differ on their approach to getting kids to eat vegetables, often falling into 2 camps: ‘eat it or else’ and ‘only take what you want”.  Which method produces the healthier eater?  

There’s a parallel, here, to recent thinking on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting.  In her just published article, Elaine Cohen recaps the recent Redefining Value: Integrated Reporting and Measuring Sustainability Conference which shares, among many great facts and figures, some insights for making sustainability reporting common practice.

Some argue that only government imposed regulation (‘eat it or else’) can inspire organizations to consistently share performance data publicly.  Others want markets to lead this initiative, leaving individual business to define what and how they’ll report (‘only take what you want’).  Which method produces a healthier business?

Like a kid who squirms and resists eating broccoli the first time, only to later discover that they like it, corporations who produce CSR reports for the first time experience a feeling of discovery, saying the process was beneficial to their business.    Like eating your vegetables, the benefits of integrated sustainability reporting are real…and important.. and worth pursuing.

Is it unreasonable, then, that meeting planners might also experience a similar sense of enlightened discovery in pursuing sustainable event reporting? And experience the improved stakeholder trust and improvement in business practice which inevitably follows thoughtful reporting?

Can this practice fuel a movement to integrate sustainability into the very design of the event itself (rather than having sustainability be seen as a complicated afterthought)? And bring needed improvements to an industry which struggles with uniform application of sustainable business practice?

Will the meetings industry eat its vegetables?




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.

COP15 carbon footprint report

Integrated into the COP15 event sustainability report was an excellent study of local carbon emissions conducted by the Copenhagen office of Deloitte. COP15 Carbon Footprint Deloitte 2010.pdf

With lessons learned from the carbon footprint measurement of COP15, Deloitte is providing a list of recommendations for successful carbon footprint measurements for future COP meetings.

1. Establish an effective governance structure

Understanding the most significant GHG sources should be included in the decision-making process for the logistics of the COP meeting in order to achieve the best results and to demonstrate commitment. The governance structure may include a body of representatives from the national government hosting the COP and the UNFCCC to ensure effective planning, coordination and communication.

2. Adopt a step model

The 8-step model described in chapter 2 may apply for measuring the carbon footprint of events. First of all the model makes it possible to focus on the most significant as well as the most uncertain factors; secondly it ensures an effec-tive process; and lastly it provides key messages to communicating in a timely manner during the process. The steps, however, should not necessarily be seen as a sequential process, as they may overlap.

3. Engage with organizers and suppliers on interchange and collection of data

The access to valid data is essential for achieving a credible and applicable result, and most data are collected in collaboration with direct or indirect sup-pliers to the COP meeting. In order to ensure sufficient and timely data collec-tion, the requirement for data should be agreed at an early stage, preferably by the engagement of suppliers.

4. Use acknowledged standards and units of measurement

Standards for organisations (eg. GHG Protocol and ISO 14064) and events (eg. BS 8901 and ISO 20121 in the future) may be deployed at COP meetings, however the standards designed for organisations must be adjusted to suit the purpose.

5. Keep track of documentation

All data and information sources as well as preliminary results should be tra-ceable. Focus on the ability to revise and compare estimates as they evolve before and after the conference – including the possibility to estimate and doc-ument GHG emission reductions from specific initiatives.

6. Make control calculations by alternative methods

Whenever an alternative source of data or method of calculation is available, it can be used to control the validity of the method applied in the methodology. If large deviations occur, the causes for those deviations may be found and explained, and potential errors may be corrected.

7. Get third party viewpoint

Involve a third party such as an independent research institution, NGO or similar in decisions regarding scope, methodology and data sources. Such involvement may help increase credibility in the results, ensure that special public interests are considered, and – to some extent – prevent criticism from observers. The involvement may be established on an official or ad hoc basis. In addition, the reporting entity may engage an independent auditor to express an opinion on the carbon footprint.

8. Compare and benchmark to similar events

When possible, similar events whose carbon footprint has been measured may be studied to compare and benchmark, and to control the validity of applied calculations. As described in the introduction, some factors may vary greatly and make it challenging to compare. Those factors include the nature of the events’ activities and local conditions such as infrastructure and weather conditions7.

9. Estimate the level of confidence

Quantitative measurements of the level of confidence is a time consuming and costly discipline. Therefore a more simple qualitative consideration of level of confidence may be used to evaluate whether the overall results have a high, medium or low level of confidence, and whether initiatives should be taken to raise confidence levels. If the level of confidence of key data is relatively low due to factors yet unknown, it is recommended to add a buffer to the total estimate. As an example, please see Appendix II – levels of confidence. (comment: VERY IMPORTANT)

10. Utilize results for communication and awareness raising

The results of the pre-conference estimate are suitable for communication and awareness raising during the conference. Using sufficiently plausible numbers for quantifying the effect of participants’ behavior may encourage more people to behavioral changes.

Down load the report: COP15 Carbon Footprint Deloitte 2010.pdf

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!

MCI Inaugural CSR Report 2009

Michael and I have just finished and released the first MCI CSR Report. This is the story of MCIs initial steps on the path to sustainability.

csr_coverIt highlights the strategy, actions and results of what has been achieved in the first few years of the MCI sustainability journey. There are 2 parts.

  1. MCI Corporate Social Responsibility Report
  2. MCI Communication on Progress on implementing the United Nations Global Compact principles

Preparing such a report is a daunting task. Collecting the data, creating an engaging format,  editing all of that – it seemed unending and sometimes exasperating. Our goal was to make it objective, driven by the “materiality” of the data (geeky – reporting word), data based and full of individual stories. The result is a nice looking document but it’s admittedly light on measurement data.

Key Learnings from this exercise include:

  • Create a measurement strategy and start to collect data a year or more before you need to report on it. In this report we failed to produce an annual carbon footprint of MCI. However it has helped us to drive the implementation of the Green Globe Index – which will provide us that information next year
  • You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Eg: It’s almost impossible to set realistic reduction targets if you do not have an idea of your footprint.
  • Reporting really makes you review and improve on your strategy. It focuses you to break it down into manageable chunks (ie the plan), set clear objectives and structure how you achieve the goals
  • Use GRI to help structure your measureables and reporting. Again we started late and its not shown in this report – but it was fully reviewed and is integrated into the 2010 report strategy.
  • Reporting is a superb engagement tool. By asking junior and senior MCI talent to feedback on the report we increased the level of engagement and dialog to the complete MCI CSR strategy. Ask your staff to write a quote for the report.
  • Use a good designer who has a lot of patience… With 1000 changes to format, text, style etc you need someone with the patience of Buddha.

Now that its published, we need to share it.  The whole point is to have this report serve as the beginning of a dialogue with our stakeholders, without whom we could not improve.  Please take a few moments to read through this and let us know your thoughts.  It’s but another step in the long journey to a more sustainable MCI.

Sustainability trends in the meetings industry

Over the last few weeks quiet a few people have asked me what they think will be the key sustainability trends in 2010. So for a keynote presentation today at MICE Travel Fair in Amsterdam, I made my first attempt at summarising some of the key aspects of change that will progressively transform the meetings industry.

I am interested to have your feedback. Let me know if you agree or disagree?

Key 2010 Trends
1. Passing beyond the tipping point
2. From green to integrated sustainability
3. From confused to aware consumers
4. From nice marketing to taxes and legal requirement
5. Standard part of the purchasing decision process
6. From creative label to trusted global certification brands
7. Pressure to measure and report
8. Rise of the eco-zones
9. Stabilization virtual meetings
10. Acceleration in innovation
For more detailed information please watch this slideshow of my presentation in Amsterdam.

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