Fueling Success: MCI Community Academy

In support of our industry colleagues and the people of Greece, MCI decided to locate its annual training meeting in Athens, Greece. Despite the crisis, Greece remains a wonderful location for events and meetings, and as a leading global agency we were pleased to show our support.

In addition to our business commitment, we wanted to find a way to give back to the local community as part of our CSR program. Brainstorming the idea with our friends at Greek NGO Boroume, we researched various community action projects but came to the conclusion that one of the best ways we could help the local charities was to share some of our core business knowledge and expertise. The idea is that by sharing management strategies from a high growth global business we could spark some new thinking and enhanced collaboration in the local non-profit sector.IMG_2607

MCI Community Academy

So after 1 quick month of planning, yesterday we were very proud to have organised the first MCI Community Academy. We had 85 managers (paid and volunteer) from Greek NGOs, foundations and associations. This was the first time they had come together as a community. Our program was entitled FUELING SUCCESS, and it was  focused on four key pillars. I had the pleasure of moderating these sessions, delivered by MCI’s senior and very inspiring management.

  • Leadership: The Power of Full Engagement – Sebastian Tondeur, Chief Executive Officer
  • Building your brand: Suzanne Fellay, Strategic Communication Director
  • Building your team: Managing and motivating talent -    Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning & Development Director
  • From strategy to action: Jurriaen Sleijster Executive Vice President

Presentations:

As a result of the meeting the audience created the possibility of developing a collaborative NGO platform where they can share knowledge and resources.

Thank you to all the volunteers and to the event sponsors: the Athens Intercontinental Hotel, Kipling Events and of course Boroume

A Good Day for Sustainable Hotels

We all have good days and bad days, it’s a fact of life- Friday last week, fortunately was a great day, a re-invigorating day that reassured me that Singapore has some superb examples of a solid approach to sustainability in the hotel sector . At the frontline of meeting and events Guy and I work with a lot of venues, suppliers and hotels on their commitment to the environment and society and boy does their sophistication differ a lot- from the very basic to the leaders in our space. Working internationally, we come across hotels in some pockets of the globe that don’t know their armpit from their elbow when it comes to sustainable practice and it can be disheartening when they wheel out their finest sales person to take us round the hotel, highlighting their “green” golf course or talking about corporate HQ’s policies with no practice on the ground.

Integrated Tree

Integrated Tree

An “ECO Hotel” with substance

Fortunately, Friday was not one of those days. I had the pleasure of a site inspection at the Siloso beach resort . This resort, located close to convention facilities on Singapore’s Sentosa island has really demonstrated what can be done if you build and operate with sustainability in mind, but they’ve really gone beyond the everyday and thought about how they can do it radically differently. The most striking example being the integration of trees. Normally at the onset of a hotel development space will be cleared to build a hotel and perhaps if you are lucky, ornamental shrubs re-introduced once construction is over amongst the paving and water features. Not here, the Ng family wanted to integrate nature, build around it and include it within the structure- this means the existing trees stayed and the hotel and villas were built around them. This actually provided a threat to worker safety during  construction due to the common electrical storms in this part of the world- each  tree could be a lightning  conductor so every one was individually earthed with a copper wire to ensure safety first. The villas around the property have the existing trees either encased in glass (if they are fast growing) or included in the structure with rain umbrellas (if slow growers). 1 Villa has an amazing 17 trees within the structure and in most cases, the design and layout of the rooms was totally dictated by the position of trees meaning that no villa is the same. Upon questioning, the Manager of the hotel revealed that construction costs were 30% higher due to responsible sourcing & planning  and although the hotel took 18 months to build, the villas required 30 months.

roofgarden

The hotels impressive Roofgarden

What else left me impressed and excited? The 95 metre swimming pool, who’s shape was also dictated by trees but most interestingly avoids the more common heavily chlorinated type , using salt ionised spring water-I didn’t take a dip to test out the salt levels but there’s always next time. When it comes to food they’ve created a closed loop organic food cycle using 1 million Malaysian blue worms. Equipped with a fabulous roof garden, they grow 100% of their herb requirement for the restaurant and 10% of their vegetable needs but most impressively  everything stays within the system.  Fruit and vegetable wste from the kitchen gets mashed, then molasses and bacteria are added to promote decomposition. The friendly Malaysian blue worms then feast on the decomposed waste and create “worm castings” (which is worm excrement to you and me). These castings go back into the cycle as fertiliser for the plants and hence the nutrients are constantly recycled, again and again.  Likewise, other types of food waste are broken down with a sophisticated mulcher which even has a capacity to break bones.  Apparently a human body could be mulched in 12 hours with no remnants remaining, there’s a crime drama storyline in there somewhere.

Elsewhere the hotel source unwanted wood from property renovations to build furniture using their own on site carpentry workshop and house a sophisticated third generation modular heat exchange system that collects heat dispersed in air conditioning and uses it to heat water.  When you’ve got initiatives like this, towel and sheet re-changing programmes are somewhat less exciting so we’ll leave it there- if you are looking for a visionary eco-hotel with a conscious in Singapore, look no further.

Top tips for communicating sustainability

Much has been written and, it seems, much has been ignored in the area of sustainability communications. While it’s important to share your company’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility it’s equally important to know how to state your claims.

Here we share our top ten tips, developed and learned from our work at MCI Sustainability Services helping organisations to communicate about their sustainability programs. This list has been developed and refined over the years through trial, error and input from some clever individuals:)

 

  1. Inspire, don’t guilt. Sustainable development is about engaging and activating a wide audience. The goal is to inspire them with optimism to act innovatively, not guilt them into action.
  2. Tell stories. People connect with real life examples cleverly illustrated. Make your point by highlighting the people and the colourful tale told.
  3. Facts and faces. Data is best explained if it’s linked to a human face. Stories are more credible with data. But be honest, technically correct and state your sources.
  4. Put your claims in context. Vague claims are bad enough but claims without context can get you into trouble. 24 tons of waste recycled annually sounds impressive until it is ‘normalized’ by showing that it represents just 4% of total waste generated.
  5. Have big goals but not too many. Sharing your sustainability goals allows you to quickly communicate the style, substance and ambition of your CSR strategy. Don’t confuse your readers with too many or too complicated objectives. Be ambitious and brave.
  6. Welcome input and support. The key to good sustainability communications is humility. Acknowledge that you are not perfect, listen to your stakeholders and invite others to join you in your pursuit of sustainable practices.
  7. Promote your partners. No business is an island. By showcasing the involvement and support of your suppliers and stakeholders, you’ll earn goodwill and future commitments for support, all while establishing your role as a leader.
  8. Be Cool and sexy. Sustainability is about innovation and better business. Create the trend, stand out and be sexy with your communication.
  9. Exploit the influencers. Certain personalities in your organisation command respect and have a disproportional contact network and influence over your stakeholders. Recruit and use these individuals as your champions of change.
  10. Share your failures. In the world of sustainable business, a company gains credibility by being transparent enough to admit defeats. Build trust among your stakeholders by showing your disappointments and invite their ideas and best practices to help you succeed. Sustainability is a team sport and expert coaching often comes free.

Love to have your comments or thoughts on these 10 tips. Perhaps you agree, disagree or have other suggestions.

Behind the scenes of a sustainable EU Presidency

“To have success in sustainability – you just have to make it sufficiently hard for yourself that it becomes easy”. This was the advice from Kirsten Aggersborg, the director of the super sustainable Hotel Axel in Copenhagen.

I think there is some real value to this observation, and this is no where more true than with the Danish Presidency of the European Union Council.

By June 30, when the European Union Presidency 2012 Denmark concludes, the Danish Foreign Ministry Logistics team will have supported the organization of 100 meetings serving 15,000 total participants while meeting criteria of the ISO 20121 event sustainability management system.

With a team of just 22 people, the logistics team delivered an EU Presidency at a fraction of the total cost of past Presidencies. The €30million savings were an important result of the strategic meeting design and sustainable event management system

Working with Wonderful Copenhagen, we made the following video to show how sustainable event management is not complicated, but  that it requires leadership, vision, commitment and discipline.

I take my hat off to Andreas and the Government team for demonstrating the business case of sustainable meetings. And also to the Bella Center, for the paradigm shift in sustainability performance in the last 3 years.

MCI Sustainability Services supported the Danish Foreign ministry in the development of the ISO20121 Sustainable Event Management System, and in the application for third party certification. This project will be one of the largest most ambitious implementations of sustainability in the meetings industry.For more info.

MCI have also led a stakeholder engagement initiative to increase the sustainability and outreach of the Danish Meetings Industry. A sustainability report will be available in the summer on http://www.sustainableeventsdenmark.org

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.

 

Predictions for sustainable meetings and events, 2012: part 3

We ring in the New Year by rounding out our predictions list for 2012.  As with our earlier posts (here and here) we explore the trends and practical sustainable business practices which are helping planners and suppliers save money, build community and help the planet.  If we were counting these down New Year’s style, we’ve come to the part where the crowd chants and the ball drops setting off fireworks and big band music (cue celebratory din):  Here we go….

  1. Measurement and Reporting: 2012 will see a defined growth in measurement of event impacts and reporting to stakeholders.  This trend will be a natural extension of the rapid growth in reporting seen in the corporate sector.  At present, 95% of the Global Fortune 250 companies now complete sustainability reports to investors and stakeholders. One reason for the intense interest in reporting can be attributed to organizational effort to build trust with investors and clients.  The economic crisis has compromised the perception of business integrity and transparent reporting of financial returns. Sustainable business practices are an effective way to show that organizations are committed to responsible behavior. For more and more such organizations in 2012, tracking sustainability data will be fundamental to goal setting and trust building.  Top 4 list of things the industry will measure this year:
  • Return on Investment
  • Event related carbon emissions
  • Total waste/recycling/donations
  • Investment in local communitySee this brief, informative presentation on the topic of organizational sustainability reporting  from Ethical Corporations’ Toby Webb
Corporate responsibility reporting 2011 trends

View more presentations from Toby Webb
2-  Supply Chain Management: ‘Greening the supply chain’ has been a focus of many industries but will be a larger issue for the meetings industry in 2012.  Suppliers, such as hotels and conference centers, who attain eco-certifications will be required to conduct a review of the suppliers with whom they work.  Planners seeking compliance with any of the internationally recognized sustainability standards for meetings and events will also be evaluating the ability of their suppliers to support sustainable event outcomes.  The result will be a re-writing of purchasing policies and a shift away from suppliers who lack a proven engagement in sustainable practices.
3.  Education:  The proliferation and release of voluntary industry standards (ISO 20121, Apex Sustainable Meeting Standards and the Global Reporting Initiative Event Organizer Sector Supplement), along with the increased interest in reporting impacts, will increase interest in building planner and supplier skills through education.  Industry associations such as the Green Meeting Industry Council , Professional Conference Managers Association and Meeting Professionals International are, along with private sector sustainability resources, well poised to offer relevant and cost effective sustainability training for the industry.

 

2012 predictions: Sustainable Meetings and Events, part 2 (of 3)

On what we will see more of in the coming year

Earlier (this post), our list of predictions for 2012 was introduced. The thinking is informed by many conversations, readings, client requests and a dash of common sense.

  • Technology:  As with all sectors, the meetings and events industry will see a rapid evolution resulting from the increased usage of event-specific smart phone applications.  These apps provide individual delegates personalized, customized mapping to optimize their event experience, saving time and increasing productivity.  Social Media, as a platform for two way communication between even owners and event participants (‘what’s with the air conditioning?’ ‘The Audio Visual is awful’) provide real time opportunity to address any event improvements needed to enhance participant experience.  Social media makes it possible for the event to begin at the time of registration giving real value to sponsors and exhibitors to engage event attendees in constructive dialogue before the official event start date.  2012 will see an industry awakening in the practical use of simple-to-use-yet-powerful social media as a meaningful resource for planners and delegates.
  • Virtual presence: Regional events connected internationally: Ok, so this is a technology thing, too, but the easy availability of ever-improving-and-affordable technologies will create a shift to more events creating ‘hub and spoke’ formats. Not only will this reduce costs (time, travel expense) but can also provide meaningful focus on regional issues.  2012 will see increases in the number of event planners who understand that allowing virtual audiences increases stakeholder engagement in their organizations (rather than, as many worry, compromise attendance).  Regional ‘nodes’ which connect at focused times during their respective events can be highly engaging and offer exciting opportunities to share knowledge while reducing costs and carbon emissions from flights and other transport. The Green Meeting Industry Council webinar (Midori Connolly and Jessica Levin) and Event Camp Vancouver provide recent example not only of evidence of how well this can work but also ‘how to’s’ for integrating such technology for positive effect.
  • Community Actions: Social programs are fundamental to any meeting or event.   The change we will see in 2012 will be in what planners offer as activities.  Rather than invest exclusively in more traditional activities such as theme parties or cocktail mingles, planners will offer more examples of socially responsible actions which give back to community.  Participants in these sessions are moved to enthusiastic expression of these sessions being a highlight of their event experience as they offer highly personal connections not only with the charities supported but also other attendees.  These sessions completely change the networking dynamic so that attendees interact as people with a shared interest and not just representative buyers and sellers.   Also, greater effort will be made to measure social responsibility.  Hours worked, funds raised, meals served, media hits, etc.  Measurement of social responsibility is increasing in importance as organizations work to provide stakeholder groups concrete examples of how they are responsible and worthy of trust.

 

Thoughts on these?  Look for a consolidated list of all 7 predictions later this week!

Sustainable Events 2012: Bold (and not so bold) predictions

As 2011 becomes 2012, lists and reviews abound (including this frightful recounting).  In this spirit, and to bring a focus to meetings industry issues, we consider the influence sustainability will have on the organizations that comprise the industry.

This time last year, we created a list of predictions.  While a few examples were perhaps a bit optimistic, we maintain that the list remains viable (it’s just ahead of it’s time!).  Because they are poised to be trends, some appear again in this list for 2012.

A thoughtful review of international business trends (recent relevant random sampling here, here and here) shows clearly that sustainability, and sustainable business practices, are more relevant and, indeed, more important to business than ever before.  Return on Investment (ROI), risk reduction, cost containment, stakeholder engagement and innovative  initiatives to increase revenue streams are terms which are not only near the top of every business leaders ‘to do’ list, but also characterize sustainable business results.

Given the increasing import of sustainable business practices in a difficult and ever more competitive marketplace, it’s appropriate to look more closely at the most influential of sustainability trends which will inform the 2012 landscape of meetings and events internationally.  Identified are 8 total trends.  To ring in the New Year and to make things even more enticing, we’ll portion these out just 2 at a time over the next few days (suspense!).

Trendspotting 2012: sustainability is smart business

  1. Fewer actions, greater results: Rather than struggle to integrate multiple new actions, ideas or processes, planners and suppliers will focus on 2 or 3 specific and measurable tactics which can yield tangible returns or progress.  In 2012, more planners will mature in their approach to sustainable event management and find concrete results by narrowing their focus to improve areas most material to their unique conference or business.   This approach will help underscore the business case for actions taken and inspire additional actions which provide value.
  2. Destination Marketing Organizations as sustainable business hubs.  As a first point of contact for many planners, DMO’s and CVB´swill become increasingly responsive to demand for sustainable suppliers and activity options for events.  Through their connections with regional membership, DMO’s have the opportunity to gather industry leaders around the topic of sustainability and facilitate training to bring mutually beneficial business returns to the region.  (This finding is based, in part, on the projects in which we’ve been proudly involved in with DMO leaders in Gothenburg, Copenhagen and the Costa del Sol.)

Share your thoughts on these and any sustainability related predictions of your own.  Stay tuned for more soon!

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.

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!

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