Sustainability as a competitive differentiator

Today I have the pleasure to be in the magic city of Medellin, Colombia speaking at the first International Symposium on Events and Conventions. The events industry in Colombia is in serious development at the moment with a growth of 47% during the last year alone. The leaders of this event realize that sustainability and quality are critical components for the development of the MICE industry, and invited me to share some best practices and trends from around the world.

My session was entitled “Sustainability as a Competitive Differentiator”.  In the presentation that you can see below, identified over the years from organizations who have used sustainability to deliver increase value to their stakeholders.

  1. Leaders Lead: They stop watching the game from the stands and they get on the pitch. They take a proactive role to inspire their teams to learn and implement more sustainable actions. They take a dynamic role in their industry and community to champion and advocate for more sustainable practices.
  2. Leaders understand the context: They research and educate themselves and their organisations to understand the social, economic and environmental trends and risks (ie. Climate Change). They understand how these risks will affect their business, and identify the opportunities that are available to create new or improve existing services/products.
  3. Leaders connect and collaborate: They understand the power of using their existing networks and joining new ones to engage with their stakeholders. They listen, they learn, they share, and most important they form partnerships to advance sustainability within their own organisations, industry and community.
  4. Leaders integrate and innovate: From a clear understand of the issues and expectations of their stakeholders, Leaders integrate sustainability into their operations. They don’t add on sustainability as an additional service or product; instead they embed sustainability into the standard operating practices across their business. Leader understand that sustainability is a core component of their “quality management strategy” and uses it to inspire innovation across their business.
  5. Leaders measure performance and its value: They are fanatic about measuring the impacts and results of their sustainability initiatives. They investigate and analyze their impacts, and use data to make decisions and investments that deliver value for their organization and their stakeholders.

ps. Colombia is an amazing destination. I totally recommend that you consider it for your next event, incentive or conference. Amazing service, great people, beautiful country.

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


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

Embracing Sustainability: success factors in sustainable events

Last week at IMEX in Frankfurt and at Eventoria in Luxembourg, I was asked to share my views on how best to embrace sustainability. Hence I created a presentation that shares a strategic framework for implementing sustainability strategically  into a single event or meetings department. It uses examples to define 5 key steps:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Operational integration
  • Good governance

It refers to our work on the EU Presidency. That you can read about here:


Sustainability – Business Case for Associations

There are over 77000 companies in the world. The UN Global Compact is the worlds largest corporate responsibility initiative. Yet only 8800 organisations have signed up to it. The Global Reporting Initiative is the world´s most widely used sustainability reporting framework – yet its estimated only 4000 companies are using it. In a recent meeting with the CEO of the GRI – Ernst Ligteringen said that sustainability has to scale and fast. To mainstream sustainable practices we have to engage the masses – we need a quantum shift. So how are we going to do that?

For years I have been proposing that part of the solution is greater engagement from the national and international associations around the world. These associations represent the “big guys” in business but more importantly the small to mid size companies. They have millions of members and are the gatekeepers to many industry certifications and regulations. They have relationships with business and government.

Of course there is some great leadership from some associations such as ICMM but in general many associations are falling behind the curve and not providing sufficient services, products and support to their members around sustainability. Its time that association executives reached out and took the leadership on sustainability. There are huge risks for lack of action and big opportunities for those associations who take leadership.

This was my message today at a gathering of over 100 association executives in Seoul Korea. Here is my presentation that present the business case, with some best practice examples and a framework for action. The article I recently wrote for HQ magazine (plus the other articles) also backs up this argument.

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.

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

Growth of green brands

A lot of people still ask me what is the business case for sustainability in the meetings industry. I normally smile and politely give them a few answers and then sit back in amazement and wonder where have they been. Today there has already been such a massive transformation in society and it is touching all walks of life, classes and regions. This presentation from Sustainability Brands gives a nice indication of the growth of green in consumer buying habits. this is and will progressively change the meetings industry.

I think the Saatchi and Saatchi statement is the most profound. From the creator of the lovemark concept they now clearly state that

When Saatchi & Saatchi developed Lovemarks we understood that the shift of power to consumers would change brands forever. Now consumers are subjecting Lovemarks and would-be Lovemarks to another tough test. Not only is a Lovemark owned by the people who love it, but it has to front up to the sustainability challenge. Saatchi & Saatchi S works to connect environmental, economic, social and cultural streams of action together to make sustainability irresistible. No sustainability, no Lovemark.

Green Meeting Seminar Estoril – Presentations

Yesterday I was privileged to be in Estoril, Portugal and to be organising a seminar program about sustainable events. The days previous to the event I was participating in a workshop to co-develop the GRI Reporting guidelines for the event sector. My fellow participants are some of the best brains in event sustainability from around the world, so at the seminar we used a lot of this wonderful expertise to power the session. Speakers included Dale Hudson, Megan Jones, Manfred Koblmueller, Pedro de La Rocha, Fiona Pelham, Maiike Fleur etc.

Once again its great to see Pedro and his team at the Congress Center in Estoril lead the way. They are truly a global reference in how transformation can happen. What follows is the keynote presentation, update about standards and then some great case studies. Enjoy!

COP15 Event Sustainability Case Study

I am in New York where we are organising the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit . As a prelude I prepared a case study of how the Danish Government implemented a more sustainable COP15 climate conference.


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