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. www.griconference.org

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.

The death of Sustainability Reporting?

Many newspapers and business commentators have  recently dedicated column space to ethics and  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – specifically to the gap between what many organisations have declared in  comprehensive polished reports and their  later actions. The economic crisis and the causes of it have provided much opportunity to reflect on the way modern business operates. The pariah of the corporate world this time last year was BP following one of the greatest environmental disasters in US history in the Gulf of Mexico .  While many factors were no doubt involved,   it is undeniable that deep sea oil drilling is a risky business and the most well intentioned companies will struggle to successfully manage every risk, everywhere.  Closer to home, this year’s pariah of the CSR reporting world are Barclays, see the news here.

Having issued sustainability reports for 12 years and been very committed to a responsible business culture, Barclays had become one of the darlings of the industry but with the Libor rate scandal and subsequent 290 million British Pounds fine it’s not only Barclay’s staff that are wringing their hands. Many commentators are questioning whether Barclays have lowered the value of sustainability reporting all together. Their latest document, the Barclays Citizenship Report and 2015 strategy now lacks any credibility because statements like the opening paragraph suggesting  that Barclays have a “clear sense of its business purpose – to help individuals, communities, businesses and economies progress and grow” ring entirely hollow.

Sustainability, reporting and the events industry

So what does this have to do with the events industry I hear you ask? Actually- everything.  Live events are the major touchpoint between an audience and corporations, associations, governments, even musicians and sports professionals arguably.  It’s one of the only times a customer, client or staff member can live and breathe the brand in the flesh and we know that every detail is important, from the venue, the sound and visuals, to content and catering. Increasingly live events drive the core marketing of new products, think IPOD unveilings in the era of Steve Jobs or even Barack Obama’s inauguration- marking the commencement of his 4 year term as president of the US.  MCI helps some of the worlds biggest brands and associations create that “magic” at their live events and is increasingly helping leaders of their respective industries bring sustainability strategies to life at their events.  Smart companies, most notably today in the IT industry are developing sophisticated sustainable event strategies, setting smart and measurable goals and evaluating from day one of their event planning where they can have a positive impact both on the locations where they hold events whilst taking progressive steps to reduce their negative impact through the careful monitoring and reduction of resource use and reporting honestly and clearly following the event.  Arguably, I’d suggest if a company wants to create a “clear sense of its business purpose” with it’s staff, customers and stakeholders it needs to be weaving it’s corporate values into its live events. By demonstrating that sustainability is important in a tangible manner – customers and staff will understand that language turns into action. If we are to progress from abstract policies and vague statements totally disconnected from true organisational culture, mature organisations would be smart to “walk the talk” across the full spectrum of their business, from their HQs to their field of operations and most importantly whenever they gather as a group- at events.

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Image Courtesy of Graphic Stream

A new era for live events

Luckily 2012 is the dawn of a new era for the sustainable event industry with the launch of the APEX ASTM Green Meeting standards, the ISO20121 Event Sustainability Management system and the GRI Event Organisers Sector Supplement planners have never before had such sophisticated tools to guide the planning, managing and final reporting  on sustainable events. This year doesn’t mark the death of sustainability reporting, it merely marks the year that companies will have to face the music and really bring their promises to life. At the same time the live events industry has matured significantly and together major progress is possible.  The leading companies of the world will realise that in order to turn words to actions, live events are a significant weapon in their armoury and sustainability has the power to bring brands alive, motivate and guide staff,  engage customers and act more responsibly from the bottom of the organisations to the very top. If you need help bringing your sustainability commitment to life at your live events, let us know and check out our case studies here.

CREATING VALUE – MCI LAUNCHES THE 2011 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

I am very happy to see the launch of our  MCI 2011 sustainability report. Entitled “Creating Value”, the  report tells a story of business transformation and how MCI talent are progressively integrating sustainability into the day to day business of MCI.

Learning from our readers, this year we have attempted to use some of the latest features in PDF to embed video and make it more interactive and readable. We have moved some of the more technical features to a separate document for advanced users.

I am also pleased to say that the report was checked by GRI and received a commendable C-Level Application Check Certificate. It is one of (if not) the first reports by an international events agency to use the new GRI Event Organisers Sector Supplement, which I helped to develop.

 

 

 

 

 

I cant say that writing a sustainability report for such a large global organisation is easy, but it does get easier through practice. This is the 20th report that I have written in the last few years. I see very clearly that reporting drives improved performance of your CSR strategy. It forces you to carefully and thoughtfully write things down do that a greater number of people can understand your vision and intentions. It then forces you to engage these stakeholders and get their input. This consequently can be used to improve results.

Please have a look at the report and I would love to receive any feedback by answering a few questions in our short online survey

More info on our CSR website.

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 as a driver for successful associations

I was at the IMEX tradeshow this week in Frankfurt, and had the opportunity to present at the Association Day. This is a yearly event which brings leaders together to discuss trends and issues effecting the successful management of associations and societies.

Together with Lucy Goodchild of the Global Reporting Initiative, we ran a workshop that looked at the how associations can increase member value through sustainability. We looked at how global change is effecting associations, and how they can and should respond to support their members with the increasing demand for new knowledge, skills, tools, advocacy and commitment.  In the ppt you will see case studies from various associations around the world.

Let us know what you think?

Worlds’ 1st Sustainable Meetings Region

I´m feeling happy and  a little proud today, as a little vision we had, has become a reality..

“Convention Bureaus, Destination Marketing Organizations, Venues and Agencies from the five Scandinavian member countries of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) today signed an Accord to create the world´s first sustainable meetings region. The Accord is the first of its kind in the world. It is a document outlining 10 specific actions to which all signatories commit, aims to advance sustainable development within the meetings and events industry.”

This project is unique in its scale and collaborative nature. For the last two years we have been working with leaders of the Scandinavian meetings industry to define a shared vision for the future of meetings and events.  Now we already have over 45 leaders from 15 destinations across Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland who, with their signature, commit to taking action to measure and benchmark impacts, share knowledge, create products to help clients and develop socially responsible community action projects.

A benchmarking system has been developed using 18 performance indicators to assess the sustainability of infrastructure and practices within the destinations. The system is in a pilot phase, and a full report will be released at the IMEX tradeshow in May.

It is so refreshing and rewarding to work with the ICCA chapter, and be able to have helped them advance towards a more sustainable future.

Click to read the full press release and see the Accord.

Here is the presentation from todays workshop. it contains some facts and figures and trends info..

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.

Will Sustainability Reporting go Mainstream?

First of a series of posts about sustainability reporting, we pose the question – “will sustainability reporting go mainstream in the events and meetings sector?”

Up to now, there has been very few organisations who have conducted a sustainability report about their event or about their events organisation. A few valiant agencies such as MeetGreen, Organise This, and MCI have lead the way, supporting a few visionary corporates such as Oracle, Cisco, Google, and even fewer associations such as MPI, EWEA and the AIDS Society. Thankfully the mega international events have been a beacon of activity with the World Cup, London Olympics and Vancouver Olympics amongst others showing the way. But could this be changing? Could we see event sustainability reporting go beyond the niche to a mainstream activity? We believe it will. But the key questions is perhaps not if but “ when we will see a tipping point” and “how can we accelerate this transition”.

The following are a four trends that we foresee to be driving this shift in event reporting:

1. Corporate sustainability reporting goes mainstream

The 2011 KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting clearly shows how the disclosure of social and environmental strategies and results is coming of age. 95% of the 250 largest companies in the world (G250 companies) now report on their corporate responsibility (CR) activities, and 64% of the N100 (hundred largest companies in each of the 34 largest economies) conduct CR reporting. Since 2008 KPMG calculate an increase in reporting of 14% in the G250 and 11% in the N100. The Global Reporting Initiative has become the defacto standard for reporting: with 80 percent of G250 and 69 percent of N100 companies now aligning to the GRI G3 reporting standards.

In addition governments and stockmarkets around the world are studying and implementing mandatory reporting. In their last report GRI calculate that there are over 142 reporting initiatives in over 30 countries, with mandatory reporting in over 16 countries including South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. This is set to increase and we expect to see more announcement around the Rio+20 conference. For more info see this good GRI presentation on reporting Trends.

2. Increase in Scope 3 emissions disclosure:

Many companies are already measuring their Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions and reporting these through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). These are the emissions from their direct operations and their use of electricity. But over 75% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by most companies’ products and services are not accounted for in Scope 1 and Scope 2. These are included in scope 3 emissions and include the indirect impacts from the value chain including the emissions of business travel and events.

There is a significant trend towards increased scope3 reporting and this is set to continue they offer significant cost reduction and disruptive innovation opportunities. In 2009, 59% of the Global 500 responded who responded to the CDP provided some information on their Scope 3 emissions, while over 87% reported there scope 1 emissions. Last year, an impressive 72% of companies communicated on scope 3 (impressive when it was less than 25% five years ago). One of the reasons for the low reporting levels was the lack of any clear standard or guidelines for disclosure scope 3 emissions. However, this has changed and as of October 2011 a new GHG accounting standards is now available from the GHG Protocol Initiative entitled the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. This standards take a value chain approach to accounting for GHG emissions and allow companies to report Scope 3 emissions on a clearer and more consistent basis through The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: In the next few years we will see a significant increase in what companies will measure, manage, and report beyond their own operations.

Thankfully new sustainability measurement tools in the meetings industry provide guidance and support to simplify the measurement and reporting process. Check out the high end MeetGreen calculator and the mid-range tool provided by MPI – SEMT. Expect corporate sustainability reporting gurus – EQ2 to enter the travel and meetings market with their tool Evolution in 2012.

3. Greater understanding of the value of sustainability reporting

The process of writing and disclosing a corporate sustainability report has many benefits that now are become widely recognised. From the KPMG report, reputational or brand considerations top the list of business benefits (cited by 67 percent of the G250), while ethical considerations came second at 58%, and innovation and learning at 44%. For the sustainable event reporting through our extensive experience, we have seen that the top 3 benefits are

  • Reduced Reputational Risk: Communicate to stakeholders that the organisation is concerned about environmental issues
  • Engagement: Allows an organisation to engage suppliers and staff (and to a lesser degree clients) with their sustainability strategy, sharing best practices and results. This is been our experience at MCI and we have seen a significant improvement in engagement since the beginning of the year when we switched to quarterly reporting.
  • Understanding: Most corporates or associations have no clue about the environmental or social impact of their events. Too few track their economic impacts and ROI. Measuring enables better management of all elements from delegate satisfaction, to safety to waste and community outreach.

4. Launch of event specific sustainability standards

2012 will see the launch and proliferation of three voluntary meeting and events industry standards/frameworks. The ISO 20121 standard for sustainable event management systems ,the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Event Organizer Sector Supplement (EOSS). All three easy to say pronounce frameworks, require and recommend measurement, reporting and public disclosure to some degree. In particular the GRI EOSS which we will launch on the 24th January in London, provides tailored guidance on how and what an event organize should report on. This includes economic and governance issues as well as widely applicable issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and waste, attendee travel, legacy of the event, and initiatives taken at the event to promote sustainability and transparency.

Not if but when!

We believe event reporting will become mainstream to some extent. But the key questions are when and to what degree. So far there very few organisations reporting. At MCI we have produced our own annual report for the last 2 years, created over 30 sustainable event reports for our institutional clients, but have never had a corporate client who has asked for this service.

So how do we accelerate this transition to greater industry reporting? What constitutes a good sustainability report? How do we make it simpler and easier? We will leave those points for another post in the near future.

Finally, to quote my boss, Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of MCI and Chairman of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), “transparent reporting is fundamental to organization success and growth”.

As always – any thoughts and comments on this “rather long” post are welcome.

GUY BIGWOOD

MCI Group Sustainability Director

Sweat, Tears and Bloody Knuckles: How Sustainability Reporting is making MCI a better company

“Sweat, Tears and Bloody Knuckles: How our Sustainability Report is making us a better company”

The idea was simple enough.  Rather than deliver the minimum effort to be compliant with the UN Global Compact Communications on Progress requirement, we’d take additional steps to conduct measurements of the known sustainability impacts of our business.  We would, we mused, create a report which complied with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) criteria for transparent communication of our company’s business performance.

What started as a simple concept proved, in actuality, to be a long and challenging process of data mining and fact chasing across 45 offices, 22 countries and hundreds of people. We simply, did not have any processes installed to allow us to conduct accurate measurement of our social and environmental impacts.

Now that its done, the difficulties we experienced, had the unexpected result of creating elevated engagement from our team and a valuable revamp of – and renewed commitment to – our sustainable business strategy.  The process of evaluating our business strategy along with the operational impacts of our business was an opportunity to gain active participation from people within the organization who didn’t previously see their direct connection to sustainable business practices.

This infusion of new ideas and new energy from a broad cross section of our company also meant that the process of completing the report required a greater investment of time.  But we wouldn’t trade that experience to have done it any faster.  It was this very process of completing forms and asking questions and following up with different offices, which delivered the greatest insights, helping us to identify barriers to success and build a stronger culture of sustainability. But dont´just take my word for it: here is a video of our CEO Sebastien Tondeur, communicating the report to our staff last week:

Like many things the first time is always a challenge. We have already started to prepare our 2011 report and we are now improving and creating new and more integrated processes that will allow us to collect data simply and easily. The next report will be much better and less stressful to produce.

Pioneering Work

Although this is our second report, it is our first to be GRI checked. We believe that we are the first international meetings and events agency to complete a sustainability report which meets GRI criteria for transparent communication of business performance. It also uses a draft of the new GRI Event Organisers Sector Supplement which we have been involved in creating.

While we are very proud of that, we understand that the real value of reporting isn’t in the PR of showing that we’re compliant with GRI standards or even by providing a helpful example for others in the industry, the real value is the process itself which step by step, is helping us make a better company.

You can read our report here  and we very much welcome your suggestions, criticism and ideas to improve this disclosure.

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