The current status of Green Meetings

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Recently, MCI got awarded the prestigious IMEX-GMIC Green Meeting Award 2014. This awards is another recognition of the fact that MCI is pushing the bar in sustainability in the MICE Industry. It was particularly special to receive the award for the Responsible Business Forum, organised in Singapore, as sustainable events are still quite a challenge to organise.

In this light, Roger Simons was asked by Mix Magazine, part of Business Traveller Asia Pacific, to share his views on sustainability in the MICE business sector. Please find the interview below;

  • Do many companies now seek to ensure that their meetings and events are conducted in a more environmentally sustainable fashion?
    Roger Simons;
    MCI is finding an increasing number of clients are seeing both their business travel and their events as a key contributor to environmental impact. Many companies are looking to develop strategies dealing with this whilst reaching out to a more conscious consumer that wants to know that companies are “doing the right thing”.
  • Do they have specific requests and could you give me a couple of examples of these companies?
    Leading companies that are looking to bring their commitment to sustainability to life through events include Symantec, BASF, Procter & Gamble and they are doing so through such things as a strong focus on recycling, responsible materials and actively engaging the community.
  • What kind of businesses seek green meetings? Some people might expect it to be NGOs, but I imagine that they now includes large corporations. Is that the case?
    Absolutely, companies now understand that issues such as rising sea levels, the cost of oil and food and resource scarcity are a real risk to their business and in some cases an opportunity, leading corporations now have strong teams focusing on these challenges and protecting them from risk and driving innovation. Sustainability isn’t a choice, if you want to survive as a business you better pay attention to global trends & challenges.
  • In what ways can meetings, and related activities, be made more green? Would this extend to accommodation and transportation in and out for delegates, as well as a focus on the venues?
    There are a myriad of things you can do to make your events greener and there’s an increasing amount of guidance available to do so- from Singapore Tourism Boards “Sustainable MICE Guidelines” through to standards like APEX/ASTM. A good approach includes all suppliers for the event and doesn’t limit itself with the venue.
  • Do green initiatives include those that look at leisure activities for friends and family, and for delegates after business is concluded?
    I think it varies, in our experience green initiatives are normally focused at the event, not post-event excursions or the family programme. It’s really dependant on the client and geographic location, for example an event in South Africa might involve a community project with a township.
  • Is there much in the way of follow-up, so that lessons may be learned from previous experiences?
    Absolutely, the sustainability movement is very much focused on “transparency”, this is the only way to discern “greenwash” from real sustainability and companies are now expected to disclose publicly what they are doing, what their goals are and how they are faring. Events are not separate to this movement, the Global Reporting Initiative put together the Event Organisers Sector Supplement  (EOSS) which provides guidelines on what events should disclose. Major sustainability reports for events like the Olympics and World Cups are now a must and more and more smaller events are taking up the challenge. Organisations like the Green Meeting Industry Council are great to check out if you are interested in case studies, reports and education in this space.
  • Which body/bodies give the appropriate green accreditation to venues?
    This is dependent on the country and geographic region, there are a vast number of accreditation programmes and eco-labels which can confuse international planners. MCI actively supports the international standard ISO20121 and the GRI EOSS as a good international sustainable event methodology and reporting framework for the events industry.
  • How can companies ensure that the initiatives are genuine and not merely an example of “greenwashing”?
    This is down to companies to be not only authentic but to really understand the value that a strong sustainability approach can bring, smart businesses are using sustainability as a filter to innovate, drive change, save cost and reduce their impact on the environment whilst building stronger relationships with communities and other stakeholders. True sustainability is win-win.
  • How long has the greening of the MICE business been going on? Are any countries in particular, or sectors, leading the field?
    The greening of the MICE business has been a long process and we are definitely not there yet, it really started being discussed about 10 years ago and is now a much more common topic, thankfully. The IT industry are quite mature in terms of sustainable events with businesses like Symantec, Oracle & Intel organising large “sustainable” events. In Asia, Singapore is a great example of a leading sustainable events destination and Copenhagen have done great things in Scandinavia too.

Many thanks to Nick Goodyer and Mix Magazine for giving Roger the opportunity to share his views and for the inspiring conversation.

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