Trends in Events Sustainability Reporting

Recently, I was interviewed by TTG Asia Magazine to provide them insights pertaining to MCI’s sustainability and reports. Some topics discussed include the commencement and efficacy of the impact reports, the sustainability level of our events, and the reason behind congregating despite waste generation.

The following is the detailed interview with the TTG Asia Magazine:

When did you start doing meeting impact reports?green impact

MCI made a solid commitment in 2007 by signing the UN Global Compact, ever since then we’ve been providing our clients with detailed sustainability strategies and reports.

Who (planners, hotels, delegates?) and what’s driving the need for these reports (cost, real CSR motive, etc?)

Sustainability Reports are very common in other industries. There’s strong political pressure and increasingly investor focus on how sustainable businesses are. In Asia we’ll see a lot of change in the coming years. SGX are already  introducing sustainability mandatory reporting guidelines for publicly traded corporations, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are mandating Environmental, Social and Corporate governance

(ESG) disclosure for India’s top 100 listed companies and most recently a 2% ruling that companies should donate to social causes. Lastly Hong Kong Stock Exchange are moving to a “comply or explain” approach for ESG reporting by 2015. Events are very much a part of a company’s ecosystem and increasingly their impact will become part of higher level reports.

Investors are also now seeing that companies with a strong sustainability strategy & report are actually financially outperforming those that don’t- so investors now look to sustainable business as equally as consumers in many markets are looking for responsibly sourced and produced products.

Lastly mega events are very much driving the trend specifically in the event industry, it’s a major requirement of an Olympic Bid or a FIFA worldcup and this mentality is slowly filtering down to business events and large exhibitions. 

How are these reports a step-up from what’s been done before?

The reporting has really matured with the development of the GRI EOSS- The Global Reporting Initiatives Event Organizers Sector Supplement which MCI were part of the original architects. This framework provides reporting guidance that is suitable for all types and sizes of event, including business events (exhibitions, meetings and conferences), sports events, and cultural events (including festivals). It’s a great guidance document for what organizers should track, measure and then report.

What’s the effectiveness of these reports? 

The reports are excellent tools for transparent impact reporting, at the mega event level the host of an Olympics has a supremely pressing need to now communicate what the impact of the event has been on the host city or location, look at the protests on the street this year in Brazil. It’s no- longer a nice to have, the IOC and FIFA are really beginning to look at this notion of “credibility”.

In general, there are also millions of companies stating that they are “green”, “environmentally friendly”, “CSR” focused etc. How do you determine the true sustainability leaders from the marketeers? By a strong report detailing precisely why that organization can claim to be a leader. Events & the hospitality industry are no different, it helps to separate the “wheat from the chaff”.

What follow-ups are made after these reports have been issued? Any e.g. how a report has made hotels, planners, end-users more sustainability-conscious?

During the whole measurement and reporting process the suppliers very much become engaged in what they need to be more sustainable and it’s incredible to see the transition from organizations that haven’t engaged before realizing the opportunity and the risk in ignoring sustainability issues and witnessing those that have already developed a strategy proudly share what they’ve done and collaborate.

How to make these reports more effective? 

What the industry really needs is better sharing and storytelling around what we’ve done and promoting the reports. The Green Meeting Industry Council have  a mission to transform the global meetings industry through sustainability and support the transition to a more sustainable industry through education, recognition of best practice, advocacy for international sustainable event standards and community support via chapters and partners. Anyone interested in sustainable events should definitely look them up and become a member!

How green are your events? Oats_BexAsia-5

We organize over 5000 events a year around the world and our clients are the owners of the events, we support them meet their business objectives through live events, whatever those objectives may be and luckily we now have a lot of clients that share our commitment to sustainability and desire to bring their responsible business values alive through events.  Luckily we have a great tool called the Event Safety & Sustainability Tool that we use to evaluate each and every event we do around the world, the tool highlights any safety or sustainability risks for us to address accordingly with clients.

What are the biggest areas of waste with meetings?

It very much depends on the type of event, exhibitions can create a lot of solid waste through carpeting and temporary stand constructions, the largest source of waste from conferences is often food & paper but the biggest sustainability impact from international events is always carbon emissions from flights.

Why meet at all, if it generates waste?

Humans are driven to meet, nothing happens without a face to face interaction, global summits agreeing political treaties or the end of a conflict, meeting a future husband or wife or signing a big contract with a client or a supplier. The need to physically meet will always be there but increasingly there’ll be better technology that helps us manage occasions when not everyone needs to be physically present.

The waste question needs to be turned on its head and we need to ask, how can we prevent waste at all? Redefining waste as a resource is key. There is no “away” when something is “thrown away” and in many businesses, anything “wasted” is an in-efficiency. We need to bring that thinking into the way we see waste and focus on how we extract as much value out of what we’ve used once or have no need for, a “cradle to cradle” approach. There are many smart businesses that are selling their waste and developing strong revenues from this space but there’s also a lot still paying companies to take away valuable metals & other resources!

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