Don’t Underestimate the Ripple Effect of Your Actions


“I’m only one person, so what difference will this make?” is something I hear a lot in the sustainability sphere. After all, what’s one more plastic bottle considering the ocean of bottles already floating around out there? The notion that we are only a small speck in the great mechanism of humanity can be discouraging enough to prevent even the most gung-ho advocates from taking action sometimes.

But throw a pebble into a pond and what do you see? Waves in the form of rings, very small at first, then ever expanding and increasing in number until they spread across the water surface – the ripple effect in action.

Socially, the ripple effect describes the phenomenon where one decision or action can affect situations not directly related to the initial interaction – thus increasing its impact several times over. Take for example one wrong tweet that caused the stock market to plunge 143 points, or the study that found one act of kindness could produce dozens more. All of this happens due to the reality that we don’t live in isolation from one another, but in an interconnected system.

So how does this apply to sustainability, and especially within the MICE industry? Firstly, trust that your individual actions and decisions DO have an impact on the bigger community. That one decision to use recycled lanyards for the event may seem insignificant, but the decision sends a clear consumer message, which in turn impacts suppliers, which affects businesses, and who knows you might even save a whole species down the road. Secondly, if an individual’s actions can already have such an impact, then a company’s impact would be huge, and huge dictates some seriously responsible behaviour.

This is one of the main principles behind MCI’s Sustainability Policy and Supplier Code of Conduct – the belief that by engaging one’s suppliers, we will be influencing the whole supply chain right down to the manufacturer.  For example, one of MCI’s largest procurements is hotels. By preferring hotels that eliminate toxic substances from their products, reduce waste and uphold strong environmental commitments, the hope is that hotels will transfer these requirements to their operations and suppliers, who will transfer it to their producers, and so on.

In 2010, only 23 hotels had signed MCI’s Code of Conduct. This increased to 73% of our preferred partner hotel chains in 2013, then to 98% of our preferred hotels partners in 2014. Now imagine the results we could achieve if this happened on an industry-level. As recently quoted in a Forbes article, “Don’t underestimate the ripple effects of what you do, these kind of actions…have toppled empires.”

Read more about MCI’s supply chain management and Code of Conduct in the 2015 Sustainability Report.

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