How Green is Your Event?

How Green is Your Event?  by Yolanda Logt

More and more clients are expecting you to deliver sustainable events. Lots of corporates, especially multinationals and government agencies, include corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their marketing strategy. You may wonder about their motivation. Is the green label a response to societal pressure or a new tool companies use to push sales and show the world how responsible they are?

Whether CSR is a serious economic trend or just marketplace hype, the fact is the Meetings and Events Industry is doing its utmost to offer clients socially responsible options. This is spawning a new trend: providing certification for event companies that give their clients socially responsible choices or demonstrate social responsibility themselves. Many in our industry are jumping on the bandwagon. Think of Green Key, Green Globe, Rain Forrest Alliance, Event Greening and Travel Globe. You can probably add other names to the list.

Generally there are two approaches to CSR: Green Washing and Green Adopting. Green Washing has serious drawbacks. Because it is not integrated into the company’s marketing strategy, employees are often unaware and uninvolved, and there’s no fit with the corporate culture. The result is a program that lacks vision and rarely adds value. An example? Think of a program where bank employees paint homes for the elderly.

However, you could easily turn this idea into Green Adopting. How about offering it to the paint industry by using the client’s own paint products and repeating the event each year at a new location? With the right internal communication and marketing, the program would improve morale throughout the whole company. A firm I worked with extended this concept not only by providing paint, manpower and supplies to help an orphanage and school in Brazil paint their buildings, but also use the subject for brainstorming, leadership programs etc at home. I can tell you, the strategy was a winner! The client quickly experienced an upswing in employee morale and commitment.

And while we are helping clients become more socially responsible, many in our industry are going green, too. Again, the key to success is to make sure the activity is a good match for your company. One example of linking strong corporate values to an inspiring philanthropic cause comes from a sporting event company that supplies clothes, shoes and soccer balls to Run-4-Schools, an African project that improves kids’ lives by getting them off the street and onto the soccer field. Opportunities here are endless. While some event companies donate in-kind products, services or staff-power, others prefer to earmark a fixed percentage of company profits to one charity each year.

Let’s go back to the issue of certification. Certifying green venues, hotels and products can be tough while individual countries offer their own guidelines and international standards are still unavailable. A global ‘green’ label with measurable standards is the ideal, but the start-up will surely entail some pretty nasty political and economic hurdles. Anybody out there looking for a challenge?

But you don’t need to wait to make an impact. One way we can all start now is by simply asking ourselves: How green is my event really? Perhaps you began by booking an award-winning sustainable venue. Good start – but do you know if they use a CSR caterer? Often big venues have 2- or 3-year catering contracts negotiated on price, not a commitment to serving organic food. What can YOU do to avoid unpleasant surprises? Simple: just keep asking questions and use common sense.

Other tips:
  • Think about social, economic and environmental impacts from the start.
  • Use the 3-Rs: reduce, recycle and reuse.
  • Communicate electronically to save paper. (Why do you think we set up a digital magazine?)
  • If possible, minimize impacts of travel by choosing your destination carefully and staying at only one location. Using public transportation instead of exclusive transfers can be great fun, too!
  • Be energy- and water-wise. (i.e. Tap water is safe to drink in many countries – why use bottled water?)
  • Don’t forget to factor in the wellbeing of the local community as well as your delegates and suppliers.

Most important of all: raise awareness of your green efforts by sharing best practices with clients, suppliers and colleagues. (use this blog as your forum)

Hope to hear your opinion!

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3 thoughts on “How Green is Your Event?

  1. How about the new ISO standard (ISO 20121, ‘Event sustainability management systems’) that was set up for the Olympic Games in London? The EU presidency held in Denmark this year was the first ‘event’ to achieve this certification, which is, in my opinion, a good way to measure and certificate the sustainability of your event.
    (sources: http://www.iso.org/iso/home/news_index/news_archive/news.htm?refid=Ref1598 and http://www.meetincopenhagen.com/news-and-events/business-news/denmark-achieves-iso-20121-certification-for-the-2012-eu-presidency)

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