Lessons from the Leaders

A number of insights into successful integration of sustainability were observed in the preparation of the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol. These include:

Events as a multiplier: The implementation of an event sustainability strategy may not always deliver the highest sustainability impact for an organisation. Actively pursuing a green agenda in a factory or implementing ethical practices throughout a supply chain may yield bigger benefits. However, events can act as a multiplier of an organisation’s sustainability program by providing a model environment within which people can discuss and live the values and visions of the brand’s sustainability commitments. It is this tangible way of providing solutions to a complex problem that helps to engage and inspire employees, partners and clients. When extrapolated to a national level, the results from COP15 illustrate the significant potential for positive impact: 75% of food was organic, 94% of event participants taking public transport, 20% reductions on CO2 emissions, social inclusivity and financial transparency as a rule.

Beyond Green: Sustainability plans must consider people, planet and profit. It’s this unique combination and balance that delivers results which bring reward to public and private communities.

Inaction is not an Option: Once seen by some as a fad or fashion, sustainability is now understood to be required for successful business in the long term. Failure to act is not an option. Sustainability is now a solid part of a brand’s competitive positioning and value proposition.

• A Strategic Approach: Successful integration of sustainable development principles brings triple bottom line benefit when company leadership develops a long-term strategic commitment supported by investment of time and money. Leaders who have realised success from sustainable systems have learned that positive business returns are the result. For this reason sustainable business practices should be integrated as a general management competency.

Integrate, don’t Attach: Sustainability should be integrated as part of the core business strategy and not attached as an additional organisational program. The temptation to treat sustainability as an attachment to the organisation’s core strategy generally delivers only unbalanced, short-term results. For long-term benefit strategic sustainability thinking must become integrated into existing business culture, policy and processes. When processes are integrated and mutually interdependent, the system can sustained long term efficiency which creates win-win results.

Importance of Measurement and Reporting: The management idiom, What gets measured gets managed, certainly applies to good strategic event management. By defining challenging targets and managing them using key performance indicators, event owners can monitor and implement needed improvements. Transparent reporting following the GRI guidelines are now becoming a critical part of brand building, employee communication and shareholder relationships.

Ask not what your Company can do for Sustainability, but what Sustainability can do for your Company: Sustainability need not be a burdensome imposition. Taking account of social and environmental issues can lead to extensive innovation that reduces costs in the long term. At its best, it can open the way to new market opportunities and help the company mitigate increasing environmental and social risks.