Sustainability and the Future of the Meetings Industry

Here is an excerpt from the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol

By 2020 the meetings industry must create a more sustainable path if it is to validate its societal license to operate, to deliver value to clients and to provide good return to its shareholders.

The Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Coalition is comprised of organisations who for years have worked to develop important improvements and innovations in sustainable business practices. Their independent, and collective aim to improve the meetings industry is mirrored in the stated objectives of the meeting industry’s only organisation focused exclusively on the development of sustainable events, the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC).

The GMIC envisions a transformed meeting and event industry driving towards sustainability which:
• Achieves strategic goals that serve the economic, environmental and social interests of all stakeholders.
• Incorporates the principles of sustainability into its management, organisation and reporting.
• Impacts positively on the local and global society through diversity and inclusivity.
• Promotes health and wellbeing, creativity and business effectiveness.

For the meetings industry to achieve this level of transformation major short-, mid- and long-term actions will be required. The key to achieving this transformation will be leadership and knowledge. The stakeholders of our industry must commit to engaged collaboration to share knowledge, to train the workforce and to include sustainability as part of measuring the success of any given event.

This calls for the meetings industry to address the following key areas:

Dematerialisation of the Value Chain: Realise the increased use of innovative technology to remove waste and increase efficiency.

Reduction of Carbon Emissions from Buildings: Over 40% of global emissions come from the built environment.  According to WTTC technical infrastructure efficiency projects have the capability to reduce global carbon emissions by over a third in the next 20 years.

Focus on Size and Location: On average more than 90% of carbon emissions for a large international event are produced by delegate flights. As part of the meeting design planners need to best careful select size and location of events to optimize business results with environmental impacts. Delegates should be motivated to use train where possible for instead of short-haul flights.

Improvement in Meeting Design: If a meeting does not satisfy objectives and deliver results, it is not sustainable. It is important in the event planning phase to consider better meeting design and architecture. Educational, networking and motivational needs and techniques must align with sustainable development principles to make meetings more fun and effective for delegates and organizers.

Motivate Lifestyle Changes: Current generations are becoming increasingly more urbanized, physically inactive and accustomed to high calorie diets. Event organisers can promote healthier lifestyles that create more sustainable people which in turn make more sustainable businesses.

Integration of Virtual Technology: TelePresence and holography technology will, increasingly, become part of the new hybrid meeting. Planners must quickly learn the differences in organisational strategy between the virtual and physical, and how to combine them for optimum effect. Technology has the power to make meeting content more inclusive and accessible to people from around the world: wherever they are and whenever they want to see the content.

Labour and Human Rights: Greater understanding and attention to social issues. A key example of this is the need for equal rights and diversity in the work environment. With an ever-increasing global workforce, the successful businesses will be the ones that embrace diversity, building multi-cultural, multi-aged, multigendered and multi-skilled teams.

Measurement and Reporting: Demand and requirement for measurement disclosure, certification and balanced reporting of events, destinations, venues, hotels and suppliers will continue to grow in importance.

Sustainability will continue to be a focus for corporations, governments and associations. This will accelerate the adoption of sustainability into the meetings industry. One clear challenge is education. Only with greater awareness and knowledge can the many talented professionals in the meetings industry work together to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges faced by mankind.

The protocol shares the learning and education gained in the organising of COP15 and many other large meetings. It provides a strategic approach to addressing today’s problems with tomorrow’s vision. It is an organic framework that will be evaluated.