Is government regulation coming for meeting sustainability if we don't prove that we can regulate ourselves? Responsible gun owners and advocates are being asked to support new laws and limitations on access to and types of guns in America. Whether it is gun control or any other passion-fueled issue, Americans are concerned that any regulation will act as a “slippery slope” in the wrong direction (as they see it). If our industry doesn't come together on the issue of sustainability, we will find ourselves in the same position.
Large meetings and conferences (especially those with trade shows) produce a mind-blowing amount of waste. Consumption of energy and other resources really add up when you calculate the carbon footprint of all of the meetings and events that take place all over the world every day. At the same time, we are advocating for why it is important for people to send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so they can travel to these events to participate face-to-face.
Knowledge is power. In addition to measuring the achievement of the goals and objectives for your event, measure the carbon footprint as a cost. When you put this data together, you can show that either your event is still worth holding, even with the environmental impact, or you can show that reducing that impact is a goal for future programs. As long as you show it is a priority and you have an action plan to improve your outcomes, sharing that information will serve you well.
Sustainability should include all three P’s (people, planet and profit) but we tend to think of the planet when we say sustainability and often, it is the one that planners think is the hardest to implement. It all comes back to your goals and objectives. What is important to you and your organization? What is important to your stakeholders? Do you know who your stakeholders are? You might need to consider the public or society as stakeholders even though everyone in the world will not be attending your event.
People, planet and profit are all intimately connected. Show that you care about the environment and you will be rewarded by people who are not in your niche market, but who might be influential over your niche market. Show that you care about people (inside your organization, outside your organization, in your immediate community and the larger community) and your meetings and events will be more successful. You can also positively affect the planet by making a few financially motivated changes to your meeting or event.
For more information about environmental action plans for your events, check out the Green Meetings Industry Council. http://gmicglobal.site-ym.com/ GMIC offers a value packed membership and annual conference. Hopefully, our industry will be able to prove the value of face-to-face meetings while showing that we are capable of making strategic decisions to minimize the effect on people, planet and profit.