Procuring meetings and events the “green way” adds value to CSR
As defined by the Green Meeting Industry Council, “a green meeting incorporates environmental considerations throughout all stages of the meeting in order to minimize the negative impact on the environment.”
“Greening” of an event is the process of integrating eco-friendly decision-making into the production of an event, starting from planning to execution. It incorporates sustainable development practices in all the stages of event management. It starts at the conceptualization stage and involves all the key stakeholders, such as buyers, organizers, venues, sub-contractors and suppliers. Energy saving, waste management, recycling, paperless virtual event management and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions are various ways to produce a “green event”.
About a decade ago, only a handful of Fortune 500 companies used to issue sustainability reports. At present, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer an obligation to the corporates; it is an integral part in the functioning of the organization. Corporates consider CSR as a societal investment which helps in increasing profits, building reputation, and building healthier communities. They have started incorporating “green policies” in their daily operations. Changes are being made to the offices, factories, warehouses and society as a whole, to make it more eco-friendly.
In this article, the following questions relating to “green events” will be answered:
- What are the environmental challenges faced by the world in the current scenario?
- How do events affect the environment?
- Why producing “green event” is important?
- What are the best practices in “greening of an event”?
- What are the steps involved in producing such an event?
- Which greening practices the stakeholders should consider while producing such an event?
- What are the areas impacted by “green events”?
- Who are the suppliers who organize “green events”?
- What is the role of Green Meeting Industry Council?
Need for incorporating “greening policies” in meetings and events
Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions increased by 80 percent since 1970 and the earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by nearly 1 degree Celsius in the past 50 years.
According to environmental specialists, natural disasters have tripled since 1980s. Frequent intense droughts and storms, changing rainfall patterns, rising of sea level, rise in temperature of sea surface, acidic sea water, melting of Arctic ice, glaciers and permafrost, frequent heat waves and cold spells are some effects of the climate change.
Intergovernmental panel on climate change has advised that if warming is not limited to 2 degree Celsius, then there is a high risk of catastrophic climate change.
In United Nations climate change conference, held in Paris in December 2015, a commitment to curb global warming to 2 degree Celsius was reached.
Under the agreement, a consensus from every country was taken to implement its own climate action plan that will be reviewed in 2018. Support will be provided to poor countries to cope with their GHG emission reduction.
Effect of events on environment:
Each year, thousands of meetings, conferences and events are held around the world. International events have significant impact on the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the host country or city. These events, at times, could have a detrimental impact on the environment. Certain events deplete natural resources with excessive use of water and energy. Large amount of waste, air-pollution and carbon emissions are by-products of such events. Other factors that contribute to GHGs include flights, accommodation and transportation.
However, the manner in which events are produced can be altered to minimize the detrimental impact on the environment.
Importance of green events
Green Events encourages sustainable living practices. A balance among the following ensures sustainability:
While organizing a “green event”, the following practices should be considered by the stakeholders:
Procurement of goods and services is one of the important activities in an event. Eco-procurement is the process which includes the following:
- Purchasing goods which are not harmful to the environment
- Procurement of local goods and services reduces transportation cost and supports the economic development of the region
- Considering alternatives which will help in waste minimization
- Sourcing of venue, transport, vendors and other services, all follow this meticulous process
Waste minimization and management
Waste generation is a by-product of any event. Event organizers are trying to spread awareness and bring about behavioral change. Steps in waste management are as follows:
- Reduction in the amount of waste created
- Recycling of waste
- Reduction in toxicity so that there is no adverse effect on environment and health
- Disposal of non-recyclable waste in a proper manner
Freshwater is a scarce resource. Consumption of freshwater has doubled over the century as compared to the population growth. It is used in industries, households and for other commercial purposes. Water conservation policies are required in green events to spread awareness on wise utilization of water
Electricity is generated from non-renewable fossil fuels. Encouraging energy efficiency and use of renewable energy should be considered in planning, operation, management and maintenance of Green events. Energy-efficient appliances should be used. The manner in which a technology is used also affects energy efficiency. Even the best appliances and technologies can be used in an inefficient way
Emissions in an event can be reduced in the following ways:
- Reduction in air travel: Through video conferencing and tele conferencing air travel can be curtailed
- Planning of transportation: It can be planned in such a way to reduce carbon emission. Example: availing airport transfer or car-sharing facilities using low emission vehicles
- Promoting alternate energy: Use of RECs, biodiesel, solar panels and other renewable source of energy at the events
Social and Economic Development
Green events help in social and economic development of the local community as well apart from the environmental aspects. Host community can be empowered by procuring local goods and services, employing local people, skills training and considering human health in the whole process
Recycling of waste is one of the most pursued greening actions and has a visible positive impact. Since it is not easy to execute, the following facts need to be considered:
Types of Waste:
- Recyclable: Items that can be recycled such as glass, paper, steel and plastic
- Non-recyclable: Items that cannot be recycled such as stickers, photographs, cling wrap, greasy paper and contaminated waste
- Organic or biodegradable waste: Items that come from plant or animal sources that can be broken down such as vegetable peels, tea bags and leftover food
- E-waste: Electronic wastes such as batteries
Separation at source: Providing different bins for different types of waste
- Twin bin system: Each for recyclable and non-recyclable items
- Multi bin system: Different colored bins for different type of waste
- Back-of-house separation: Recyclable items are separated
- Off-site separation: Recyclable items are separated at Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and not at the site
- Composting: Waste is processed in the presence of oxygen and fertilizers are produced which are helpful to plants
- Landfill site: When the waste is not treated, it ends up in a landfill site
Green electricity or green power is generated from renewable sources
- Wind power
- Solar power
- Hydro power
- Wave power
- Tidal power
- Landfill gas
- Waste incineration
- Carbon footing of an event: It is the total amount of CO2emission with respect to the energy consumed, waste accumulated, transportation and other activities in an event
- Carbon neutral event: Activities in an event are planned in such a way that carbon emission is reduced. Through carbon offsetting program, behavioral changes are encouraged to control emission of GHGs
- Carbon offsetting: Initiatives taken to balance carbon emissions such as making donations to projects on reduction of GHGs, planting of trees and other such initiatives
- Carbon contribution: To reduce the carbon footprint of a person or an event, an amount is paid
Steps in implementing greener events
Green event checklist
Green event best practices can be implemented in all stages of event management by venues, sub-contractors, suppliers and event organizers, regardless of the type and magnitude of the event. The key focus areas that help in minimizing the negative impact on the environment and natural resources and have a positive influence on social and economic development are as follows:
- Venues and accommodation
- Food and beverages
- Marketing, PR and production
- Others: audiovisual and information technology, decor, entertainment, registration
The Green Meeting Industry Council is a non-profit organization. It is a membership-based professional organization which provides educational resources to planners, suppliers, and venues aspiring to meet the demands of organizations for sustainable meetings.
Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) has become a Council of the Convention Industry Council. It has a specific charter and mandate to recommend, support and educate around sustainability in the meetings and events industry.
GMIC is the leading source for resources on sustainability. Global meetings and events community are relying on GMIC on sustainability standards. The Council provides education, recognition of best practices, advocacy for international sustainable event standards and community support through chapters and partners.
Companies are adopting green measures not only in meetings and events, but also in in their offices such as minimizing use of paper, recycling waste and using green electricity. Top Fortune 500 companies all use renewable energy.
Decisions on greening practices and policies are taken at the top management level and are discussed in detail with the procurement team. Together, they decide on the innovative techniques and technologies to be pursued. Once the strategies are formulated, they are transferred to the executive team for execution. Accordingly, awareness on environmental issues and measures taken are passed down to the participants. Value of each initiative is communicated so that each one of them can incorporate those measures in their daily lives to save the planet from various adversities.
Though most of the companies still follow conventional methods as far as meetings and events are concerned, they have become more conscientious in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) objective. As a step in that direction, most of the companies are opting for “green policy” in their day-to-day activities and this trend is gaining momentum.
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