A carbon reduction study released in mid-December shows how businesses and other organizations can connect the dots between their day-to-day greenhouse gas reduction programs and the sweeping, ambitious targets that will be needed to prevent runaway climate change.
Category: The Energy Mix
Earlier this month, a colleague shook up my thinking about green meetings with an idea that could shift any organization’s sustainability program in a more practical direction.
And here’s the twist: the surest way to simplify our industry’s approach to sustainability might be to sharpen our focus on the toughest sustainability issues we face.
Thanks for this blazing insight go to Babs Nijdam, president of GMIC’s Netherlands Chapter and business development manager at Amsterdam RAI. Over coffee during World Conference on Lung Cancer, where we produced the onsite daily, Nijdam talked about the ins and outs of building the facility’s sustainability program.
At first, the challenges sounded familiar. When most meeting professionals first focused on sustainability, we did what we do whenever an onsite problem arises: we built checklists. Like most facilities and planners, the RAI started with visible, tactical improvements that looked relatively easy and cost-effective, measures like onsite recycling to reduce waste volumes. They still ran into practical problems, like the large number of attendees who comingle their waste, and found pushback in surprising places.
To their credit, they carried on. But what will happen if the RAI ever gets to the last item on the last checklist? That’s when they’ll find, like all the rest of us, that they missed the four biggest issues we face:
1. Our carbon footprint
2. Our draw on severely endangered ocean resources
3. A growing global food shortage
4. Our potential to leverage meeting supply chains and economic impact to drive deeper green practices.
It isn’t that the checklist items that form the guts and the glory of North America’s newly approved APEX/ASTM standards will make no difference on the big-picture issues. The fundamental problem, after all these years, is that we still have no clear idea of what success looks like. For example, how will the standards bring us to the 80% carbon reduction we must achieve by 2050?
And meanwhile, if the lists are never-ending and open a facility or meeting to constant, picky criticism, the mix of customer impatience and in-house frustration will become a sure recipe for sustainability fatigue.
Here’s where a more complicated approach can simplify your life. What carbon, oceans, food security, and supply chains have in common is that we can address them behind the proverbial curtain, without changing the participant experience, unless it’s by improving it.
Most clients won’t mind whether a good wine is sourced locally or flown in from Argentina, but the local supplier might offer a lower carbon footprint and leave more of your dollar in the host community. And who would object to travelling by rail and bypassing the joys of air travel?
These are changes that will delight the vast majority of our clients once they’re in place. But they’re far enough behind the front lines that they mostly require no prior approval—you wouldn’t consult them on the purchase of a new dishwasher or laundry machine, whether or not it was the most efficient one on the market. Which means we can just get on with making our operations vastly more sustainable, rather than tying ourselves down in endless explanations, justifications, and negotiations.
When sustainable meeting initiatives come from the PR office, rather than the engineering department, they have to be visible to clients from the start because the press release is the point of the exercise. But if the easy wins achieve less and generate more resistance, maybe it’s time to look at what we can achieve by shifting our gaze to the changes that matter most.
When I stepped onto the construction site for the new Ottawa Convention Centre late last week, during an advance tour for members of the OCC Advisory Board, I saw the end of a 15-year campaign that burned through at least three generations of local industry volunteers.
The original Ottawa Congress Centre opened in 1984, and it wasn’t long before the demands of a modern meeting exceeded the available space. Local meeting professionals worked long and hard to make the economic case for a bigger facility, chronicling the meetings that had gone elsewhere and the jobs and tax revenues Ottawa had lost as a result. As early as 1999, MPI’s Ottawa chapter also urged OCC management to build the facility to a high green standard.
My MeetingsNet column this week looks at what the OCC is achieving through smart design—for the functionality that meeting planners expect, and the sustainable operations the industry needs. Both parts of that improvement will bring new business to the community for decades to come.
A new, sustainable product