It was an issue that Green Meetings Industry Council members Judy Kucharuk and Elizabeth Henderson pondered together one day while waiting at an airport and one for which they found a remedy: the Bl!nk presentation.
Tagged: Elizabeth Henderson
If like so many this week, you are thinking about what constitutes a top influencer in the meeting/event industry you may want to join Monday’s #eventtable chat entitled, Meeting/Event Industry Influencers: Who Are They, Really? at 3 pm est on Twitter.
The story is spreading like wildfire this weekend: Successful Meetings publishes a list of top meetings industry influencers that includes 12 men, one insect, and no women.
Industry icon and influencer Joan Eisenstodt responds with a call to action and a new Twitter hashtag, #boyzandbugs. Then our friends and strategic partners Elizabeth Henderson and Mariela McIlwraith, Calgary- and Vancouver-based principals of Meeting Change, publish their own post that explains why the Successful Meetings list was wrong in principle, wrong on strategy and practice, and wrong for anyone who cares about the future health of the industry.
To recognize the importance of this conversation and help keep the momentum going, we are refocusing our #eventtable chat on Monday, April 16 at noon Pacific/3 PM Eastern/9 PM CET. We’re setting it up as an open table to talk about the issues Mariela and Elizabeth raise in their post—how any list of industry influencers could leave out the 80% who are women, and what we can all do to prevent a repeat.
What’s the big deal about gamification for events? Find out at the next #eventtable Twitter chat Monday, March 5 at 3 pm est when our guest will be Elizabeth Henderson of MeetingChange.
Of the three pillars of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social—the social dimension is often the toughest to define, measure, and translate into a realistic action plan.
But there might be a way for meetings to help solve that problem.
I’ve often heard engineers, technologists, and economists comment that it’s easy enough to see the links between the economy and the environment. More and more, they’re acknowledging that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.
But all of this social stuff? It’s too soft, too fuzzy, too hard to define. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, they say, so don’t even try.
Meeting professionals often take a different route to a similar conclusion. We’re adept at measuring our economic impact when we go onsite, less so at linking our meetings back to the communities that host them.
Yes, we organize community service projects that deliver benefits to host cities, motivation for participants, and PR for our organizations. I’ve attended some of those programs, written about others, and they create glorious, triumphant, shining moments.
But those moments pass, everyone goes home, and the communities wake up the next morning to see that not much has really been achieved.
We may be able to do more.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Confessions of a Radical Industrialist by Ray Anderson, founder and chair of Interface, Inc. He recounts a presentation by Majora Carter, an environmental justice consultant in the South Bronx, whose community had been on the short end of every economic and environmental decision: if there was a highway to be built, or a waste dump or power plant to be sited, the South Bronx bore the brunt.
When Anderson heard Carter’s talk, a connection crashed into place. “The South Bronx was surrounded by some of the biggest, richest markets for Interface’s products,” he wrote. “Where a lot of new carpets go in, a lot of old ones come out. A recycling facility located close to a resource like that ought to make pretty good business sense.”
With those words, Anderson used sustainability to connect business and community in a way that served both. The same line of thought can and should apply to meetings.
“Most community service programs at conferences are transactional, not transformational, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says corporate social responsibility (CSR) specialist Elizabeth Henderson, chief sustainability strategist at Meeting Change. “It just means that what usually happens is a donation of time, money, or in-kind goods that can be measured very easily.”
However, “to create something that transforms both the organization and the community, it gets a little harder. This kind of strategic CSR program won’t likely be a one-off, like most conference activities are. To be transformational, there needs to be a give and take, where both organizations learn from each other and are better able meet their strategic objectives as a result.”
Linking a community service project to a meeting’s environmental, economic, and social footprint would mean understanding its local impact—based on the resources it consumes, as well as the business or association activity it supports. Closing that loop would bring our meetings closer to the communities that host them, while turning every meeting into an opportunity to learn better, more sustainable practices.
By the end of this week, the 192 countries represented at the Copenhagen Summit may or may not reach a global deal to control climate change and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.
But whether or not humanity rises to the challenge, the science doesn’t lie. With or without an agreement, this is the moment for industrialized nations to set a course to cut their carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Like every other industry, meetings and events will have to be a part of that solution.
My column this week on MeetingsNet touches on the catastrophic consequences meetings will face if climate change is allowed to continue unabated. It concludes with the immediate, practical steps that meeting professionals can take to reduce onsite carbon footprints, based on e-interviews with a half-dozen of the industry’s leading sustainability specialists.
But the longer-term journey toward a truly sustainable meetings industry will take decades, not months, to complete. Here are some of the steps our industry panel foresaw along the way.
Elizabeth Henderson, Chief Strategist, Down2Earth Sustainable Event Strategists
The effort to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint will face “resistance from destinations and suppliers that depend on meetings, events, and other forms of business tourism, like incentives,” Henderson said. Sustainability initiatives will have to navigate “the simple inertia of not wanting to change a model that has worked well in the past, lack of knowledge of potential impacts, and the need to identify, measure, and report impacts.”
Longer-term carbon reductions will depend on fundamental design changes for conference and convention centres, hotels, and other venues, universal use of environmental standards, standardized measurement and reporting, industry and organizational benchmarking, and new expectations about the registration bags, printed materials, and other giveaways that participants receive onsite. Henderson said carbon measurement will have to drill down to specific meeting components (transportation, energy, water, waste, food and beverage, and the broader meetings supply chain), so that organizations can meet their onsite goals and objectives within their target carbon footprint.
Marge Anderson, Associate Director, Energy Center of Wisconsin
With a deal in Copenhagen, energy efficiency will become an even bigger economic winner than it is today. If carbon cap and trade becomes a reality, “utilities will be taxed for their emissions and pass the costs on to customers based on their electricity demand,” Anderson said, so “wasting electricity will begin to cost more than what you pay for a kilowatt-hour.”
With the right price signals in place, the future of meeting facilities will include heating and cooling systems that are re-engineered to capture waste heat, solar hot water, and control systems to make better use of lighting, heating, and cooling. “Demonstrating environmental leadership might look like getting a facility LEED certified, installing a green roof, recycling water on property if your facility is in a drought area, and helping guests and users modify their own energy use.”
Midori Connolly, Principal, Pulse Staging
Even in the short term, audio-visual companies can cut power consumption 50% by replacing plasma screens with LCD and, eventually, LED monitors. They can also cut costs and carbon by working with local production partners and “shipping fewer, fuller loads, scheduling delivery and pickup more carefully, and using smaller vehicles when possible.”
Over the longer term, AV companies can introduce smart programming technology to track actual energy consumption when equipment is onsite. But at some point, communication will be just as important as hardware. “We desperately need to work on awareness,” Connolly said. “By explaining how much cooler our new equipment operates, we can work with venues to reduce cooling needs, then measure those team results.”
Sarah Champoux, Environmental Director, Green Ride Global Inc.
For transportation providers, the first steps to carbon reduction include anti-idling measures, driver education, and regular maintenance for vehicles, Champoux said. Companies can also reduce electricity consumption in their facility operations, encourage ride-sharing and public transit for employees, and use low-carbon modes (rail, rather than air) for intercity business travel.
With these measures, a transportation company can hope to reduce its carbon footprint by 20% over five years, although “getting compliance from all staff and drivers can be a difficult feat,” Champoux said. “Monitoring, measuring, and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can also be difficult without a third-party verifier who follows the most current environmental standards and protocols.”
Nancy Wilson, Principal, MeetGreen
The meetings industry “will have to work collectively” to achieve the carbon reductions that would result from a real deal in Copenhagen. “Sustainable meetings will be the norm,” Wilson said, with hotels and convention centres hosting virtual meetings for communities, airlines moving more swiftly to develop biofuel technology, rail emerging as an accepted travel alternative, and local food and products used routinely.
Megan Rooksby, Procurement Specialist, Maxvantage Meetings
Long-term carbon reductions will depend on government regulation, widely-accepted industry standards and certification, and leadership from meetings firms that are prepared to “drive the shift toward sustainability and carbon reductions,” Rooksby said.
“We still see corporations on the fringe, reviewing surveys that still place sustainability on the back burner,” she said. “Many of them conclude that if their customers don’t have sustainability on their radar, it must not be a priority right now. But where is the vision? Where are the corporate leaders who recognize sustainability as a competitive advantage that will deliver innovation and transform the industry as we know it?”
Investing in innovation can seem risky in uncertain times, but the opportunity is out there for any company that can demonstrate the return on investing in carbon reductions as well as cost savings. “We’re waiting for a global leader to sincerely and transparently lead the charge and seize competitive advantage,” Rooksby said.