Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Business Case for a Green Event Destination

Do event planners care if the cities they meet in are sustainable?

I believe that they do. The real question, however, is do planners care to the degree they are willing to integrate it into their process for selecting host cities?

I am hunting for evidence daily to answer this question.

Anecdotally, there is proof of environmental criteria slipping into destination selection for both events and conferences.
  • The United States Green Building Council has selected several cities – Portland, Pittsburgh and Denver –to host their 13,000 delegate Greenbuild Expo in consideration of the LEED-certified green building projects present in these communities.
  • Other organizations such as the Ecological Society of America, National Recycling Coalition, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and United Universalist Association of Congregations have developed and include environmental information in their requests for proposals. UUA states “The General Assembly Planning Committee seeks to plan our meeting in concert with our shared values of responsibility, inclusivity, and equality. We demonstrate our institutional commitment to these values by actively working toward making our meeting more environmentally sustainable, by practicing care and concern for the issues related to accessibility, and by acting consistently within our constituency.”
  • Government agencies, including the Government of Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have standing policies and rules to support green purchasing of event and meeting services. Although this does not expressly require the selection of ‘green’ destinations, those destinations that can claim a diversity and depth of sustainable services are well positioned to earn business from the government sector.
  • Since 1994 Olympic bid cities have been evaluated on their ability to achieve the Three Pillars of the Olympic movement: sport, culture and environment.
  • The development of green event standards in the United Kingdom indicate a need and desire by event professionals to create market-based programs to affirm and assess their environmental practice.
Some statistical evidence is also emerging to support the business case for green event destinations:
  • 67% of planners indicate they take environmental considerations into account when planning a meeting or incentive program (IMEX, 2006)
  • 62% of planners think they or a colleague would avoid a destination or venue known to have a poor record of environmental issues (IMEX, 2006)
  • 60% of planners have selected a hotel for its known environmental program (IMEX, 2006)
  • 80% of planners feel the environment will become a bigger issue in the coming years (IMEX, 2006)
  • One in five Australians is considering abandoning travel due to its impact on global warming (TotalTravel.com)
The reality is destination selection is a complex process. Issues as diverse as costs, accessibility, venue and room availability, natural and cultural attractions and local volunteer support for an event or meeting are all considerations that factor into the process, each with varying importance for each meeting host.

Numerous reports and studies support the observation that accessibility, cost and safety remain the most critical destination selection criteria for planners (Crouch & Louviere, 2004; Watkins Research Group, 2004; McKinley, 2006). However, evidence also exists that factors such as sustainability can help to tip the scales in favour of a particular city were other competitive destinations criteria are being met (McKinley, 2006).

So do planners care? Of course – they are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. I believe their personal values are such that they want to pass on an earth that is intact to future generations. Do they care to the degree they are willing to decide in favour of a city that aligns with these sustainable values? There is increasing evidence that they do.

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