Monday, 31 December 2007

Six Sins of Greenwashing

According to TerraChoice approximately 30% of professional purchasers are subject to green procurement policies (EcoMarkets 2005). This means that it is critically important for approximately one third of us to research and buy products and services for work based on how kind they are to the earth. Yet those of us who do this are often vexed by companies claiming to be green who we inevitably find out are not earth-friendly in practice.

This practice is commonly referred to as green-washing. Destinations promoting themselves as green who are not practicing sustainability are at risk of being exposed by professional planners on the watch for those who manage sustainably what they market as green: namely the cities they represent.

Those destinations interested in avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing are encouraged to be mindful of what TerraChoice calls the Six Sins of Greenwashing:
  1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-off. That is fabulous you can provide organic produce but I would really prefer something local that does not need to be shipped 3000 km from farm to plate, thank you very much.
  2. The Sin of No-Proof. So....exactly what environmentally responsible cleaners do you use anyways? Can I see them?
  3. The Sin of Vagueness. I appreciate that you provide a zero-waste conference, but what does that really mean?
  4. The Sin of Irrelevance. Huh. That is a new one - I've never heard of a water conserving light bulb before.
  5. The Sin of Fibbing. But I thought you said you were a Green Seal certified hotel?
  6. The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils. That is great you planned a carbon neutral conference, but did you actually reduce any emissions?

TerraChoice's report highlights examples of the treacherous ethical ground often navigated by environmental managers when marketing a green product or service. Important to keep in mind in the process of marketing and managing a green destination are the following questions:
  • Are we being truthful in what we are promoting to our market?
  • Is complete and accurate information available to the meeting planner?
  • Is the green attribute we are promoting relevant environmentally, and to the buyer?
  • When highlighting one environmental asset are we mindful of our environmental shortcomings?
What is key is transparency and verification at all times to ensure the client is purchasing what is promised, and does not encounter any unexpected surprises once contracts have been signed.

To view TerraChoice's complete report on Greenwashing please visit their web site.

On the Lighter Side...

Alright. After feeling all gloomy about my carbon confession - a break in the seriousness for a minute.

Cheatneutral exposes the irony and silliness of carbon offsetting.

The golden rule: Reduce whenever possible.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Deadline Approching for Green Meetings Awards

The deadline for the 2008 IMEX/Green Meeting Industry Council Green Meetings Awards is rapidly approaching. January 15 is the final day nominations for the industry's highest green honours will be received. Entries are welcome in the following categories:
  • Commitment to the Community Award
  • Green Meetings Award
  • Green Exhibitor Award
  • Green Supplier Award

Entries for all the awards can be found on the IMEX web site.

2007 Award winners included Marriott Hotels International, The World Urban Forum 3, Sierra Business Summit and Visit London.

MICE Buyers Becoming Greener

A 2007 IMEX poll shows that conference organisers are becoming more receptive to - and in fact prefer - environmental strategies.

Highlights from the annual opinion poll of global meeting professionals include:
  • 73% of buyers would deliberately avoid destinations/venues known to have a poor environmental record. This is up 7% from 2006.
  • 75% of buyers take environmental considerations into account when planning a meeting or incentive program, compared to 67% in 2006.
  • Selecting a location close to attendees, recycling conference material and the availability of public transport were the most important environmental criteria for buyers.
  • 77% of buyers indicated the meetings industry will have to take the environment into serious account in future, up from 67% in 2006.
  • 49% saw merit to introducing an eco-tax on conferences, dropping 5% from 2006.

Buyers surveyed were highly concerned about the impact of transportation, indicating the following priorities in reducing the environmental impact of their events:
  • Picking a location in or around a city with good transportation options.
  • Providing convenient and timely transportation options that are low impact and offset.
  • Picking a city that is close to the majority of attendees.
  • Providing ride share mechanisms.

IMEX summarises the findings from their research:
The overall impression arising from this survey is that MICE specialists are now looking more eagerly for ways to apply environmental strategies. With an eye to the future these top buyers call for more case-studies of successful green programmes, suggest that environmental suppliers should be accredited, and propose that the industry should increasingly reward those destinations that are greenest by using them the most. This report concludes with a perceptive comment from the chairman of a leading business improvement agency. He writes: "I am no eco-warrior, but I think our industry should apply self-determined concern and action today for fear otherwise that it becomes and issue of consumer backlash in the future"

For the complete press release please visit the IMEX web site.

The IMEX Global Data Exchange encourages and facilitates the international dissemination of data and opinions on topics associated with the meetings industry. Material is collated from original surveys, published academic papers, insights derived from trade associations, and from the authorised work of commercial and other relevant professional bodies.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Carbon Confession

Ok - time to start a new tradition. My annual carbon confession. I'm not proud of it, but I'm owning and disclosing it in hopes I can address it better next year.

Air travel is a necessary evil of my job and a significant source of guilt for me. Can I justify the emissions when my goal is reducing the environmental impact of the industry I work in? I commit to asking the question each time I consider flying this year.....and I encourage you to as well.

  • Vancouver - Portland (x5) 4020km / 0.5 tonnes Co2
  • Vancouver - Frankfurt 16126km/1.8 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Newark 7798km / 0.9 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Philadelphia 7738km / 0.9 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Toronto 6688km / 0.7 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Taipei 18158km / 2.1 tonnes of CO2
  • Vancouver - Washington, DC 3088km / 0.4 tonnes CO2*
  • Washington, DC - Chicago 964km / 0.1 tonnes CO2*
  • Chicago - Vancouver 2853km / 0.4 tonnes CO2*
  • Vancouver - Fort Lauderdale 8960km / 1 tonne CO2
  • Vancouver - Ottawa 7104km / 0.8 tonnes CO2 Offset through Zerofootprint
  • Vancouver - Los Angeles 3482km / 0.5 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Nanaimo (x2) 220km / 0.1 tonnes CO2 Offset through

TOTAL: 87,199 km / 10.2 tonnes CO2

* One-way; all flights are return unless indicated one-way.
Calculations based on the flight calculator provided by The CarbonNeutral Company.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

BS 8901 Green Event Standard Launched

The long-awaited BSI Sustainable Event Management System has arrived.

According to the certification web site:

BS 8901 provides requirements for planning and managing sustainable events of all sizes and types.
BS 8901 encompasses the entire range of events ranging from large scale conferences and unique events such as the 2012 Olympics to music festivals and air shows. The standard is applicable throughout the sector supply chain encompassing venues, organizing companies and industry contracting firms and is aimed at the following groups:

  • Event organizers
  • Venues
  • Organizations and/or individuals in the supply chain.

BS 8901 provides guidance in the form of easy to understand practical information designed to assist the user to implement the requirements and those in event management to manage their environmental, financial and social risks and impacts spanning all aspects of event management.
BS 8901 will:

  • Help companies to improve sustainable performance within available budgets
  • Reduce carbon emissions and waste, improving the resource efficiency of the entire event supply chain
  • Present opportunities for more efficient planning and encourage the re-use of equipment and infrastructure. The standard covers:
  • Reduce environmental impacts such as carbon usage, waste management and effects on biodiversity
  • Improve social impacts such as community involvement and fair employment
  • Establish economic impacts such as local investment and long-term viability
Case studies of the standard can be found here.

Green Gift Guide for Meetings

So if Santa worked for a convention and visitor bureau and he wanted to send gifts to the good meeting planners where would he shop, assuming he was wearing his green suit?

Well, locally, of course. After all, the best gifts are home-made. Tap into local artisan collectives, public and farmers' markets, and galleries to find those unique pieces that authentically represent your destination while also supporting local businesses.

Of course, for the times when Green Destination Santa is busy there are some elves out there working hard to help source for sustainably-minded promotional products for your destination. is one such source, providing green, ethical and fairly-traded products for the meeting and incentive market.

Depending on your event or audience gifts from Ten Thousand Villages, which offer fairly traded handcrafts and donation gifts from around the world, may also be appropriate. Oxfam also offers unique "Unwrapped" gifts that provide donations to social projects throughout the world.

When it comes to seasonal cards and paper, source responsibly. Look for papers with post-consumer recycled content and vegetable based inks. Many suppliers of 'seeded' papers are also providing a unique alternative to promotional seasonal gifts where a simple card becomes a gift - the paper it is printed on able to be planted to grow everything from wildflowers to herbs. For further information visit Botanical Paperworks or Of the Earth.

With his reindeer-powered flight Santa's fuel source is greener than most and certainly renewable but for those of us in the travel and tourism industry we have to rely on kerosene and planes to get us there. In light of this, consider the gift of a healthier climate for your clients. Commit to plant trees, purchase renewable energy or invest in energy efficiency as your gift in the coming year to contribute to a healthier planet.

Gifts: What do they say about your Green Destination?

Maybe it is the Christmas consumerism blues or the feeling that my office is bursting at the seams with clutter, but I seem to be obsessed with 'stuff' of late.

A recent visit to a luxury property for a site inspection got me thinking about the challenge of the 'amenity'. It is always a delicate dance to be gracious in accepting - or declining - the gifts that are left by properties and destinations while on a site visit, while being mindful of the fact much of the 'stuff' I get is unneeded, and in some cases, offensive to my values.

In the meeting industry it has become an expectation that planners should be pampered, wooed and left with nice things that give a positive impression of a property and destination. Now don't get me wrong: I am not about to suggest doing away with the practice. After a long, delayed flight there is nothing that I would like more than some chocolate and a soak with a nice bath bomb that a hotel has been kind enough to gift to me. But what I would like to suggest is that amenity providers pay close attention to how their gifts reflect their properties, destinations and values and also be aware of the needs and values of the recipient.

At a recent stay in Portland the CVB was kind enough to leave me an amenity in my room. They had selected a book about Portland, a artistically designed re-usable cotton bag, some local chocolate and a hat made out of recycled pop bottles. I love my hat by the way. I wear it all the time. What impressed me was that the CVB was able to leave an impression, express their thanks I was there, and do it in a way that really fit with my individual values; green values. I felt they knew me - it made it personal.

I will contrast this with my arrival at the not to be named luxury property referred to above. When I arrived I found Belgian truffles, Fiji water, cut exotic fruit and a stream of fresh cut orchids across my bed. The display was beautiful, but very unmindful of my purpose in being on site: to conduct a site inspection for a green meeting. The gift was not local, sustainable or re-usable.

My intent is not to appear ungrateful for a gift, or suggest that amenities to planners should be done away with. My purpose is to encourage properties and destinations to consider how the gifts and amenities you provide positively represent and support your community and consider the needs and values of the recipient.

Shuttlecocks...'n Stuff

We have adopted the idea - particularly in the tradeshow field - that our delegate experience is tied to 'stuff'....bags, food, prizes, handouts, gimmicks, free pens, water bottles, sunglasses, in-room amenities. The list goes on. My recent favourite? A shuttlecock I received at a speed networking session. I don't even own a badminton racket.

A few years ago I rifled through two bags - two very full non-recycled content bags - of 'stuff' that returned to my house from E3, the annual computer and video game industry trade show. Inside the bag was the typical amount of paper and collateral - all glossy, full colour, no noted recycled content paper - along with a bunch of, well, junk: silly putty, Laura Croft desk figures, a Mario hammer and numerous other things that are sitting in a storage locker collecting dust in the basement of my condominium.

I recently attended a PCMA Green Meetings seminar in Ottawa where Genevi̬ve Leclerc, Manager Congress Operations - PCO division - JPdL РMontr̩al reported on how a she was able to reduce waste at a recent event to 9 ounces per person. The equivalent of 9 Smarties.

How was she able to do it?

Yes, she was able to find a destination and meeting suppliers who were able to recycle and compost waste materials that were produced at her event. But more importantly she paid attention to each opportunity in her decision making process that reduced what her delegates consumed.

What are you doing to reduce the stuff we use?

The Story of Stuff

Think about it. Do your part.

Green Meeting Conference: Helping to Get to Green

Well, silence on the blog should not be taken as a sign that things are not happening in the "Destination: Green" movement! In truth, there has been so much happening that time to maintain my blog has fallen to the bottom of the to do list of late, so time to catch up !

First update that is in order:
The Green Meeting Industry Council has announced the agenda for their annual conference. The GMIC's meeting is the only place where the depth and breadth of professionals in the sustainable meetings arena convene to meet. So if you are looking to get information, connect with leaders, innovators and peers in the industry and get your finger on the pulse of what is happening in this movement now is your chance.

Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference 2008
Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver, BC Canada
February 19 - 21, 2008

Highlights from the GMIC's 2008 Programme:
  • Keynote speaker Rohit Talwar will discuss the future of green meetings and sustainability and the imperative for us to think outside the "Four Walls" of our meetings.
  • Special optional pre-conference training seminar sponsored by IMEX Future Leaders Forum.
  • One on one mentorship forum with leading green meeting experts.
  • Update on the development of green meeting standards.
  • Educational seminars on sustainable food and beverage, green venues, carbon offsetting, measurement & benchmarking, communications & marketing and community projects.
  • Exhibition of green meetings ideas and products.
For further information visit the GMIC web site.