Monday, 26 July 2010

Facing up to Responsibilities

In the run-up to the World Cup in South Africa, there have been campaigns for improved access to water and sanitation, responsible tourism, promotion of basic education, some of which have been supported by the private sector and NGOs, and they have established a link between football, social responsibility and the respect of human rights.

Companies associated with the World Cup, as with other major sporting events, must ensure that workers they employ are treated fairly, and their rights to a fair wage, to organize, to bargain collectively, and against exploitation are respected. Manufacturers must ensure that in their supply chain there is no exploitation of workers in developing countries, and no use of exploitative child labour or forced labour. Construction companies, catering companies, and other service businesses should not encourage practices that restrict trading opportunities for small traders and other businesses. They should also make sure that they are not in any way complicit in trafficking of women or children.

The private sector needs to enter into dialogue with host governments, and governing bodies, such as FIFA, raising concerns of where companies’ responsibility to respect international human rights standards may be compromised by the states’ lack of willingness to protect its citizens. Ignorance or inaction are tantamount to complicity.

When apartheid ended in South Africa, it joined the international community of open, democratic countries. Such countries do not erect walls with their neighbours; nor do they prevent their poorest and vulnerable citizens from practicing their trade legally. The peaceful transition of South Africa was meant to be an example of removing barriers and opening frontiers.

Tear down those walls.

Excerpt from: World Cup South Africa 2010 - Facing up to Responsibilities. Steve Ouma, Institute for Human Rights and Business.

An eye-opening read for those interested in digging deep into the human rights issues associated with large-scale sporting events and the social responsibility obligations for destinations.

What would destination bidding requirements for human rights look like? What would be included? How would a destination respond to ensure concerns for things like housing, migrant workers, fair labour and human trafficking were addressed?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Destination Accessibility: Paying Attention?

And I'm not just talking about air connections.

ADA: it's one of those things we kind of take for granted in the USA. We assume that because the Americans with Disabilities Act is law that it is followed by the hospitality industry. Truth is, it is often something that is enforced by watchdogs and event planners who are diligent about ensuring their attendees have an accessible experience. And not the kind of experience that makes special accommodations to single out those with mobility issues as 'more burden' and 'less human'. It's about providing an equal and dignified event experience. (Shout out to Patti Cameron - thanks for being such an advocate and the teaching you do!)

How many destinations consider this? How many convention services managers have ever attempted to navigate from their convention centre to a hotel in a wheelchair, or a scooter? Or get on a bus? Cross a street? Find a table in a restaurant? If you haven't I suggest you do. It's an enlightening experience that provides you with a whole new perspective of how someone else views your city, and how welcoming it is.

The Opening Door has a lengthy list of accessibility guides for different destinations, some produced by CVBs and DMOs, others independently. Minneapolis also has a good guide that is a few years old, which was recently used for an event I attended. Vancouver and Whistler are also good examples. And if you thought bungee jumping was not an accessible attraction...think again:

Please comment with other helpful accessibility guides and examples! Don't forget this stakeholder in your event plans and your destination development!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Diverting from Diversion

Not to stray too far from the scope of my blog but I've had an itch about sustainable event measurement I'm needing to scratch.

For a number of years meeting planners and venues have been focusing on waste diversion as a key performance indicator for their events. A high percent diversion from landfill = good and a low diversion from landfill = not so good. I've become concerned that this is only telling part of the story, and feel the need to argue in support of other metrics that give a fuller picture of the waste issue.

Nancy Wilson recently shared some observations about this issue in a post on her blog: First Things First!

The inspiration for both our posts came as we considered some historical data for the Unitarian Universalist Association's General Assembly. We have complete waste, recycling and donation data for this event which has enabled us to confirm the following diversion from landfill:
  • Year 1: 18% diversion
  • Year 2: 50% diversion
  • Year 3: 76% diversion
A great story to tell, yes, but what about reduction?

On a deeper dive into the numbers collected we see in addition to a strong recycling rate, that UUA has reduced the total weight of materials landfilled, donated, recycled and composted by 75% over this three year period! Supporting the claim of reduction we can also look at the amount of materials shipped to show site, which has experienced a 20% reduction between Year 2 and 3. Credit is definitely due to the meeting host (go UUA!), and the suppliers they've worked with. In Years 2 and 3 their vendors have been more and more progressive from a sustainability perspective; reusing materials, purchasing in bulk and mandating reduced packaging. And that makes sense, after all, they've chosen them partially on that basis!

The point is: there are a variety of waste indicators we need to pay attention to. These different indicators help us know how the myriad decisions we make have an impact. So don't confuse waste diversion with waste reduction. Look a little deeper to see the whole story.

Worth it?

Well, the party's over. The dignitaries have left town, the fences are down, the bouncers have been paid off. The question remains: was it worth it?

Canadians will likely never have a clear picture if our investment of an estimated $1.1 billion in hosting the 2010 G8 and G20 summits was worth it. History shows that some agreements stick, but some do not; the bulk of negotiations having taken place before such Summits anyway, which afford the opportunity for quick meetings, hand-shakes and press-worthy photos. And the profile afforded to Canada in retrospect given protests is not likely the image marketers would hope for. After all, the event earned a travel advisory from the US Department of State urging American travelers to approach Toronto with caution.

Regardless of the issues before, during and after, the question remains for meeting managers and event destinations: is there a better way?

  • Is there a better way to use virtual and in-person meetings to their greatest advantage to support the purpose of international decision-making on significant issues?
  • What is the model to siting significant international political events and is a different approach needed?
  • Is it more responsible financially, environmentally and socially to select a consistent location where the guarantee of recurring meetings leads to more economical costs and predictable ways to host them?
  • Should host destinations bear the entire burden of securing events for international heads of state or is a cooperative model for funding security needed?
  • How can freedom of expression by those with relevant and important issues be guaranteed while ensuring safety and security for city residents against acts of violence and vandalism?
  • How can host country governments be held accountable to taxpayers for financial investments required to host the G8 and G20, or other Summits of this nature?
Accepting the fundamental economic model of meetings, I would be curious if Toronto or Huntsville would want to host these events again in light of the costs and protests, or if they would desire a different way? Making me wonder if indeed, they are worth it.

Related articles:
CBC: G20 protest violence prompts over 400 arrests
Globe & Mail: Billion-dollar G20 security cost not a ‘blank cheque,’ security czar argues
Toronto Star: Too early to tell if G8/G20 security costs worth it: budget watchdog

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Fired Up!

A couple of months back I posted about the issue of incineration and its implications for measuring event diversion. The lesson being to ask questions about what your convention destination and venue reports as diversion from landfill to ensure you can accurately understand and analyse your event waste stream. Make sure you confirm if your waste will be incinerated, and how that factors into diversion reporting.

I realise I didn't delve deeply into why this is important from an environmental perspective. To help shed light on this I'd like to share a recent article by Charlie Smith from the Georgia Strait, which dives deeper into the issue of incineration. The article is timely for the City of Vancouver as controversy continues to ensue about a plan to divert 500,000 tonnes of trash to a waste-to-energy facility. A paper published by seven University of British Columbia environmental science students has drummed up increased media attention about how the city is dealing with garbage. Their thesis: reduce first and look at other alternatives.

A great read for those interested in understanding some of the issues with incineration from the perspective of a destination considering this path.

Read more: Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy incinerator opponents fired up for a fight.
Watch more:

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Standing on the Side of Love

It's an eloquent statement, describing a common and fundamental value of Unitarian Universalists. Everyone is has a right to equality. Everyone has worth, and is worthy of compassion. Everyone should be treated with respect.

This statement was tested at the UUA's General Assembly, held last month in Minneapolis, MN. It was tested in a way that regardless of your faith, has relevance for event sustainability.

To provide context, in May 2010, UUA's Board was faced with a hard decision upon receiving confirmation that Arizona law SB1070 had been passed. With their annual General Assembly scheduled for June 2012 in Phoenix, AZ should they boycott? Or should they go?

Under SB1070, which is scheduled to go into effect in August 2010 throughout Arizona:

"...police would be required to ask any person already detained for another reason for proof of legal residence if police had a “reasonable suspicion” that the detained person could be in the country illegally. Law officers could also arrest anyone “if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” In addition, the law allows citizens to bring lawsuits against officials or agencies that they believe are not enforcing the law to its fullest extent and implicates legal residents who transport or “harbor” undocumented friends or relatives.

Reaction to the law has been swift and strong. U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the law on April 23, describing it as “misguided.” In an interview published in the Los Angeles Times on April 28, Obama said, “What I think is a mistake is when we start having local law enforcement officials empowered to stop people on the suspicion that they may be undocumented workers, because that carries a great amount of risk that core values that we all care about are breached.” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also condemned the law, as did Homeland Security Secretary—and former Arizona governor—Janet Napolitano.

In a statement released April 23, UUA President Peter Morales said, “Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 undermines everything our nation stands for. Under the provisions of this law, members of my own extended family could be targeted and detained, even though we have been American citizens for generations.”
Full article.

Facing a potential loss of $615,000 the UUA Board approved an initial resolution in May 2010 to withdraw from contracted obligations to host the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, AZ, and relocate to another destination. The motion was to be voted on by UUA delegates at the General Assembly in Minneapolis, June 26, 2010.

But a lot can happen in two months when in addition to standing on the side of love you also uphold another principle of Unitarian Universalism: honouring the democratic process. After two months of observing virtual and in-person debate I sat anxiously in an at-capacity Plenary Hall, awaiting the verdict 3,000 UUA delegates on the issue.

The plenary discussion began with the following video:

The verdict: resounding support of a revised resolution to host a "Justice" General Assembly in Phoenix in June 2012.

Regardless of my personal opinion on the issue, never have I witnessed such a deep and broad expression of stakeholder engagement in resolving an event sustainability issue. I look forward to joining UUA at their 2012 event in Phoenix and honouring their mandate to "Stand on the Side of Love".

Find the time to have your say!

Funny how it seems everything happens at once. Last month ASTM wrapped up balloting on the latest round of Green Meeting standards. This summer national working groups are reviewing the latest Committee Draft of the proposed ISO 20121 Standard Sustainability in Event Management, working hard to get their feedback included in advance of the next international working group meeting in September 2010. In addition the public consultation for the Event Sector Supplement of the Global Reporting Initiative wraps up August 3.

I really should have posted about this all at least two months ago. These three initiatives are long overdue and have huge implications for sustainable event management and destinations. Before beating myself up too badly though, I have to acknowledge that the reason I'm tardy is that I've been buried in projects. Only now am I digging myself out from working my events to tap back into my blog, and updating it to reflect what is going on in the area of policy development for event sustainability.

My situation leads me to a fundamental question: How sustainable are standards for sustainable events?

I support the need for standards in event sustainability. Consistency, transparency and a universal rule-book are sorely needed. But as I look at myself and my colleagues I have to ask: can we expect people to actually do what is required of standards? I don't mean can we go paperless, or can we recycle, or do away with bottles. Of course we can. The checklist and action is really the easy part. I mean can we and our project budgets afford the time and human resources to research, document, audit and report to the degree required to live up to these various policies? Some would say we have to, we can't afford not to. I might be inclined to agree as I look at the endless list of environmental and social issues that scroll through the newswire everyday. But it is a valid question, with significant implications for all event professionals.

This will be a key thought in my mind as I review and participate in each of these processes. I urge you all to do the same, and carefully consider what is required when you read through each and every aspect. Also ask: how does all this fit together to influence and improve what I do? How will it shift responsibility in my organization? How will it change procurement, contracting, decision-making and post-event follow-up?

Standards are needed. And in reviewing them we have a responsibility to not be careless. We need to ensure they are meaningful, credible and strong while also thinking about the practicalities of what living up to them requires.

So take the time to participate. Read. Talk to your colleagues. Comment. We need everyone to provide input if we are to move forward in achieving the fundamental intent: a sustainable event.

And for those of you who are a little cynical about the whole green meetings standards process just remember what my Dad used to say about getting out to vote: Giving your input now gives you the right to pat yourself on the back or complain later!