Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Brand New Bike...

Thanks to a recommendation from Denise Taschereau at Fairware I recently discovered the Shift Report. The Report presents insight into what sustainability issues really matter to people. Conscientious Innovation - the producers of the report - help companies to use this knowledge to realize the business opportunity in sustainability.

So what sustainability issues are most important? Topping CI's list includes things like:
  • Feeling connected to friends, family and community
  • Sense of well being
  • Balanced life
  • Being paid a living wage
  • Employer treatment of employees
Still important but near the bottom of the list:
  • Organic
  • Environmentally friendly products
  • Climate Change
  • Global warming
We can relate, right? I mean, we care about climate change, but the intensity of our involvement spikes when we look at the faces of 11,000 residents of Tuvalu whose country may drown in the South Pacific when sea levels rise. We connect with them, empathize with them, want to ensure their well-being and hopefully, as a result, we act for them.

It's interesting to analyze our sustainable event actions relative to the Shift Report's insight. Is your event or destination acting on these kinds of issues?

Many events and destinations have started at the bottom of this list. Event planners are counting carbon, buying local and organic, and choosing more energy efficient, climate-friendly venues and hotels. CVBs are responding by providing carbon offset options and inventorying sustainable venues, hotels and community features to communicate how these add value of their destination product. Don't get me wrong - these are not bad things! The greatest step, after all, is to get started. It just may not be the best thing if you're looking to have the biggest impact on your stakeholders, if you 'Shift' your thinking.

By default we pay attention to the first item on the Shift list to a degree: we're holding events that can connect people to people, after all. But do the experiences we create really make people feel connected to each other and the destination?

I recently took part in a very cool event experience in Portland, OR, that made me feel both. RunBrainRun engages conference and corporate teams in fun, challenging exercises that build bikes for local youth. Our team (Go Ruff Riders!) was made up of event professionals from throughout the country, both planners and suppliers. The activity instantly forced us to collaborate in a way that set aside all agendas and differences in backgrounds. We were there to have fun, work hard and well...try to figure out how to not disappoint the kid we knew would be getting our bike! After an hour of rushing, cheering and figuring out how to do things like attach a bike pump to a cross bar we were done, and presented our accomplishment to Jake, the young boy who was to be the proud owner of our new bike. Hands down the most rewarding moment of my whole week was seeing the grin on his face as we handed him his helmet and bike lock.

This is the memory I'll take away from this event and destination: the great time I had with my peers, the gift we were able to give one person and the smile he all rewarded us with. Thanks Travel Portland for making the shift to thinking sustainably. Thanks Ruff Riders for the laughs and fun! And of course, thanks Jake.

For more information on the Shift Report visit Conscientious Innovation.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Open Sourcing Objectives

I'm feeling like I missed the mark with my peers at the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference recently. I led a session about Sustainable Event Objective Setting with GMIC Incoming President Paul Salinger. Our task was to help our fellow attendees craft some clear goals for case study projects they had been assigned as part of the conference theme "Game On". In reviewing the objectives crafted for the studies Paul summarized it quite simply: We all need to get better. It's bothering me, so thought I'd dust off and try another approach!

There are many project management resources out there that provide helpful guidance about objective-setting generally. I won't repeat them here, but share some informal lessons I've learned work best when strategising about event sustainability. Would also invite others to share their perspectives!
  • The basic formula that has worked well for me is Vision = (Objectives + Indicators + Targets) Time. Remember an objective is about transformation. It should set you on a path to achieving your vision in incremental steps. It is an active statement about how you want to change. Use verbs to describe it (reduce, improve, increase, eliminate, etc.).
  • Vision is critical. You might have a vision already, or need to create it. Sometimes an existing vision may need to be interpreted to focus in on sustainability and event applications. The critical point: create consensus around a common, concise mission statement that describes your ultimate destination. This might be a one sentence description of the kind of event experience or company you want. John Furlong's vision of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as "Canada's Games" is a great example of this.
  • Don't neglect measurement. Objectives without indicators and targets are a bit like trying to lose weight, without stepping on a scale. For every objective decide how you'll track it, and what level of performance you want to achieve. Don't be afraid establish a baseline as your first target if you're really not sure what level of performance is possible. When you set indicators and targets keep in mind what kind of data you can collect consistently and compare over time across events. These kind of indicators will be the most valuable to you.
  • Participation is key. Collective goal setting translates into collective ownership. We are much more likely to take responsibility for something we've created and have a stake in, so involve staff, vendors, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees.
  • Set boundaries. Biting off too much too soon is a recipe for burnout. If water related issues are most important start there. If human health is a priority use menu planning and eliminating toxic materials as a first step. If it's necessary to save money use that as a filter. Or start with objectives that address your most immediate issues and problems. Just start. Somewhere, anywhere. And once you've achieved your goal, stretch it, and your boundary.
  • Be SMART. Once you've drafted an objective ask yourself a series of questions. Is it specific and clear? Can it be measured? Is it attainable based on factors that are within your control? Are resources in place to make the objective realistic? What's the time frame? Adjust and refine the objective to make sure these questions are answered.

Sustainable event objectives are as unique as your event project and you. Get creative. Personalize them. Stretch them. Some good objectives I've seen that touch on social, financial and environmental aspects include the following. Note targets are intended as hypothetical examples and not guidance on what you should strive for - set targets that make sense for you!

Reduce event venue waste production, energy and water use.
  • Indicators: Kilograms of waste produced per attendee, kWh of energy use per attendee, litres of water used per attendee.
  • Targets: Less than 1.5 kg per attendee, Less than 80 kWh energy use per attendee, less than 40 L water per attendee.
  • Variation: Stretch the boundary to include catering and hotels.
Reduce attendee carbon emissions from air and ground transport, venue and hotel use.
  • Indicators: Pounds of carbon dioxide emissions produced per attendee.
  • Targets: Under 700 lbs per attendee.
  • Variation: Add an objective to offset those attendee emissions that are not able to be reduced by 100%.
Improve host hotel compliance with contracted sustainability criteria.
  • Indicators: Percent of hotels used complying with each contract criterion, Number of non-conformities reported by event management and attendees.
  • Targets: 100% compliance with 20 criteria contracted, 10 non-conformities maximum (10% decrease from previous year).
  • Variation: Stretch the vendor boundary to measure this for catering, decorators, venues and other suppliers.
Improve attendee perception of sustainable event actions by organizers.
  • Indicator: Attendee evaluation rating about event sustainability.
  • Targets: 4.5/5 rating.
  • Variation: Add a question to evaluations that also invites feedback on practices attendees would like to see, enabling future targets to be set. If you're an event supplier, substitute 'attendee' with 'client'.
Generate positive media coverage of event sustainability.
  • Indicator: Number of positive media articles generated.
  • Targets: 5 articles generated.
  • Variation: Consider supplemental indicators that also measure the value of coverage and the number of readers reached.
Reuse signage.
  • Indicators: Percent of signage reused (square feet of signage reused divided by total signage used).
  • Targets: 50% reuse minimum.
  • Variations: Repeat the 'reduce' objective for decor items and name badges.
Expand sponsorship revenue by integrating new sustainable experiences into the event design.
  • Indicators: Financial value of new sponsorships.
  • Target: $10,000 minimum.
Improve employee health and well-being.
  • Indicators: Number of sick days taken within the two months to event on-site period.
  • Target: Zero days.
What sustainability objectives have you found to be successful for your events?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sustainable Event Chain: Can we Build it?

Remember making paper chains? Cutting out strips of paper and joining each strip in a ring until everything was connected in a single, long, interconnected chain?

What if we, as planners, took our events and thought about them like that? On a destination level? What would happen if we were to start a conversation with neighboring events in our host city about how we could make our mutual events better by connecting them as a chain - event to event - in order to maximize economic and environmental efficiency through collaboration?

The Unitarian Universalist Association has inspired this thought in me for the last two years through their General Assembly. In 2009 the UUA initiated a conversation with Meeting Professionals International to advocate for commercial composting in their mutual host city, Salt Lake City. In 2010 UUA partnered again with the Presbyterian Church to share the same general services contractor for their individual General Assemblies, held back to back in Minneapolis. Sharing and collaboration led to simple acts that reduced shipping footprint, materials use and cost. $3700 was saved by cooperating to adopt similar hall layouts that avoided extra set-up fees.

What a novel concept to stretch the boundaries of sustainable events further! Will you help build the chain?

Measure Up!

Shout out to Amy Spatrisano at MeetGreen who gave a session today at GMIC on how to measure up with your sustainable event initiatives. It's great to see more and more event planners moving beyond the 'green meetings checklist' to measure strategic sustainability actions for their events. A great opportunity to show how event outcomes can spiral up to contribute to sustainable business goals!

Couple of great examples along these lines:
  • Cisco Live Green Plan: Between 2008 and 2010 this event has slashed paper use for direct marketing and onsite from 22.5 tons to less than one ton!
  • Intel Developer Forum: Hotel guests during IDF could generate over 75,000 pounds of laundry, using over 226,000 gallons of water to clean. If every IDF guest participated in the hotel linen re-use program offered by host hotels in SFO, it would cut the environmental impact in half. Check out Intel's quirky take on 'greening' IDF in this video.
  • Canada Media Marketplace: In 2010 this small 270-attendee table-top marketplace made a big difference by diverting 3.3 tons of waste, or 64% from landfill.

Check out the links for more details!

Going the Extra Mile to Save a Mile

Preparing to attend a Menu Planning session at the GMIC Sustainable Events Conference in Portland. In lead-up thought I'd share a sustainable F&B planning example from Oracle OpenWorld, JavaOne and Develop 2010!

Food & Beverage: Getting More Sustainable Without More Money
Oracle has developed a method for measuring food miles for their annual OpenWorld event held in San Francisco In 2009 organizers researched the footprint of food, finding that on average menu ingredients traveled 12,300 miles per function. A challenge was issued to all caterers in 2010 to reduce menus to 5,000 miles. This very ambitious goal was not reached for all functions, but significant progress was made to cut the cross-function average down by 2,500 miles. Conscious efforts were taken by both McCall’s Catering and Savor to plan menus and seek ingredients that reduced footprints. For example, preliminary menus for boxed lunches served to the event's 40,000+ attendees averaged 21,500 miles over 4 days. By going back and re-sourcing six ingredients and opting to make some ingredients from scratch Savor was able to reduce average miles for boxed lunches by 7,000! In addition McCalls was able to cater the Closing Reception, OTN, and Tuesday evening reception menus for less than 5,000 miles. Furthermore, all footprint reductions came at no additional cost, did not significantly change menus and took advantage of in-season options that did not reduce transportation energy at the expense of increasing production energy.

Looking forward to learning new best practice ideas from the Doubletree Hotel in Portland!

A Sustainable Event Destination Standard

Event sustainability standards are on the agenda this morning at the Sustainable Meetings Conference. The much anticipated APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards are promised "soon". So what kind of requirements might they hold for destinations? Following is a look at possible Level 1 (of 4) requirements for Destination Cities and CVBs/DMCs. How would you measure up?

Supplier (Destination City) Performance Requirements

Staff Management and Environmental Policy
  • No requirements.
  • The destination shall provide empirically verifiable documentation to support environmental claims, if requested.
Waste Management
  • The destination shall establish a 12-month municipal waste diversion baseline for the destination.
  • The destination shall offer donation programs for food or conference materials or both that are available to the hospitality community (i.e., restaurants, hotels, and venues).
  • The destination shall divert at least four of the following: cardboard, paper, plastic, glass, metal, e-waste, wood and food waste/compost. Food waste/compost shall be diverted to a food waste composting program that collects, sorts, transports and appropriately processes the food waste/compost. Cardboard, paper, plastic, glass, metal, e-waste, and wood shall be diverted to a recycling service that collects, sorts, transports and appropriately recycles the material. Composting or recycling may be provided privately or by local government.
  • The destination shall adopt at least one of the following sustainable energy programs: a) Has direct-purchase renewable power options available through regional utilities (wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro); b) Mandates through local, state, or national regulation a minimum renewable energy requirement; or c) Consumer education programs for business about energy efficiency and conservation.
Air Quality
  • No requirements.
  • The destination shall maintain a comprehensive water quality and water use monitoring program.
Procurement and Environmental Purchasing
  • The destination’s primary convention venue shall meet Venues, Level 1.
  • The destination shall be able to offer hotels for the event that shall qualify under Accommodations, Level 1.
Community Partners
  • The destination shall provide information about donation programs that can be used for meetings and events, including a food donation program.

Supplier (CVB/DMC) Performance Requirements

Staff Management and Environmental Policy
  • The supplier shall have a written environmental sustainability policy, available for stakeholder review, for its organization documenting a vision, objectives and goals for sustainability that address the applicable environmental characteristics as described in this standard (staff management and policy, communications, waste management, energy, air quality, water, procurement and community partners)
  • The supplier shall designate one or more staff members to implement the supplier’s environmental sustainability initiatives.
  • The supplier shall communicate planner’s written environmental objectives and performance criteria related to the destination selection to its staff, if specified.
  • The supplier shall provide the planner with information about environmental efforts and programs in place in the destination as standard practice.
Waste Management
  • The supplier shall establish a 12-month waste diversion baseline (or all months of operation for suppliers operating less than twelve months).
  • The supplier shall have a policy for staff travel that includes sustainability considerations. In the policy, air travel footprint, ground transportation practices, and hotel selection shall be addressed.
  • The supplier shall establish a baseline of energy use from air and ground travel.
Air Quality
  • No requirements.
  • No requirements.
Procurement and Environmental Purchasing
  • The supplier shall establish criteria for purchasing environmentally preferable products, which shall be outlined in a sustainable procurement policy. The criteria shall consider price and quality, environmental impact and ethics/reputation of the vendor.
  • The supplier shall establish a 12-month baseline (or all months of operation for those facilities operating less than a year) of percentage of purchases made in accordance with the purchasing policy above.
  • The suppler shall purchase environmentally preferable products based on the above criteria not less than 30% of the time.
Community Partners
  • The supplier shall provide information about community service organizations that may accept event-related donation streams (food and other materials) or provide volunteer opportunities.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Natural Step for Destinations

Reviewing the agenda for the GMIC Sustainable Events Conference tomorrow and am wondering if Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert will speak about how he inspired Whistler's 2020 Vision for destination sustainability?

Check out the videos:
Part I
Part II

...gotta love tax returns being recycled into bathroom tissue ;)

GMIC Case Study Cafe

Day one at the GMIC conference and we're collaborating, case studying, curve balling and causing general chaos!

The event is using a team-based gaming model and my team has been wading into the process of destination selection for our hypothetical oil and gas company event we're planning. Here are our options:
In addition to being affordable the destination should:
  • Offer a community project that ties in with renewable and alternative energy.
  • Have a smaller environmental impact in terms of waste management, energy use and emissions as a priority, relative to other options.
  • Provide venues and vendors that can measure and report on sustainability impacts, especially waste, energy and emissions.
The event hosts 2000 people, primarily coming from Calgary and Houston, in addition to a small group from Nigeria.

If you were us, who would you choose?

Game On!

A whirlwind day at the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference. It is indeed Game On for the crew of inspiring event sustainability leaders gathered in Portland Oregon this week! It's been fascinating to learn from peers in this movement over many years, and in just the first day of this annual conference! You have so much to offer and your passion is inspiring.

You challenge all in the sustainable destination movement to:
  • Create a compelling vision of what is possible to inspire cohesive action.
  • Identify specific, measurable and actionable objectives to move this vision forward.
  • Ask difficult and controversial questions, such as how the face of destination marketing will change if oil prices were to rise to $200 per barrel and only 5 airlines were to remain in Europe. Read more.
  • Channel human experiences in a way that creates a return on relationships and memorable destination stories for visitors, recognizing that people want to connect to communities on a personal level.
  • Collaborate across destinations to share best practices and create alliances that can support a sustainable destination economy and overall improvements to local quality of life.
  • Think outside of the boundaries of traditional destination marketing to establish partnerships within cities to realize a fuller potential for tourism and events, contributing to local improvements and opportunities, healthy citizens and skilled, valuable employees.
  • Be transparent about the costs and benefits of travel to engender trust and credibility.
  • Stand up and be counted for the important contribution you make to business, environmental and social sustainability through the services you provide!
I invite those of you not here in Portland this week to join us! You can follow on Twitter #gmic. Rise to the occasion and become engineers in building better communities!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Meetings Mean Business

"The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy study reveals that the U.S. meetings industry directly supports 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, a $106 billion contribution to GDP, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

With the country looking for effective ways to work its way out of a recession, the meetings industry plays a critical role in supporting jobs in communities across America, creating environments that foster innovation and business success."

So begins the much anticipated partnership study led by the Convention Industry Council: The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy. This updates the CIC's decade old data to show that in times of economic concern meetings do indeed mean jobs, revenue, spending, education and business. But do they mean sustainability?

Some might argue no. That in times when natural resources are scarce we should be more attentive to reducing the footprint meetings have by cutting back on air travel and incentive activities that might be deemed a financial and environmental drain and devote more investment to virtual collaboration.

Others might argue yes. That we can't afford to ignore the insight and engagement that face to face participation with our stakeholders give us to ensure we make the best decisions not only for business, but humanity, the environment and our collective quality of life.

Focusing only on the economic output - while important - only provides a limited perspective. We need to work harder to understand the corresponding environmental output as well, and the social implications of what events do, both positive and negative. Policy decisions made only on the foundation of economic benefit disregard the costs and benefits of events in terms of energy use, emissions and waste production, local air pollution, water use and food systems in host destinations and beyond.

Looking forward to the day when we can compliment these important study findings with a true understanding of the footprint of events to know if meetings mean sustainable business!