Sunday, 29 January 2012

GRI EOSS: Is it for me?

Any event professionals out there open the GRI Event Organiser's Sector Supplement (GRI EOSS) this week? If you did hands up if you thought something along the lines of: "Hey, this doesn't look so hard. I could totally do this."

The importance of GRI to events? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Odds are the first thing that came to mind was the exact opposite.

The GRI EOSS is the result of a great deal of thoughtful work by many volunteers who are genuinely trying to improve the sustainability of the event industry. It is a needed and important tool to improve transparency about the economic, environmental and social impact of event practices. The sustainability team at MCI has published some great posts recently about the value of reporting and the launch of the supplement. The lesson to be learnt? The imperative to report honestly and openly about business practices--including events--has never been more evident or possible.

But short of diving into the deep end of the pool (and by deep end I mean the 251 page supplement and eight Indicator Protocols) how do you--an event professional--really start to access and digest the Supplement?

The first question: Should I consider GRI reporting for my event?

If you're someone who is not used to sustainability reporting and plan different kinds of events (particularly mid- to smaller-sized ones on an on-going basis for an event marketing or association team) you may want to ask yourself a few questions before you get started:
  1. Do you have the resources? Reporting against GRI takes work. It is not something that I would describe as easy. It requires research, thought and application. You can spend time to do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you, so it's essential to consider if resources exist to support reporting.
  2. Is there a precedent? Certain kinds of events--UN gatherings and major sporting events--have started reporting using the GRI EOSS. Many organisations that plan events are also already reporting using general GRI guidelines. If you're in either situation it may be prudent to consider how the EOSS applies to you and your work.
  3. Are there any stakeholder risk factors to consider? Is your event high profile or prone to critique? Have stakeholders been critical of organising methods or onsite activities from a sustainability perspective? Are your association members evaluating your event poorly when it comes to sustainable practices? If so, reporting against GRI might be a good way to improve stakeholder relations.
  4. Does your event have significant ongoing environmental or social impacts? Events have environmental impacts, particularly if they are large and involve travel by air. In addition, events procure many products and services--hotel guestrooms, food, promotional products, electronics--that have social considerations. If your event has notable or ongoing impacts on the planet or people, reporting could be important.
  5. Do you have mechanisms in place to get necessary information? Reporting against the GRI EOSS requires getting information that isn't typically collected and communicated for most events. Sometimes it may take an event cycle or two before you're prepared to collect data, after which you may be in a better position to report.
  6. Are you able to share commitments and actions? Good reports include not only talk about commitments, but specific objectives and measurable actions against targets. If you're not ready to do all three you may want to wait until you are.
  7. Are you prepared to initiate a conversation about sustainability? A common misconception about reporting is that it is a one-way process; that an event report should merely talk about 'the good stuff we're doing'. In fact, reporting opens a window into your operations that has the potential to start conversation, and possible controversy. Are you prepared to manage the feedback--positive and negative--that may come from reporting? If you're willing to use a report as a tool to meaningfully improve your event you may be ready to tackle the GRI EOSS.
  8. What's the value and why are you reporting? Is your intention to build trust? Improve stakeholder relations? Start conversations about how to improve the event experience, sustainably? If so, GRI EOSS reporting might be for you. If reporting is more a short-term PR exercise with no long-term commitment to continue to improve you may want to consider a different tool than GRI reporting.
Event sustainability reporting of any type, including GRI EOSS, is important and a major undertaking. The first step is being clear about why you're starting the journey and if you're ready. Coming up in future posts tips for event professionals in how to get started.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Great article. Nicely to the point with good tips. Thanks Shawna.