Last month I had the privilege to travel to Shanghai to work with the Oracle OpenWorld Green Team at a site inspection for their July 2013 event. My role was to learn about how local event suppliers were already adapting to sustainability challenges, and how they might be encouraged to develop a coordinated sustainability strategy for the event.
What did I learn? That China does indeed have its fair share of sustainability challenges, from severe air pollution to cancer villages and human rights concerns. Problems that are outside of our ability in the event industry to immediately solve. Should these problems cause us to boycott China as a meeting destination, or embrace our buying power to make situations better where we have the ability to influence change?
One thing is clear based on my recent visit: we in North America have our own share of sustainability issues, and it may not be correct to assume that China is trailing in terms of sustainable hospitality and event potential. But don’t take my word for it, check out the following postcards from our trip, ask your own questions and sound off on your conclusions.
|Site inspections of host hotels revealed 100% use key card-activated rooms to minimise energy use. All properties were also participating in some type of proprietary or government-endorsed energy benchmarking program. While the power mix in China remains dominantly non-renewable, green building upgrades like this reflect recent Chinese government mandates to increase energy-efficiency.|
|The Intercontinental Shanghai Expo displays its IHG “Green Engage” credentials prominently to staff back of house, whose community service activities supporting Mifan Mama are also prominently celebrated in photos along service corridors. Where government programs may be lacking, proprietary environmental management systems like Green Engage can fill a gap by structuring and promoting improvement at the property level.|
|Intercontinental Shanghai Expo staff is reminded to care for property assets and avoid waste. No polystyrene or disposables are used onsite.|
|Linen and towel reuse were offered at 100% of properties visited. 75% of hotels required guests to opt out of standard linen reuse. 25% required opt into the program.|
|While not necessarily administered by large companies, recycling is practiced by residents and commercial businesses in Shanghai. China has recently claimed increased investment of US$320 billion in recycling programs.|
|The Sheraton Shanghai Pudong encourages guests to reduce waste by practicing portion control at buffets...|
|...and minimising use of paper towels in public restrooms.|
|Restaurant menus at the Sheraton Shanghai Pudong clearly identify certified organic options. While China does have its own organic label, many hospitality companies rely on external organic standards in order to address food safety issues.|
|Onsite digital signage throughout the Shanghai Expo Centre will eliminate a significant amount of temporary event signage for Oracle OpenWorld, a financial and environmental gain.|
|Upon arrival and departure, Shanghai travellers are reminded "Water is precious, so start conserving it now". In spite of efforts by government, hospitality businesses and event planners like you, I and Oracle, it is indeed the choices of individual Chinese consumers and the country’s growing environmental movement who will determine if the future of their country and the planet can indeed be sustainable.|