Planners still leading on Green, despite economic concerns

Few doubts remain among organisers of conferences and incentives as to
the importance of environmental responsibility. While some acknowledge
that global economic concerns will slow such progress, others argue
that the meetings industry is clearly identifiable as a contributor to
travel-related emissions and that, as a result, action is both
essential and inevitable. 

These are the central findings of the fifth annual IMEX focus group
survey on the greening of business tourism. They represent the views of
over 120 buyers in eight European countries, plus others in Canada, the
United States, Singapore, Argentina and Australia. (Seniority ranged
from CEOs to meeting planners. Around half work in agencies and
approximately one in 10 manage associations).

Seventy-nine per cent of all international respondents to the survey
said they would deliberately avoid destinations or venues known to have
a poor environmental record – an increase of six per cent on last year,
while 72 per cent of German respondents (who were surveyed separately)
would take the same action.

In general, 80 per cent of the international audience and 73 per cent
of German respondents acknowledge they have taken environmental
considerations into account when planning a meeting during the last
year.

Green philosophy
Anecdotal comments from some respondents demonstrate how this behaviour
is usually manifested. One Canadian industry specialist said: “We
minimise travel by hiring local freelancers? buy offsets for any
unavoidable intercity travel (whether air, rail or road)? replace paper
with e-publications, and any essential printing is double-sided on
certificated recycled paper.” A further insight comes from a US expert,
who explains: “I present a ’green’ philosophy statement to clients and
advocate adoption at board level.”

In more detail, planners talk about the use of water dispensers instead
of plastic water bottles, recycling all paper materials, organising
green loyalty point schemes and sponsoring green city gardens and other
green spaces.

A more structured assessment (with preferences ranked according to
frequency of use) shows that recycling conference material is now the
most commonly undertaken green practice, followed by selecting hotels
for their environmental programmes and selecting meetings locations
based on proximity to attendees. Measuring the full environmental
impact of a meeting is still relatively uncommon (ranking tenth),
although the use of carbon offset programmes is more frequent.
Selecting a transport provider based on their environmental credentials
ranked equal sixth alongside viewing wilderness or animal conservation
areas.

There is little doubt that meetings planners will incorporate
environmental approaches in an increasingly rigorous way in the future.
As in 2007, respondents were unanimous that green issues will matter
more in the coming years. The proportion acknowledging that industry
buyers will have to take the environment more seriously into account
has risen accordingly – to 84 per cent (77 per cent in 2007; 67 per
cent in 2006). Some express the view that voluntary codes of practice
will become compulsory as environmental concerns rise.

Support for eco-tax
Results also suggest widening support for the idea of an ‘eco-tax’ on
the conference market, for example, to be levied on flights, hotel
stays and the use of congress centres. The proportion accepting such a
sustainability charge ’in principle’ has risen sharply in 2008 to 68
per cent (49 per cent in 2007; 54 per cent in 2006).

For the full report visit: www.imex-frankfurt.com/dataexchange.html

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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