Sustainability is no longer a trend but a must have in strategic meetings and events management. Creativity no longer competes with corporate responsibility. So how is sustainability influencing the industry’s focus, training requirements and budget setting? Adriana Rayo of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) provides some answers.
Where does sustainability rank in your M&E priorities?
I am part of the team responsible for organising the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum attended by 2,000 delegates. Sustainability is high on our agenda. Every year we try to be more sustainable in planning and executing the event. At the planning stage we try to be efficient with our use of resources, conveying the same message to our designers and suppliers. We always work with companies that share our approach.
When planning content, sustainability and inclusion are always part of the programme.
Since 2013, we have made the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum a carbon neutral event. The carbon emissions generated by our event are offset by purchasing carbon credits from sustainable energy projects.
Does the impetus for this come from senior management or elsewhere?
It comes from all levels; our shareholders, senior management, participants and of course the event management team.
How is sustainability practised by your organisation in its meetings?
We communicate our green efforts to delegates via in-house marketing tools, press releases and the mobile app. When we organise events overseas we work with the host country to manage the recycling and waste management of the event. We also try to leave a legacy in the host country. For example, for the event in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2015 the registration venue was the Youth Palace. The place was refurbished for the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum but the improvements remained for future use. We give the opportunity to local students to participate as part of the team to gain experience. And the EBRD seek to engage with local suppliers whenever possible.
For the 2017 event in Cyprus the delegate bags were made of recycled plastic bottles, inside was a flask that delegates were able to fill at provided water fountains around the venue rather than buying plastic bottles. The pens we gave out were made of biodegradable material. Each example reflects the ways in which we try to change people’s mindsets.
What about transportation to and from your event and catering?
We provide shuttle buses from the airport and supporting hotels to the venue, which reduces the event’s emissions further. We also offer networking lunches, buffet style which aims to reduce food waste.
The Bank has also launched a community initiative which supports nominated charities for which teams have to raise funds. The Bank then matches the amounts raised.
Our sponsorship packages are becoming more digital, so they are designed to use fewer resources. From the very first meeting we stress to our suppliers the importance of using recycled paper; printing only the necessary documents and maximising digital communication.
What sustainability initiatives are planned for the future?
Sustainability is a very broad term. We tend to think about sustainability in terms of paper waste, but it’s also about inclusion and the involvement of the local community. The more visible we make our sustainability efforts to delegates the better.
Some of our short term goals include increasing the number of discussions/content around sustainability in the programme.
What is the roadmap for sustainable events?
1. Convey the message to the team and stakeholders so they know what the objectives are.
2. Start the planning stage as soon as possible, using reduction of emissions as a key objective.
3. Make it all happen at the event, ensuring that the message gets through to every delegate.
4. Post-event, make sure the carbon emissions are offset and assess which activities or practices can be improved or made more efficiently for the next event.
5. Change the mind set and lead on a cultural shift.