For many years, MCI has been active globally among corporations, governments, university and non-profit sectors to develop, implement and promote sustainability strategies for meeting industry destination and service suppliers as well as corporate and association executives seeking to reduce the negative impact of their meetings. Guy Bigwood, leads MCI’s Sustainability Services group which has produced a number of global chief executive events on sustainability to help to accelerate sustainable practices into corporate strategy around the world.
In demand as a speaker and workshop facilitator, Guy recently wrote an article of the leading trends that will impact meeting and conventions around the world. Herewith are Guy’s thoughts on the future and its impact on our meetings.
Between now and 2020, we predict that organisers will adopt the following 10 key trends to improve the sustainability performance of their events. Aside from helping the planet, these trends will also improve attendee experiences, build stronger communities and generate significant cost-savings.
1 – Transparency & Ethics
Between now and 2020, organisations will make it a priority to more effectively communicate their sustainability strategies and progress. Event brands and enterprises will become more creative and better at storytelling, and consequently we will see a rise in online sustainability reports such as MCI’s Sustainability Report. International mega events will continue to be closely scrutinised and expected to lead the way in terms of compliance and ethics, with issues exposed quickly when they arise (see Qatar World Cup 2020 as an example.) With the global demand for increased transparency, we’ll see more legislation and an increase in both public and client demand for anticorruption and ethics programmes. The focus on compliance in the healthcare industry will increasingly affect other industries such as technology and finance.
2 – Sustainable Food
In 2014, sustainable food was the number one trend for US Chefs. The demand for locally-produced, organic, Fairtrade and sustainable options will continue to grow in the global events industry, with new research showing that sustainable menus improve overall delegate satisfaction. A growth in demand will cause prices to fall and supply to increase, helping make sustainability a key criteria when selecting caterers and restaurants.
3 – Digital & Collaborative Creation
Mobile event apps and digital technologies have already massively reduced pre and onsite printing. By 2020, hybrid meetings will be now be the norm, reducing carbon emissions from travel and opening up meetings to those who would otherwise have been unable to attend. ‘Collaborative consumption’ and the shared economy will also have had a big impact. Many smaller events will be entirely organised using a mix of collaborative technology platforms such as Uber, AirBnB, TaskRabbit and hotelwalla, while dedicated event technology suites will combine bestin-class tools.
4 – The Power of Procurement
Today, 51% of MCI’s largest clients are already assessing sustainability to some degree, an increase from 25% in 2011. By 2020, sustainability will be a key factor in all purchasing decisions and procurement teams will be playing an increasingly important role in driving and managing a more sustainable supply chain.
5 – Sustainability Strategies Replace One-off Programmes
In 2014, 78% of MCI’s 70 biggest clients reported some form of sustainable event programme (up from 15% in 2011), however less than 10% had a comprehensive sustainability strategy. With resources, standards and tools becoming more readily available, and with more clients citing sustainability as critical, corporates will become more strategic and focused on the sustainability of their events. Today, the technology sector is leading with best practices demonstrated from global giants such as Symantec, Oracle, Cisco and Intel.
6 – Standards & Certification
Adoption of the ISO 20121 sustainable event standard will continue to increase. By 2020, we predict that the majority of large publicly funded events will require compliance with ISO20121, which will also be requested in many large corporate RFPs. There will be a growth in national and regional sustainable event standards, and we will also see a rise in destinations such as Barcelona that obtain independent verification of their sustainability management with certification systems such as Biosphere and Earthcheck.
7 – Waste
By 2020, we’ll have made good progress in reducing the amount of waste produced by an event and diverting that waste away from landfills. Organisers will be thinking “cradle to cradle” and integrating sustainable principles into their initial event design concepts, ensuring that event structures are made from materials that can easily and cheaply be reused, recycled and repurposed. PVC will be phased out, and more bio-materials, eco-substrates and new modular display systems will be used. Food waste unfortunately looks set to increase as the economy gets stronger, however some organisers and local governments may find more creative ways of donating food to local charities and food banks.
8 – Community
Organisations in the meetings industry will become more strategic about how and where they donate their time and money, with many organisations streamlining their donations to one or two key charities with clear links to their brand values and culture. Skills-based volunteerism will also lead the way, matching a charity’s needs to employees’ valuable skills. Online platforms will simplify the task of matching donors to causes, and we may see global web platforms such as Kiva using the event industry to amplify their impact.
9 – Aligned Brand Commitments & Operations
Today a key barrier to putting sustainability into action is the perception that sustainability is expensive, and this is preventing a large number of ‘sustainable brands’ from meeting their own commitments when it comes to sustainable events. Companies like MCI will become more skilled at measuring, validating and communicating the business case for long-term sustainability strategies – which in fact reduce costs, streamline operations and improve performance. As the business case for sustainability becomes louder and clearer, more brands will be willing to align their sustainability actions with their ideals.
10 – Sustainable Destinations
At the start of 2015, only a handful of cities such as Bangkok and Orlando can boast a multi-year destination sustainability strategy for their events industry. Between now and 2020, leading convention bureaus will start bringing together key stakeholders to develop a shared vision for the sustainable development of their city. Just as cities can now demonstrate the economic impact of events on their local economy, local governments will increasingly look to the events sector as powerful catalyst of social and environmental change.
For more ideas, research and best practices on sustainability as a strategy in business and meetings today, continue your reading of Guy and his team here.