Note: PYM welcomes Paul Salinger to the conversation. Look for his columns every month.
Let’s not confuse the conversation. When it comes to running events more responsibly, we still need to use the term “green meetings.”
We have to be honest. The planet is warming. It’s stressed from a rising population and diminishing resources. That has to be our starting point.
What I’ve seen in the few years is a change in the conversation. Now we want to talk about sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
As much good as the meetings and events business does in creating positive economic impacts (and that is all good), it’s also contributing heavily to the consumption of resources. We fly all over the place to attend events of all kinds. Once there, we generate lots of waste — food waste, stuff we just throw away, leftover materials that we shipped there in the first place, lots of things that can’t be recycled or reused and just go into landfill.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love nothing more than to elevate the conversation and work toward a far more sustainable industry — one that really believes in and practices the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. One that truly takes CSR seriously and creates meaningful, long-term legacy projects that have positive impacts beyond the fun, one-day ad-hoc affairs that many events run now. One that creates sustainability policies and practices into their cultures and integrates them fully into their event-planning processes.
But, my friends, we are not there yet. Not when there are event planners and suppliers who haven’t taken even the most rudimentary steps to begin working on the problem. Not when most events don’t even attempt to look at their waste diversion plans to reduce the amount of waste they produce. Not when most events do not take carbon output seriously or don’t look at strategies to reduce or offset it in some fashion. Not when there are still far too many venues and hotels that use toxic chemicals in their cleaning products, and suppliers who use them in building and exhibit materials. I could go on and on, but hopefully, you get the picture.
The other thing I want to say is this: The last thing you need is another scold to make you feel guilty and preached to. I’m writing this because I care deeply about the event business. I have been in it for almost 40 years.
What we need are solutions, not speeches. We need action more than words at this point.
What this column will attempt to do in the coming months is to provide solutions and some best practices that you can use to start your own journey to more responsible event management.
So, let’s have this conversation. I look forward to your feedback.