Are greening efforts so baked into in the events industry that meeting professionals no longer ask their hotels or venues for them?
So it seems from the results of a research project recently commissioned by the Green Meeting Industry Council—now part of the Convention Industry Council—entitled “Sustainable Meeting and Event Practices: The State of the Industry.”
The results of the study, which surveyed meeting planners, third-party meeting professionals, and suppliers, revealed that buyers prefer their suppliers to include information on their sustainable practices at the RFP stage for an event, without having to ask about them. Suppliers, on the other hand, said they typically wait to be asked.
The study also uncovered that planners don’t want to pay for sustainable practices, but expect their suppliers to absorb the costs because most greening efforts will ultimately save the supplier money.
“This suggests that both sides of the discussion can work on quantifying and communicating the financial as well as the non-financial benefits of sustainable practices to the company, the environment, and to society,” said Roger Simons, CMP, chair, GMIC Leadership Committee.
The research, conducted by the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that suppliers engage more often in sustainable practices than planners. However, planners have many sustainability requests. Here are their top ten:
1. sorting recyclables
2. donating leftover food to charitable organizations
3. diverting food waste from the waste stream
4. participating in linen and towel reuse programs
5. using water glasses and filling stations in lieu of bottled water
6. offering vegetarian and allergen-friendly menus
7. sourcing local foods
8. using event apps to reduce the use of paper
9. requesting energy-efficient lighting
10. planning give-back programs for the local community
Overall, planners find green certifications desirable, but do not require their venues or suppliers to have them. They expressed confusion around the multiple standards and certifications in the sustainable events industry and suggested ways to increase awareness of the CIC’s APEX/ASTM certification. For the participants who know about the certification but have not been certified, the key barriers are cost, time, and documentation resources.
Respondents also voiced a desire for common, simplified ways to measure sustainable practices or an event’s carbon footprint allowing for a more apples-to-apples approach to comparison and reporting. According to the report, one solution is to use the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative tool, which was developed by the World Travel and Tourism Council to provide consistent carbon measurement and reporting for hotels to use in RFPs. Additionally, the International Tourism Partnership launched the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative in late August. The two tools may provide convenient roadmaps for the meetings and events industry to create unified measures for different types of suppliers.
The research included phone interviews as well as an online survey that received 159 completed responses. For more information about the study, visit gmicglobal.org.