Rachael Riggs, the wellbeing leader at Maritz Global Events, has taken on a new role at the company: general manager, environmental strategy. While she’ll continue to develop and measure the impact of wellness programs for clients, she’ll also manage emission-reduction strategies for the company and work with clients on their sustainability efforts around events. Riggs serves on the Net-Zero Carbon Events Measurement Working Group, the Events Industry Council APEX Commission, and the Global Wellness Institute’s Workplace Wellbeing Working Group.
We asked Riggs about her new role and where Maritz stands in its efforts to reach net-zero emissions over the coming decades.
MeetingsNet: In December 2021, Maritz Global Events signed the Net-Zero Carbon Events Pledge. As a company, what areas have seen the most progress toward sustainability since that time? And do you have a particular focus for 2023?
Rachel Riggs: Our Net-Zero Pledge gave us the opportunity to create awareness within our company and plan what we need to do move down the path to Net Zero. There is a lot of work to be done, and it all starts with awareness and education. In 2022, we measured our own carbon footprint and now with that baseline; our focus in 2023 is developing specific strategies for reduction.
MN: For Maritz Global Events clients who want to design more sustainable meetings, what do you see as the biggest roadblocks?
Rachel Riggs: I think the biggest roadblock is the lack of education in our industry. We need to share more of the big picture on why everyone needs to fully embrace these efforts. While we understand the ultimate “why” is for our planet, we need to share more of the reasons for eliminating certain elements or doing things differently. We all need to do this together, and if people have a full understanding, they will be more motivated to act.
MN: Before taking the job of general manager, environmental strategy, your focus was on wellbeing at events. Is there a connection between the two roles?
Rachel Riggs: Yes, in my role as wellbeing leader, we brought to life the five dimensions of wellbeing (read the ebook here), and one of the dimensions is environmental wellbeing. For humans to perform at their peak, they need to have all five dimensions in balance. If we don’t have a healthy planet, then none of it really works. Think about this example: if your house burns down because of a forest fire, can you operate at your fullest potential and care for the rest of your wellbeing? No, because you are worried about how to find shelter and live. So, we need our environmental wellbeing first.
MN: What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
Rachel Riggs: I have run five half marathons and one triathlon. When I was 17, I was in a car accident and was subsequently told I could not have children or run again. Fast forward to today: I have two amazing daughters. When they were about five years old, I started thinking about accomplishing a run. So, I decided to run a half marathon—why not? At the time, I worked for the Vancouver DMO and Lululemon sponsored a half marathon there. I asked my boss if I could create an experience around it and invited clients to run/walk with me. Happy to report that I recruited over 70 people to walk/run with me over six years of hosting this experience. Not only did I do it (which was awesome), I had friends that crushed their life goals as well. I will forever be connected with these people, as many of us did not think we could do this, but we did!