Hosts Global, a consortium of DMCs, unveiled a new sustainable meetings platform at its seventh annual invitation-only conference this year in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Marty MacKay, DMCP, president of Hosts Global, explains why the organization chose to adopt the Sustainable Meeting Planning Program. “Our goal is to ensure that we are implementing best practices in everything. As we look at disruptions happening in the industry, sustainability is something a lot of our clients are talking about—but often with these big, broad issues you want to be a part of it but don’t know how.” After conducting research into complying with the International Organization for Standardization sustainable events ISO 20121, MacKay says, “It’s daunting to say the least, and if you try to be in compliance as it is written it is really difficult to interpret.” She notes that Hosts Global adopted the SMPP because “the platform has taken the standards and drilled them down. It was developed to assist planners with implementing sustainability with second-party verification in order to meet the ISO standard.”
The SMPP was created by Suzanne M. Burke, a certified Government Meeting Professional, former U.S. Air Force Instructor, and a Society of American Military Engineers President’s Medal lifetime achievement awardee who is now active in event sustainability education and compliance.
The SMPP platform guides meeting planners through each step of a sustainable event, from pre-conference planning to post-event communications, and helps them document their activities for certification.
MacKay details some of the steps Hosts Global undertook for the annual Forum:
1. Engaging stakeholders by sending out a sustainability survey a month prior to the event
2. Requiring the venue to complete a venue sustainability checklist
3. Offering refillable water bottles and hydration stations to reduce plastic waste, plus coordinating a water bottle and supply donation program
4. Planning a corporate social responsibility activity to give back to the front-line hotel workers at the host resort, Paradisus Palma Real
5. Fully leveraging the event app to ensure a predominantly paperless event
MacKay calls the sustainability initiative an eye-opener. “I very naively thought of it as relating only to the environment but it has three different prongs—the environment, finance, and social responsibility. Being socially conscious helps you be sustainable.”
Hosts Global partnered with the Events Industry Council to run its updated sustainability certificate program and introduce the SMPP at an educational event for about a dozen attendees before the regular conference. The organization also explained to forum attendees how it was using the SMPP to run the event in a sustainable way. MacKay’s advice to other planners is to begin by selecting a couple of events throughout the year where you can implement and document a sustainable program, before trying to cover everything that you do. “It’s a journey,” she says.
The SMPP is available for download from SustainableMeetingPlanner.com at a cost of $1,500 per event user. Burke recommends organizations start with two users: the assigned SMPP system manager responsible for implementing the overall administration of the system and the meeting manager who implements the requirements for compliance with ISO 20121. While MacKay says that running events sustainably isn’t necessarily a cost-saving strategy, she believes that the savings in work hours as compliance gets easier combined with more efficient F&B and other sustainable practices will likely offset the cost of using the platform.