Sustainability has become the feel-good buzz word of the year. We’re getting hip to the environmental impact of our meetings and events and have turned the ‘take, make and waste’ production process on its head—whether from supporting sustainable venues or opting for locally grown f&b. But there’s another piece of the puzzle as equally important, but too often overlooked. It’s the human element—the inseparable link between human beings and the environments that sustain us, and it’s something that the Virgina Beach CVB readily explores.
With over 35 miles of coastal waterways, three beautiful beaches and a thriving military community, the CVB provides planners with unique ways to connect groups with local communities and the wild blue yonder. They call it “One Beach – One World,” and like the title implies, it’s all about learning how to share with the earth and each other in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller, yet more interdependent.
Sally Noona, interim VP of sales/marketing & director of convention sales says one of the CVB’s biggest CSR initiatives this year included a give back marketplace where attendees and local stakeholders, including more than a dozen local industry partners, assembled surfing kits that were donated to Surfer’s Healing Virginia Beach, a non-profit organization that provides surfing therapy to children with autism. Each partner hosted a table containing over 100 beach-related items that were stuffed into 100 backpacks by all involved. The assembly line had a speed-dating vibe, as planners switched to a different table after a period of time. Noona says this approach offers the additional benefit of allowing hoteliers and attractions to meet with planners and share information about their businesses, while giving back to a worthy cause.
“Similar to the set-up at appointment-driven tradeshows, the marketplace is kept moving with an indicator for when the planner needs to move on to the next table,” Noona says. “A lively exchange took place while they packed the kits.”
Along with a CSR coordinator who connects groups to the right opportunity, the CVB’s website is also a bit of a matchmaker, providing an easily navigated list of outreach opportunities that help planners align their values with those of local or national agencies. Noona says it’s actually a bit of a trend.
“We are finding that many groups are seeking out agencies that speak to their mission statement, belief system or values of their organization.”
In the past, the CVB has facilitated a vast spectrum of One Beach – One World CSR projects, including fundraisers at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, writing postcards for armed forces overseas, tree planting, donating books to active duty soldiers, taking water samples or collecting litter along the coast. Earlier this year, close to 500 pounds of food was collected during a food drive challenge conducted among industry partners to benefit the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. The point, Noona says, is to get out there and make a positive impact. For it’s part, the CVB is constantly connecting with local organizations that can help identify new CSR possibilities.
“One Beach – One World is not only about helping planners reach CSR goals and reducing the logistical and executional tasks associated with planning. It’s a call to action for groups meeting in our dynamic city to participate in making a positive impact on the community and the world.”