GMIC’s Latest Research on Sustainability Reveals a Long Road Ahead

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sustainability in meetings, meetings
Javits Center rooftop; photo credit

Sustainability is a narrative of many languages, according to “Sustainable Meeting and Event Practices: The State of the Industry,” a new study commissioned by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC).

Tapping suppliers, buyers and third-party planners to see how they manage sustainability in live events, the study assessed common sustainability touch points—from top practices to basic communication on preferences and expectations. The results reveal a mixed agenda and narrative on sustainability in meetings and events on all sides of the equation. Here are a few of the GMIC’s most interesting findings.

Quantifying Sustainability

A common theme throughout the study was a greater need for supplier transparency with regard to the sustainability measures they offer. Planners and buyers want the information up front and wrapped into the RFP process, rather than having to ask for it. On the supplier side of things, this transparency often spurs on questions over pricing that deter planners and buyers. If sustainable events reduce cost, why are they paying more? This was but one instance in the study where a cohesive sustainability narrative is lacking on all sides of the equation.

Metrics, What’s That?

While over 50 percent of surveyed planners incorporate a wide range of sustainability practices—recycling, alternative F&B menus and energy efficiency to donating leftover food and using event apps to prevent paper waste—communication between planners and suppliers on determining the carbon footprint of events is lacking. Suppliers require a simplified metrics system that allows them to compare sustainable meetings and events to traditional ones.

Attendees & the Sustainability Conversation

As it turns out, no one is doing much to bring attendees into the sustainability conversation; information provided by planners is generally opt-in. This is an important one because understanding the relevance of sustainability in meetings can inspire the generation of sustainable ideas outside of meetings and events, thus supporting its overall momentum. Not bringing attendees into the conversation essentially limits the possibilities for sustainability, both at home and professionally.

All in all, despite increased conversation and action surrounding sustainability in and out of the travel industry, more momentum is needed to make the topic mainstream in meetings and events. For more on this topic, check out my article on Copenhagen’s Sustainable Brands ’16 conference, which also found a disconnect in the supplier, buyer and planner relationship when it comes to sustainability, and also some awesome connections.


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