Sustainable Meetings in Demand, but Cost is Limiting Factor

Sustainable meetings are in demand.

New IRF study explores sustainable business practices and trends in the MICE industry.

Social Responsibility and Sustainability, a recently released study by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), suggests that sustainable meetings and incentives are becoming more of a priority for planners. “Sustainable business practices and the broader environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement are real, growing, and here to stay, said Allan Schweyer, Incentive Research Foundation, and Adam SPresslee, University of Waterloo, who authored the study. “Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) professionals should prepare now for profound changes in the way they execute their strategies and initiatives.”

In depth interviews with 35 incentive professionals explored the trends and implications around sustainable business practices in the industry, including ways that businesses are employing sustainable practices to differentiate themselves, align with corporate goals, reduce costs and generate competitive advantage. “Mandates for rapid progress against ambitious sustainable goals—such as reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and to ‘net zero’ by 2050—are sweeping the business world throughout Europe and North America,” said Schweyer and SPresslee in the study. “Boards and executives are being evaluated on their progress, consumers are demanding it, event attendees are beginning to ask about it, and MICE professionals are seeing more demand for sustainability reporting and answers to related questions in requests for proposals (RFPs).”

But planners need to strategize to achieve sustainability goals. “Social responsibility requirements and sustainability continue to be part of our industry’s conversations,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF President. “Our interviews for this study revealed that sustainable practices are becoming more important to clients and more prevalent in RFPs. However, many clients reconsider if there is resulting increased cost or compromises in venues and reward choice.”

Among the study’s takeaways:

• Almost 80 percent of respondents reported at least some pressure from clients to provide more sustainable options in meetings, events, incentive travel venues and transportation.

• Cost is the primary barrier to the sustainability movement. It’s important to identify and implement sustainable practices that can reduce event and incentive travel costs.

• Destinations closer to home, especially those that do not require air travel, are gaining in popularity, due in part to environmental and sustainability concerns and in part to costs.

• The use of local entertainers, food suppliers and speakers can reduce costs, lower environmental impact and help to support the local economy.

• Destination management companies can help to design meaningful and sustainable experiences in communities where corporate events are held.

• Sustainable rewards and benefits (SRBs)  are becoming more prevalent. Examples include charitable contributions on behalf of employees/incentive participants and the donation of employee work time to a charitable cause.

• Employees report being happier and more satisfied when rewarded with a charitable contribution to a charity of choice as opposed to cash—and this satisfaction is linked to greater overall team performance.

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