Let’s stop talking and start doing!

Elena Fis is an event professional who has been part of the Kenes team for almost a decade. During over nine years of work with the company, she has worked in Procurement, managing hotels and venue purchasing activities worldwide. Research analyses, negotiation and contracting, and team management have been her focus, which in recent years has allowed her to witness the development of sustainability strategies within the key players of the sector. Now, she has taken on a big task at hand: to develop Kenes Group’s internal and external sustainability policies. How does she plan on accomplishing it? A few notes from her below.

Q: How would you describe the sustainability efforts carried out by Kenes Group so far?

A: It is interesting for me to see that when we hear about sustainability nowadays, the focus seems to be solely or mainly on green matters, such as recycling, carbon footprint and waste management. Nevertheless, the topic of sustainability goes beyond the green talk and encompasses other goals, including gender equality, responsible consumption and production, quality education and good health and well-being.

In that sense, during its history of 58 years in the meetings sector, Kenes Group has always stayed involved in this conversation and kept these matters at the top of its priorities. For instance, nowadays our global team is 73% women and our local office managers make their best efforts to ensure their well-being.

More recently, right before the pandemic lockdowns, we identified a need for strengthening our green approach. This is why we worked together with the Sustainable Event Management Agency Meet Green to develop company’s strategy and reports that could be implemented by our Senior Account Managers, Project Managers and other departments, as well as our partners to reduce the negative impact of our meetings on the environment, as well as educational sessions for all the company regarding sustainability.

I would say that the pandemic lockdowns had a double effect on our efforts: on one hand, our educational programme lost momentum when we faced a time of adaptation when repurposing and teaching new skills to our team arose as a priority. On the other hand, focusing on virtual events also proved to be a great playground for us to learn more about sustainable practices and how we could take this beyond the pandemic context, which we managed to do successfully for a few of our subsequent in-person events.

Just to mention some examples, last year we held two association meetings and one Kenes Original Events – which is a meeting initiated by our company without an association client – with a strong focus on sustainability: respectively, the Congress of the European Academy of Paediatric Societies, the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases, and the Flash Radiotherapy and Particle Therapy Congress. Here, we offered carbon emissions offsetting options, catering with local and regional products, food surplus donations, less printed materials, and selective waste collection, among others.

Kenes Group has also shown commitment by making part of the IAPCO Pledge Against Single-Use Plastic and the Net Zero Carbon Pledge for the Events Industry. So we have strategic goals to contribute to!

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: So far this year my focus has been on better understanding where are we as a global team in terms of sustainability. I am convinced that the awareness needs to start at home with individual actions for it to be spread out to our office locations and ultimately to our events.

This is why we started 2023 by carrying out an internal survey. We found out that the issue of climate change is extremely important (49%) or somewhat important (49%) to most, that the preferred personal actions are cutting down on meat consumption, reducing food wastage and using public transportation more often and that the main sustainability challenges for the events sector are perceived to be the cost of implementation, educating staff and the lack of commitment to the efforts from teams and partners.

So, based on the findings from the survey and the work previously done with Meet Green, we established to focus on four Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs: (SDG3) good health and well-being; (SDG4) quality education; (SDG5) gender equality; and (SDG12) responsible consumption and production.

We also assembled a Sustainability Dream Team with 32 team members from all our offices locations! I was very happy to see that so many of my colleagues wanted to be involved in the discussion and support our company’s effort in a more engaged way. We already had our first monthly meeting and some of the conversations were about whether we should do more carbon offsetting or simply do fewer activities that increase the carbon footprint, also how the different countries where we work have different approaches to sustainability. Very interesting!

Q: And, at a personal level?

A: I must admit that even though I have been generally interested in sustainability, it has taken me some training and studying to better understand the scope and relevance of this matter. I have been taking several e-learning courses on sustainability and innovation and attending industry webinars to soak up as much context as I can.

Q: What’s coming up?

A: We have set up a timeline for the rest of 2023 that involves the development of a Sustainability Policy for the company and each one of the office locations. We have a resource library that was built in collaboration with Meet Green for our Senior Account Managers, Project Managers, and Procurement and Business Development teams that we want to continue to socialize and teach how they can implement the existing reporting templates and contract examples.

Also, introducing measurable actions and standardizing minimum practices to achieve for every client and congress. I think this is the most challenging task that we are currently facing because it involves not only our individual and team actions but also our partners and stakeholders.

We are aware that this is a process that requires a change of mindset and a willingness to invest resources with a different set of priorities in mind, so we are looking forward to continuing our education efforts to get as many people as we can on the same sustainable boat.

By Estefanía Zárate Angarita

MarCom Manager

This article was originally published in HQ Magazine #109 / Sustainable Development Through Circularity, May 2023: https://bit.ly/HQ109-2023