a few actionable steps to get you moving in the right direction
COP26 - the United Nations global warming conference that took place in October 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, was considered a crucial moment to address the threat of climate change. This event marked a decisive step for the meeting industry too with the launch of the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative. It is a first of its kind collaborative effort to decrease the carbon emissions of industry-related operations by 2050, in line with global efforts.
However, the number of initiatives around sustainability in meetings and events seem to cause a tough time for stakeholders that are trying to determine where to begin. If you too are struggling, this article is for you. Here are a few actionable steps to get you moving in the right direction.
Step 1: Find an A-Team
Starting such an initiative begins with forming a team that will dedicate time to move forward sustainability initiatives in the company and with its clients. As in the case of Kenes, we had an open call and recruited talents that are passionate about the topic and with diverse backgrounds in sustainability and nature preservation, with a team leader that specialised in sustainable event management. The so-called dream team then defined a clear goal towards which they are operating. Furthermore, a meeting schedule was put in place to keep the work flowing, and the work was distributed according to the expertise of each teammate.
If there is a lack of human resources within the company, the other way to begin is by investing in hiring a third-party consultant. In the industry, there are a lot of proficient companies that can guide you through the process.
Step 2: Align with the UN SDGs
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
The UN SDGs provide clear guidelines in terms of sustainability, so make sure to find those that align with your company’s mission and vision. At Kenes we selected four that aligned perfectly with what we want to achieve. Selecting between three to five will keep your company on point and moving, with the option to always add more, once the first selection has been assumed by your corporate culture and is a natural part of the everyday operation.
Step 3: The Low-Hanging Fruit
With a powerful base in place, the next step will be to identify and work towards low-hanging fruits. Do not underestimate their value. This is the perfect way to start and get your team moving, and each achievement is already achieving so much more than doing nothing at all. It will act as a boost of confidence and encourage all employees when they see the impact they bring. This will open the opportunity, after a set period of time, to navigate through more complex goals, with complete buy-in and support from all team members.
Some ideas on where to start, based on the Kenes experience:
- Write a Sustainability Policy – this is a document that will spell out your goals and will give you clarity on your direction
- Prepare marketing and storytelling activities – use storytelling around your sustainability actions and activities to open conversations and collaborations with different stakeholders
- Start measuring – there are free carbon calculators online that you can use, and do not forget to set some key performance indicators around your set of SDGs to measure progress
- Minimums – ask your team to achieve at least three pre-set practices that fit their line of work – give them a list of ten that they can choose from but set the bar lower at the beginning. And an especially important moment – collect feedback on those that they could not achieve so that you can fine-tune your processes
- Organise training and open calls for your team – give your team members knowledge, but also, ask them to openly share their struggles, as many of these activities will be new to them
Step 4: Zero Everything
The ultimate goal is working towards is net-zero carbon emission and zero-waste events. It will be a process, driven, developed, and amended where needed by your sustainability team. The path will push the company to experiment, test, measure, but most of all – to act.
The important part is to start. Once the first step is taken, as with everything, everything else falls into place and all processes will get smoother with time. But please, just start.
This article first appeared in IAPCO’s The PCO, December 2021