Meeting planners are more likely to focus on ‘diversity, equity
and inclusion’ (DEI) than tackling their environmental impact as part of their
sustainability policies, a new report has found.
More than three quarters of planners (76%) address DEI in their
sustainability policies, according to a survey of 352 North America-based meeting
planners, by Northstar Meetings Group.
Some 70 per cent said they were trying to ‘reduce their
environmental impact’ as part of their sustainability policies, while 75 per
cent were focusing on ‘community initiatives’.
Perhaps of more concern was the fact that only four out of ten
planners had a sustainability policy.
The report – The
Slow Progress of Sustainability in Meetings – suggests the client side
of the meetings industry is lagging in its efforts to improve environmental performance.
Associations were among the least likely to have a sustainability
policy (29%), with corporates (36%). PCOs (professional congress organisers)
were most likely to have a policy at 68%.
The UN SDGs– a holistic patchwork of 17 sustainable
development goals - have become the standard framework against which many
companies and organisations now measure their sustainability.
However some academics have argued that the word
sustainability is too vague
to be meaningful and that how the SDGs are measured distorts
the achievements of countries and organisations.
NMG’s report is an indication of how direct environmental impact
- reducing emissions, enhancing biodiversity etc - is not necessarily the focus
when organisations talk about sustainability.
Alison Heppenstall, founder of Climate Action for
Associations, said tackling emissions was the priority for membership
organisations on a sectoral basis, no matter the size of their executive.
“A lot of our members ask us why we focus on climate change
rather than sustainability in general. The answer to that is that all of the
other things that come under the umbrella of sustainability will be directly
impacted by climate change. We need to bring carbon emissions down quickly,”
Others said the UN SDGs had become a recognisable framework
Responding to the report in a LinkedIn post, Fiona Pelham,
CEO of Positive Impact Events, said: “There is some useful data in this report.
For example: ‘The older the planner, the lower the sense of urgency’. Will the
event sector transform so it is fit for future purpose, or will the speed of change
be too slow? One thing is clear, speaking the language of the SDGs is what our
clients will understand and their demands for action are not going anywhere.”
And in the same thread, Jorge Treceno Pachon, congress manager
Legacy at Madrid Convention Bureau, said a lack of education was still hampering
progress in the meetings industry.
“The industry can’t build the house from the roof. It needs
to continue training and informing the value chain of events (destinations,
hotels, restaurants, caterers etc) about the SDGs, how they can be introduced,
evaluated, and developed in the short term. As long as we continue to talk
without training, the interested parties will continue with a process of slow
and delayed change.”
*The report, which has a wealth of insight on the role of
hybrid meetings, requests for proposals (RFPs), demographics, supply chain
management and more can be downloaded here.
AMI editor James
Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international
association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation
for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk,
read, listen to music, and drink beer.