South East Europe
Meetings Industry Magazine
As 2011 becomes 2012, Top 10 lists and year-in-reviews abound. With sustainability so much in the news throughout 2011 (extreme weather, measured increases in green house gasses, and continuing economic crises), and because it is our chosen area of focus, some attention is also merited to ways sustainability issues will affect the meetings industry.
This time last year, we created a list of predictions. In a few examples, we were perhaps a bit optimistic and, yet, we maintain that the list remains viable, if ahead of it’s time, so they appear again in this list for 2012 (sustainability reporting for events, social responsibility activities at events and increased leadership from Destination Management Organizations, in particular).
A thoughtful review of international business trends shows clearly that sustainability, and sustainable business practices, are more relevant and, indeed, more important to business than ever before. Return on Investment (ROI), risk reduction, cost containment, stakeholder engagement and innovative initiatives to increase revenue streams are terms which are not only near the top of every business leaders ‘to do’ list, but also characterize sustainable business results.
Given the increasing import of sustainable business practices in a difficult and ever more competitive marketplace, it’s appropriate to look more closely at the most influential of sustainability trends which will inform the 2012 landscape of meetings and events internationally.
1. Measurement and Reporting: 2012 will see a defined growth in measurement of event impacts and reporting to stakeholders. This trend will be a natural extension of the rapid growth in reporting seen in the corporate sector. At present, 80% of the Global Fortune 250 companies now complete sustainability reports to investors and stakeholders. One reason for the intense interest in reporting can be attributed to organizational effort to build trust with investors and clients. The economic crisis has compromised the perception of business integrity and transparent reporting of financial returns and sustainable business actions is an effective way to show that organizations are responsible and poised for growth. Those events that perform sustainability measures will most likely measure the following:
2. Supply Chain Management: ‘Greening the supply chain’ has been a focus of many industries but will be a larger issue for the meetings industry in 2012. Suppliers, such as hotels and conference centers, who attain eco-certifications will be required to conduct a review of the suppliers with whom they work. Planners seeking compliance with any of the internationally recognized sustainability standards for meetings and events will also be evaluating the ability of their suppliers to support sustainable event outcomes. The result will be a re-writing of purchasing policies and a shift away from suppliers with no engagement in sustainable practices.
3. Education: The proliferation and release of voluntary industry standards (ISO 20121, Apex Sustainable Meeting Standards and the Global Reporting Initiative Event Organizer Sector Supplement), along with the increased interest in reporting impacts, will increase interest in building planner and supplier skills through education. Industry associations such as the Green Meeting Industry Council and Meeting Professional International are, along with private sector sustainability resources, well poised to offer relevant and cost effective sustainability training for the industry.
4. Technology: As with all sectors, the meetings and events industry will see a rapid evolution resulting from the increased usage of event specific smart phone applications. These apps provide individual delegates personalized, customized mapping to optimize their event experience, saving time and increasing productivity. Social Media, as a platform for two way communication between even owners and event participants (‘what’s with the air conditioning?’ ‘The Audio Visual is awful’) provide real time opportunity to address any event improvements needed to enhance participant experience. Social media makes it possible for the event to begin at the time of registration giving real value to sponsors and exhibitors to engage event attendees in constructive dialogue before the official event start date.
5. Virtual elements: Regional events connected internationally: Event planners are learning that the addition of virtual audiences increases stakeholder engagement in their organizations rather than compromise attendance. Regional ‘nodes’ which connect at focused times during their respective events can be highly engaging and offer exciting opportunities to share knowledge while reducing costs and carbon emissions from flights and other transport.
6. Community Actions: Social programs will remain an important element for conferences in 2012. The change will be seen in what planners offer as activities in events. Rather than invest exclusively in more traditional activities such as theme parties or cocktail mingles, planners will offer socially responsible actions which give back to community. Participants in these sessions are moved to enthusiastic expression of these sessions being a highlight of their event experience.
7. Destination Management Organizations as sustainable business hubs. As a first point of contact for many planners, DMO’s will become increasingly responsive to demand for sustainable suppliers and activity options for events. Through their connections with regional membership, DMO’s have the opportunity to gather industry leaders around the topic of sustainability and facilitate training to bring mutually beneficial business returns to the region.
8. Fewer actions, greater results: Rather than struggle to integrate 10 or more new actions, ideas or processes, planners and suppliers will focus on 2 or 3 specific and measureable tactics which can yield tangible returns or progress. In 2012, more planners will mature in their approach to sustainable event management and find concrete results by narrowing their focus to improve areas most material to their unique conference or business.