At the Green Meetings Industry Council Conference in Montreal this spring, I had the pleasure of taking a session led by two Canadian ex-pat meeting professionals with impressive credentials in the area of sustainability:
- Katherine Manfredi, CMM, Senior Director, Strategic Event Management & CSR at Florida-based Conference Partners, Inc.
- Andrew Walker, MES, Founder of E3 Strategy, and a Canadian who moved to the UK to work on a number of sustainability initiatives leading up to this summer’s Olympics, arguably the world’s single biggest event.
Manfredi and Walker based their presentation on research paper published by Business in the Community (BITC), one of The Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organizations of which Prince Charles is President.
The research tracked 184 companies between 2003 and 2010 and identified seven key benefits that companies reported experiencing as a result of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. It was immediately apparent to me how this research could make an excellent basis for any meeting planner looking to promote change within their organization by incorporating sustainability and CSR to their events.
BITC found that companies reported the following benefits (in order of importance):
- Brand value and reputation: Companies reported that CSR programs improved their reputation with overall positive exposure.
- Employees and future workforce: CSR initiatives helped companies attract and hold on to talent, creating a more engaged workforce.
- Operational effectiveness: Having a CSR initiative drove corporations to find improvements in their practices and processes, creating more effective operations and higher levels of efficiency.
- Risk reduction and management: Companies reduced risk by being proactive with environmental legal compliance, thereby lessening social impact. This had the added benefit of decreasing the risk of boycotts and minimizing negative press.
- Direct financial impact: Companies with responsible business practices reported a cumulative financial impact, ranging from direct cost savings and lower penalty payments, to better access to capital and improvements in investors’ relations and shareholder value.
- Organizational growth: From their CSR initiatives, companies reported finding new markets, improving product development, as well as new partnerships and alliances.
- Business opportunity: Moving beyond the corporation’s own interest, CSR initiatives also allowed companies to find true, “win-win” scenarios with stakeholders outside the business such as the community in which the business is based.
In this session, participants were encouraged to join discussion groups around each of the above key benefits. I walked away with a renewed belief that adopting a CSR mindset is not only the moral thing to do, it is one that makes business sense.
To download a full copy of the report see: http://www.bitc.org.uk/issues/why_become_a_responsible_business/index.html.