The business case for sustainability at your events

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):

  1. Brand value and reputation: Companies reported that CSR programs improved their reputation with overall positive exposure.
  2. Employees and future workforce: CSR initiatives helped companies attract and hold on to talent, creating a more engaged workforce.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Organizational growth: From their CSR initiatives, companies reported finding new markets, improving product development, as well as new partnerships and alliances.
  7. 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.

About the author:

Doreen is co-founder and Chief Strategist at Greenfield Services Inc., a demand generation consultancy specializing in helping meetings industry organizations grow their business. Fluent in English and French, Doreen graduated from the University of Ottawa with a BBA in Marketing. Before founding Greenfield, Doreen was VP Marketing for The Sutton Place Grande Hotels Group. She also held various sales and marketing positions with Inter-Continental Hotels, Mariposa Cruise Line, Four Seasons Inn on the Park, Park Plaza Hotel Toronto, and Ottawa's Château Laurier. Doreen has been a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) since 1989. She began her volunteer involvement in Toronto, joining the Professional Development committee within months of becoming a member. In 1992-93 she took on the presidency of the MPI Toronto Chapter and subsequently served on the Canadian Council of MPI. After she started Greenfield Services and moved to the Canada’s capital, she joined MPI’s Ottawa Chapter. Soon she joined the newsletter committee and then the Board in 2004. She became President of the Ottawa Chapter in 2006, and a member of the MPI Foundation Canada Council in 2008 where she served for two years. This year she is back volunteering at the local level, contributing to the Ottawa Chapter newsletter committee. Doreen is an avid reader and fan of historical fiction, but as soon as the weather warms you'll find her tending to a one-acre perennial and vegetable garden at the home she shares with her husband Heinz, their teenage daughter Iliana and their cat Tommy.

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