The push for sustainable operations is being felt in every sector. That includes the meeting and events industry, where Montréal’s Palais des congrès convention centre is blazing a trail for carbon-neutral venues through its Palais Boréal initiative.
“We’re all well aware of the environmental costs of organizing events, whether it’s the ecological toll of travel or the resources and waste involved in hosting crowds,” says Robert Mercure, Palais des congrès CEO. “At the same time, we’re also all aware of the urgency for venues to begin addressing those impacts and promoting ways to leave a smaller environmental footprint.”
That awareness is also growing among event organizers who are being motivated by their boards and delegates to factor sustainability into their destination selections. Herein, Mercure adds, “That pressure is mounting, so we knew becoming carbon neutral and launching Palais Boréal would be a worthwhile and strategic investment.”
After all, he continues, “We’d rather take the lead and get ahead of the wave, rather than be caught behind it.”
Offsetting the impact
Launched in 2019, Palais Boréal is a multifaceted initiative that offers clients opportunities to reduce their event’s environmental impact. It’s a five-step program that facilitates planning and hosting a carbon-neutral event, developed in collaboration with Planetair, a leader in the field of climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) offsetting. The program also provides participants attending events hosted at the Palais with access to simple and effective tools for instantly offsetting travel with carbon credits that are Gold Standard certified – the strictest carbon emission reduction standard around.
The program’s launch comes in the wake of other sustainability initiatives announced earlier in the year, including operating a carbon-neutral building and offsetting carbon emissions stemming from business development activities.
‘What we’re doing is unique in that we’re taking steps to become a carbon-neutral convention centre that also sells carbon credits for events, credits that are certified and mainly locally generated,” says Mercure. “Having the program tied to local initiatives removes the skepticism sometimes occasioned by sustainable programs and makes it tangible for our guests.”
No doubt, the Palais’s commitment to greener operations extends beyond carbon credits and offset programs. Drawing on international standards and the advice of leading environmental experts, the venue has launched a number of eco-forward initiatives within its walls. These include supporting the Bourse de Carbone Scol’ERE program and its awareness-raising work in Montréal elementary schools, moves to virtually eliminate waste, upgrade its composting and recycling facilities, and maintain a green roof in partnership with the Université du Québec à Montréal, among other projects.
“And we’re always looking for more ways,” adds Mercure. “We’re coordinating with top environmental agencies and consultants to see what we can do, and looking into things like interior vegetable walls and green spaces to create a cleaner environment.”
The new environmental initiatives have been met enthusiastically by the Palais’ sustainability partners and clients since their introduction. Moreover, transforming the venue into one of Canada’s only carbon-neutral convention centres has positioned the Palais as something of a role model within the community.
Mercure notes the team is proud of the projects rolled out to date, but there’s a long road ahead: “There’s an environmental revolution going on right now and it’s driven by young people, who are our clients of the future. We’re in a very powerful position to help facilitate that revolution, to support these grassroots activities, and to bring awareness of its importance to people at all levels. And to be honest, many of the things we’re doing now will be expected of our clients in the very near future.”