With increasing public awareness of environmental issues, companies today are embracing “green” approaches to doing business more than ever before. That extends to corporate events and meetings – not only are these gatherings a driver of your company’s environmental impacts, they also have a high profile with the public. This high visibility gives your organization a venue to showcase its environmental stewardship and good citizenship.
There are a thousand ways you can “green” up your meetings, ranging from minor changes in material choices all the way to fundamental process revamps that can make a major contribution to “green” progress. Here are some substantive ideas that actually do something for the ecology, while also giving your PR folks something to point at with pride.
Go Local, Go Recycled, Go Austere
Buying locally-produced food and drink, decorations, and other meeting supplies saves fuel and boosts local suppliers. Making sure that your materials are green – programs printed on recycled paper, recycled coffee cups for the hospitality table, recycling bins for disposing of empties – is relatively straightforward and shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. In addition, you can be strategic with your decisions – if one particular item is just impossible to source locally or just can’t be found in a recyclable format, that doesn’t stop you from doing what you can on the other items. Finally, consider reducing the use of material resources that just aren’t needed – rather than bringing a stack of 1,000 brochures (when last year’s meeting saw hundreds left on the tables), publish an online PDF of the same document and give attendees the link.
Raise Awareness – Do Something Real
Few things give people as much satisfaction as actually accomplishing something real with their own hands. At a large gathering, hold a creek cleanup or clear out a vacant lot. Coordinate with local environmental groups to find projects that are of appropriate scale and where your attendees can actually see something positive come out of their efforts. Take before-and-after photos of the place where your work has the best impact and include that as part of the meeting’s follow-up process.
It’s important for your company to make a positive contribution environmentally, and it’s also important that people know about that contribution – so whatever “green” elements you adopt for your meetings and events, don’t be shy about promoting them.
Green initiatives are front and center. The 2012 International CES recently tallied up its recycling figures, and found it had recycled a record 75% of all of the materials used at its Las Vegas show.
That equates to a staggering amount of materials that got recycled—that's more than 80,000 square feet of banners and signs, plus 50,000 pounds of show publications.
In all, the Consumer Electronics Association repurposed:
• 35,700 square feet of magnetic banners, weighing 20,000 pounds—or 10 tons
• 28,600 square feet of vinyl banners
• 16,000 square feet of show signs and materials
• 50,000 pounds of show publications
“As the International CES is the largest annual event in Las Vegas, and one of the largest expos in the world—in addition to the fact that recycling and e-cycling is a big initiative in the consumer electronics industry—we wanted to make sure we were carrying this through to the trade show floor,” said Laurie Lutz, Vice President of Operations for International CES
By repurposing used vinyl banners from the 2011 International CES, at this year’s January 10-13 show, CES was able to create 190,000 recycled badge holders—and collected 11,000 of those badges to be recycled for a “third life” at the 2013 show. Going a step further, CES has used recycled carpeting and booth materials for many years.
"While recycling has associated labor costs, it is not prohibitively high," Lutz notes. In fact, CES is considering securing a green efforts sponsor for its 2013 show, to defray some of those costs.
“When you have buy-in from everybody, recycling and repurposing isn’t that hard,” Lutz notes. “Green initiatives should be able to fit into a show budget.”
In an interview in Incentive Weekly, Douglas R. Conant, the just-retired CEO of Campbell Soup Co., talks about leadership and motivating employees:
"You have to demonstrate an unmistakable philosophy of commitment to the well-being of the people in your company if you are to have any hope of inspiring them to an unmistakable commitment to your company. You also need to demonstrate that commitment in meaningful ways to get people deeply engaged.
When I started in 2001, we asked people what they needed in order to excel. We put together a plan that tangibly demonstrated that commitment, called “Campbell Valuing People, People Valuing Campbell.” And we followed through that plan. We did what we said we would do, we told people what we had done, and, finally, we asked them what we needed to do next.
"By developing a clear plan to revitalize employee culture, you create a better, higher-performing culture. You also have to get down to a granular level of culture-building that is clear and visible to all employees. Step one was getting out and listening to people and their issues. You have to confront brutal facts and feelings in the environment in which you are operating.
"You have to listen intently to what is said and not said, you have to frame the conversation, and you have to advance the agenda. This starts with adding a “How can I help?” mentality to the conversation and then a “How did it go?” mentality when the conversation is completed.
"We must be good stewards of our world, while we commit to being good stewards of our company. I have found that employees care deeply about our commitment to social responsibility. In my experience, the more we demonstrate our commitment in this space, the more engaged our employees become. We have been rated as one of the most socially responsible companies in the U.S. in each of the last four years by the Reputation Institute at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College—in the top 20 every year and as high as number two.
"As we take initiative on this front, employees have increasing pride in our company and become more zealous as brand ambassadors. When we began supporting the AHA with its Red Dress initiative in February, our employees started several random acts of kindness for fund-raising around the AHA initiative. Over time, it has gone from being a product-based issue that the company needed to address to being a rallying point for the organization to move forward and help save lives. Employees have been wildly engaged, and the more engaged they have become, the more our profile as a health-minded company has improved, as has our business performance." Read the entire interview here: www.incentivemag.com/article.aspx