As the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) states, the meetings industry hasn’t been the most environmentally conscious. We fill airplanes, provide plastic water bottles, print signs, and use plastic name badges.
Sustainability has been an increasing concern and this awareness has encouraged many, including ICCA, to take responsibility and develop green meeting processes. Becoming sustainable offers many benefits including reducing costs and creates a better future for everyone.
With the help of GDS Index, the ICCA Congress 2019 Sustainability Report was created to highlight the positive impacts of new sustainable initiatives that were implemented and to review where there is still room for improvement.
Using the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) a sustainability action plan was created which focussed on the following ten areas; destination, venue, accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, agencies, production, marketing and communications, energy and community outreach.
The steps taken and improvements made at ICCA’s 59th Congress in Houston resulted in great progress in our ambition of our flagship event becoming more sustainable and improving its social, environmental and economic performance. Participants were asked to complete a checklist in the Congress App to indicate their individual sustainable efforts, which received an outstanding participation rate of over 800 efforts made during the event.
There was a notable amount of waste reduced; 99% of plastic water bottles were eliminated, 91% of all serviceware was reusable and 70% of signage was electronic.
In an effort towards Good Health and Well-Being, the third SDG, “Moving Conversations” and the IMEX Sponsored Meatless Lunch were introduced. The turnout for Moving Conversations, an opportunity to join an education session by riding a 14 passenger bike, was encouraging and the Meatless Lunch resulted in 1,024,200 litres of water and 1,890 kg of C02 being saved.
What did we learn?
- Communicate the efforts being made to sponsors and suppliers during the planning stages, so they understand goals and policies that they should be aligned to
- Be consistent with messages and create more awareness to delegates.
- Many initiatives were launched and well received, however as part of activities one-use plastic was still being used and gave mixed messages
- Sustainability is an ongoing process – keep learning and trying to improve!
For an in-depth review, read the ICCA Congress 2019 Sustainability Report prepared by GDS Index.