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February 4, 2008

Saving the Planet through Conference organisation


If you have been working in the commercial field for at least the last ten years, an invitation to rewind the memory over that time would expose a snapshot of business practice in many ways unimaginable to-day.
The impact of environmental priorities on the commercial scene is just one example.
Until the ‘90s ‘green’ issues were the preserve of activists in the pressure groups led by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and prophets in the wilderness Jonathan Porritt, David Bellamy and others; to-day the same issues are headlines in both national and trade Press and media.
Can the world of conference venues, facilities and organisation play its part in saving the Planet? Given a practical and step-by-step approach to addressing environmental issues, the answer is ‘yes’.
Faced with the enormity of the prospect of global warming, including the disappearance of whole islands beneath rising sea levels, we may be forgiven for thinking that there’s not much we can do, either at home or at work, to make a major difference.
Fast-forward another ten years however, and a world in which individual trees in the rain-forest can be
monitored on-line to maintain the livelihood of indigenous tribes, rather than falling to illegal logging, will
also see greater transparency in the way companies conduct their business.
Efficiency in environmental best practice relates to efficiency in other aspects of above and below the line
operations, whether internally in R&D, sales and marketing, administration and staff relations, or externally
in linking with those who matter, and who recognise quality – clients, shareholders and the media.
Those conference venues where environmental best practice is taken as read will increasingly have an
advantage over competitors who haven’t made the effort. Although the most rigorous standard to attain,
such as the international IS0 14001 (British Standard Institute - is tailored for larger
companies, there are other local organisations offering guidance and consultancy to the smaller group or individual venue. Business Link or the Chamber of Commerce can be the first introduction to effective action.
Our own experience as an environmental consultancy advising companies on the route to ‘greening’ their
operation is an example of the step-by-step approach. Through an introduction by a mutual contact we
met the Mayfair Conference Group, with four central London venues, about eight years ago. The first purchasing change was to recycled paper pads, with pencils for delegates made from recycled vending cups , and brochures from an environmentally-friendly printer, followed by other measures to ‘green’ the supply chain, in cleaning and other materials. Recycling of all materials including conference literature and kitchen waste is now routine. The buffet lunch at a recent event, organic and locally-grown, was much appreciated by delegates, not least le vin biologique.
A free survey by Envirowise highlighted savings in energy and materials, and led to a fuller environmental
impact assessment by the London Environment Centre, and to the award of their Green Mark standard.
Offering carbon offsetting to clients for their events at each of the Mayfair Conference Group venues is a further progression along the route of caring for the environment and for looking for new business at the same time.
Saving the Planet?  Only a few steps, but they’re steps in the right direction, with some new and appreciative
clients as an added bonus.

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