I remember back when the notion that staying in a hotel with a ‘recycle your bedroom towel’ policy was forward thinking for many sustainable-conscious business travelers. Or venues that purposely sought to provide clearly marked waste separation bins in their spaces was cutting edge? In an industry that thrives on excessiveness, how did we ever think that these small steps were so earth shattering? Think of this, according to a 2012 study, the US tradeshow industry ranked SECOND only to the construction industry for waste generation. An annual estimate of over 600,000 tonnes created by convention-goers at an average rate of 20 lbs per attendee*. Staggering isn’t it? And we are only talking about waste; not fuel, gas, water, philanthropic or otherwise.
Now, as suppliers and planners both alike seek to create more sustainable experiences, is their focus still fixed directly on their short-term bottom line? Well the news isn’t earth-shattering but if you are still on the outside looking in, you are not only falling behind but likely close to being irrelevant in the competitive landscape. If finding the ‘green’ in going green is a primary road block for transforming your business, maybe these few tips can help you turn the corner and get back on track; each denoting the capital investment required (and qualifiers if applicable):
$ minimal to none, maybe just adding some minor work to your routine one initial time
$$ short time investment easily workable into your budget
$$$ may need to ask permission but quantifying results and return a cinch
$$$$ plan it out, with detailed outlining, you can muscle this into the next fiscal budget
1. SEEK INCENTIVE FROM THE VENUE/DESTINATION
Long gone is the traditional site inspection RFP with standard space requirements, room rates and date availability. Forward thinking event planners have been implanting sustainable business requirements in their request forms outlining operating policies to minimum requirements as a marker in determining qualifying site selection. How important is your business to event-strapped venues and destinations?
INVESTMENT RATING $
2. THE NEW SPONSORSHIP MODEL
Are you still in search of that naming sponsor for your “Cyber Café?” If so, your sponsorship model needs some serious updating. How about selling sponsorships through new technologies like event apps and gamification; both more engaging for attendees and certainly more intriguing for potential investors? Or seeking an option and sponsor for alternative energy or carbon credits; both with more “hailo” brand equity that resonates with the younger attendee base (in Canada, www.bullfrogpower.com as an example). Seeking food and meal sponsors? Change the verbiage and solicit supporters for “Locally-themed” meals; after all, who wants to sponsor a ‘rubber-chicken’ dinner anyway?
INVESTMENT RATING $ (done right, your return should be better than your old sponsorship model)
3. REDIRECTING THE SWAG BUDGET
If we look at the previous statistic on attendee-driven waste generation, how much of it is created by the hordes of useless tradeshow swag we invest in? Big brochures, plush toys, mini calculators, keychains, pens, pads, pocket radios – yikes! – items that either end up in your bottom drawer or in the garbage. Think about this three-pronged approach if you made a quick shift and redirected this budget carefully. Eliminate the clutter and downsize to reduce waste; support local businesses and source unique items that people will appreciate; downstream the money you spent and contribute to incremental economic impact in the region.
INVESTMENT RATING $$ (may cost more but perhaps you buy less and be strategic with your giveaways)
4. POLL, LISTEN, MARK & MEASURE YOUR WAY TO LOYALTY AND GROWTH
Do you evaluate attendee experience and if you do, are you actually asking the right questions? Do you randomly select attendees and hold direct focus groups to get some in-depth feedback? Better yet, do you build and strategize around the feedback and suggestions? It’s amazing how we fear change so much that we even shy away from asking the difficult questions. Key is, if you’re already questioning your position on sustainability, you’ve likely already answered your own questions. Take a humble and strategic approach; set measurable goals and talk about them each year. Make sure they are within reach but don’t be afraid to fall short. People love transparency and honesty, especially the growing, younger customer base. Share them with your attendee base and watch how your loyalty and business start to incrementally grow.
INVESTMENT RATING varies (evaluations are simple, building a change strategic can get you up to $$$$ with upfront investment but will show in return one-way or another)
5. PASSING IT DOWN THE FOOD CHAIN
Your events’ success means success for a lot people and businesses. This is particularly true for your supply chain. And why should you take on the brunt of the work? How important is your business to your suppliers? Not just for this one single event but your entire fleet of business. If your goal is to be a more sustainably-driven, business should you not seek out partners that match your strategy and philosophy? It takes the guessing out of the equation, when you can count on your supply chain to step up and conduct business the same way you do.
INVESTMENT RATING $ (similar strategy to venue/destination selection RFP process)
With any form of change, there is almost certain capital investment, but the measurable factor is how much you can return and in what length of time. Sustainability is way beyond the “fad” stage and is now nearing the end of the “expected” spectrum. If you are anywhere in between these two points, you’ve got some serious catching up to do. Our consumer-driven marketplace dominates the conversation.
And the short-bitted, social media tidbits of those that are “cool” in the marketplace are winning the battles to capture the new customer. A customer that is younger, smarter, quicker and more influential that is flooding the market. So, are you losing the “green” battle on both fronts?
*Source: http://smashhitdisplays.com/images/stories/tradeshows ; US convention avgs
As Director of Operations & Sustainability for The International Centre, his passion is in the
development of sustainable events and transforming the experience for today and the future.
Whether it’s local ingredient sourcing, philanthropy or carbon reduction, his mission is
simple; utilize his twenty years of knowledge and experience to change the way people
think before they plan to meet, eat and socialize.
For more information, follow Trevor on Twitter @LuiSays
Written by: Trevor Lui