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April 22, 2007

GREEN MEETINGS 2: Meeting the challenge of reducing emissions

The biggest single challenge facing business travel, other than terrorism, is the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability. Companies have been slow to recognise the impact their journeys have on the environment. Failure to respond to these issues will undoubtedly affect the way that shareholders and stakeholders value a company’s performance. We have seen environmental episodes repeatedly affect the share performance of large companies. This is the defining moment for a serious approach to this subject with the introduction of effective business practices. All venues – hotels, specialist conference centres and the like - are a significant source of CO2 emissions.
According to data provided by the UK environment agency, DEFRA, the greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) from staying one night in a hotel is the same as travelling by air from London to Manchester (average CO2 per person using DEFRA estimates).

Addressing the issue
The meetings industry has certainly started to address the issue, creating a ‘Green Agenda’ during the 2006 National Meetings Week. Meetings certainly generate a lot of waste, not least from partially consumed Fodd & Beverages, but although most meeting RFP’s now ask CSR-related questions, as Emma Bainbridge, director of events at BI told Business Travel World in October 2006, “there is not a lot of demand, but it is incredibly important. When people send us a request for information or proposal there is a box asking about CSR, but even when clients tick it they don’t pursue that line.” The majority of corporates’ RFP’s (Request For Proposal) now require suppliers to detail their environmental and CSR policies.




Lisa Lernoux-Dock is sales director at Chewton Glen Hotel, Spa & Country Club, rated 8th in the top 25 spas in the world and where meetings account for 25-30% of the business. “We’re at the top end of the luxury market, and initially there might have been some thought of a conflict between green issues and complete indulgence. People might not want anyone telling them to reuse their towels or something like that. But both individual guests and groups are much more conscious of environmental and Corporate Social Responsibility issues now, so we’re trying to embrace that.”

Chewton Glen is hoping to achieve gold status in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, a self assessmentbased scheme rating small B&Bs to large luxury hotelson everything from dripping taps to large recycling facilities.

"It’s interesting to see that we’re already doing things right. We source food locally as much as possible," continues Lernoux-Dock. "The back of our menus shows where it’s from. Initially, that was done because of the quality, but it also ties in perfectly with environmental concerns, such as transportation. In a lot of areas the five-star aspect marries perfectly with environmental considerations. We’ve found that so many things are compatible with our ethos of quality and luxury. They’re not in conflict, they can support each other. It isn’t just about using your towel twice!”

Sowing the seeds of success
Chewton Glen has for some time been planting more trees to encourage wildlife, and the gardener has created an environmental walking tour of the grounds. The hotel has also formed a CSR committee, while increased community involvement includes supporting training schemes in the area and focusing on three local charities a year chosen by staff.

Lisa Lernoux-Dock adds “This has positive workplace effects and acts as team-building within the hotel. You can’t think of this as a fad. You’ve got to be prepared to be in it for the long term. It’s amazing how many things aren’t that difficult to do or would add a value and are not going to be onerous to the guests.”

Given that the statement ‘the best way to make meetings green is not to have them at all’ is naïve, companies should put in place an environmental policy and programme with supporting targets to reduce CO2 emissions. Managing the environment is a real business issue. Putting into practice an effective environmental programme will undoubtedly result in an effective environmental programme, lower costs and real savings to the bottom line.

Three ways to reduce emissions from using hotels and accommodation

  1. Cut emissions:
    o Review travel policy – is the meeting really necessary and do all the people need to attend?
    o Identify viable alternatives - Using more video and audio conferencing is very effective. Saving 5% of the trips will have a significant impact
    o Travel ‘smarter’ - optimising travel and meetings management through better scheduling & route planning to reduce overnight stays
  2. Reduce emissions:
    o Supplier selection and engagement
    o Investigate the environmental policies for all suppliers
    o Select the best performers as preferred suppliers where financially possible – negotiate exclusive deals in return
    o Change company culture and approach
    o Lead from the top of the organisation - but make the responsibility of all
    o Creating a bottom up inclusive approach to responsibility will improve performance
    o Measure and reward CO2 reductions by employees
    o Staff inclusion and cultural change are the keys to a measured approach to reducing emission e.g. CO2 calculators, awards, rewards, internal trading etc.
  3. Compensate for emissions:
    o Partial offset or to balance company targets using 3rd party offset specialist supplier
    o Include suppliers in targets and gain commitment for offset

Excerpted from the Hotel Brokers International Meetings Industry Report 2007: Section 6 CSR and the Greening of Meetings. EVENTS:review will be running a series of excerpts from this report over the coming weeks. For a full copy of the report, please contact EVENTS:review

View the previous excerpt: We have a duty to care

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