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June 30, 2008

NO EXCUSES:How Motivaction is setting pace for carbon reduction

Much is being said across the meetings and events industry about the need for companies to reduce their carbon footprints for the sake of the planet. This is also becoming an increasing business imperative, with more and more businesses concerned over the green credentials of the events they organise and the suppliers they use.

Despite all the talk, however, is anything actually being achieved? A recent report in The Observer newspaper suggested a certain inertia has set in, where the general public and organisations acknowledged the existence and danger of climate change, but lacked either the knowledge or motivation to do anything about it. Within the events industry, however, one company is blazing a trail for others to follow… and learn from.

A green policy that works
Over the last year, Hertfordshire-based corporate events company MotivAction has slashed its carbon dioxide emissions by an impressive 66%, thanks to its Going Green strategy, according to recent independently audit figures detailing its carbon dioxide and waste production.

The company has been pioneering sustainability in the events industry over recent years, with managing director Tim Waygood frequently speaking out not only about the importance of protecting the environment, but also against organisations that he felt could have been doing more, or were making simply token gestures. And although such actions may not necessarily be making him any friends in the industry, no one can question Waygood’s motivation and commitment to the cause.

The independent audit

After an initial independent report in April 2007 by 3 Acorns Eco-Audits, a follow up conducted a year later has revealed significant reductions in MotivAction’s carbon dioxide emissions and waste levels, proving the success of MotivAction's Going Green strategy. These included a 45% reduction in total electricity usage. Furthermore, through using renewable energy from Ecotricity, this equated to a fall from producing 102 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to zero.

There were also significant steps made in reducing transport fuel emissions. By adopting LPG fuel in all fleet vehicles, training staff in 'eco-driving' and closely monitoring journeys, the company saw this fall by 33%: from 180 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006-2007 to a projected 120 tonnes in 2007-2008.

FILLING UP: A MotivAction team member fills her car with low emission fuel

Additionally, overall site waste production was cut by 25%, with the amount entering landfills reduced by 75%. The company's recycling level now stands at 66%, comparing favourably with some of the best rates in Europe (70%). A recently drilled on-site water borehole also means that future imported water consumption should fall from around 1 million litres to zero.

Putting the figures into perspective, with the average home's annual carbon dioxide emissions in the UK being 6 tonnes, MotivAction's 2006-2007 emission levels were the equivalent of 63 homes. In 2007-2008, the levels are expected to match that of 20 homes – a reduction of nearly 66%.

Hungry for more
Although these figures are very impressive, MotivAction isn’t going to stop here. It is keen to further improve on its environmental performances, particularly with respect to the greener options it offers its clients. Future initiatives include developing luxury alternatives to flights for incentive schemes, as well as continuing to recommend rail travel as an option for all events in Europe. MotivAction will also be examining options for powering events with renewable energy, as well as investigating the potential for an on-site recycled vegetable oil depot for use with vehicle fuel.

Whatever MotivAction achieves from this point on, and there is no reason to think it will not continue on its sustainable mission, 3Acorns Eco-Audits is certainly very impressed with its performance so far.

"I would like to congratulate the management and staff for the truly significant steps taken over the last year to improve the environmental performance of MotivAction," says the company’s Donnachadh McCarthy. "It's great to see that the management has established a clear ambition to be the greenest and most financially successful company in their sector."

Where to start
So what advice has Waygood for other companies keen to follow in MotivAction’s footsteps, and just how much has all this effort towards sustainability eaten into the company’s bottom line?

“The key, as with any business change initiatives, is to create awareness, then engagement and then action,” he replies. “Without clear understanding of the science and ramifications of doing nothing, little is likely to happen. Once this bridge is crossed only the wilfully ignorant can fail to be engaged, so it’s then a matter of project management, communication and empowerment.”

Adrian Price, MotivAction’s official spokesperson for environmental initiatives, offers further guidance, saying: “One of the most important things is to involve the people within the business strongly, to find out what motivates them individually and to tie this in with possible changes in the workplace. For example, if an employee strongly identifies with saving money at home on their energy bills, this will translate more effectively into energy-saving procedures at work.”

The cost implications

Meanwhile, as to the financial impact of running such a green programme, financial spokesperson Dave Buxton, says: “The overall cost to the business is nothing as the overriding principle is prudence – we reduce, reuse and recycle.

“For example,” he continues, “the unit cost of electricity is greater, however we use less electricity. Converting our fleet of cars to LPG was a capital cost, but this is recovered in lower fuel costs. Having all our waste recycled is a cost, although the drive is to produce less waste. Finally, using environmentally friendly products is a cost that is offset by lower usage and reusing.”

So you see, now there really are no excuses.

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