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The Next Big Meeting Planning Question: Sustainability

Posted by Michele Hutchinson on 5/11/21 2:00 PM
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For over a year, the big question on all meeting planners’ minds has been how best to ensure the health of all attendees at their events. These best practices are likely here to stay, and that’s a good thing, both for planners covering all aspects of an event and for attendees receiving assurance that they’re going to be taken care of.

But what about the health of a bigger participant that many don’t think about? One that’s everywhere, but we don’t see all of – or talk much about?

I’m referring to our planet.

Even in pre-COVID times, sustainability was on Meetingsnet.com’s radar. Talent buyer and booking agent Stefan Lohmann posted this 52-step checklist on its website in 2020, detailing all sustainability steps a meeting planner should ideally take. If you’re looking to add to your best practices, here are a few standouts from the list:

  • Environmentally friendly arrival
  • Sustainable purchase, use and recycling
  • Ethical towels, clothing and merchandise
  • Local accommodations
  • Barrier free, social justice and inclusion
  • CO2 emissions and offsets

And we have an idea of what happens when we reduce our carbon footprint on a larger scale than before. Last September, the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health published a paper detailing the positive and negative impacts of COVID quarantine. What’s notable are these two facts:

  • Using coastal Spain as a reference, the study states that 2-star hotels have the highest carbon emissions, with tourists across the board dumping various wastes in the area.
  • Local restrictions reducing the number of tourists around the world has positively impacted the immediate environment, with places like Phuket, Thailand, seeing Cox’s Bazar sea beach returning to natural colors, as well as dolphin sightings in Bangladesh’s Bay of Bengal and the waterways of Venice, Italy.

Granted, not all environmental impact was positive (especially as it relates to medical waste), but forms of pollution like air, water and noise all decreased, which leads to revitalizing the natural beauty these tourist destinations were known for in the first place.

So how do we maintain this balance?

No one group will have all the answers, but what is important is that all people are looking at sustainability as a key factor more than ever. The IBM Institute for Business Value shared that 93% of people polled say that the pandemic has changed their views on environmental sustainability, with 82% saying they would choose an eco-friendly transportation option even if it costs more. In the workforce, 68% are likely to apply for and accept jobs from companies prizing ecological sustainability, with just under half willing to accept a lower salary to work for those companies. Over half of investors polled said they would buy or sell based on a company’s sustainability practices as well.

And the time to act is now. Last month, Meetingsnet.com ran a story explaining the Lake Mead/Hoover Dam reservoir is at 40% capacity, its lowest level since the dam opened. This directly impacts hot meeting and tourist destinations in that area, like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Scottsdale and more. To counter this issue in this and other travel destinations, RFPs have added language that make water conservation a top priority. This means asking potential host properties about upgrades they have made to water-centric appliances, such as low-flow toilets, sinks and shower heads. Already properties like the Hyatt Regency Maui and the Pennsylvania Convention Center made such upgrades. It’s a step in the right direction.

This information comes at a time when, more than ever before, everyone’s watching to see which companies will step up and take care of their consumers. Our previous blog posts looked to hotels and resorts innovating safety practices during COVID. Who will step up to innovate environmental sustainability?

For years, Morley has placed sustainability as a high-priority value. Let’s all look at how best we can be good stewards for our planet as we integrate new best practices in a post-COVID meetings industry.




Topics: hotel, Travel industry, hotel industry, COVID-19, conscientious, meetings, environment, sustainability


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