by Brooke Thio | June 29, 2016
When it comes to planning a successful meeting or event, venue is one key consideration. Among criteria such as business facilities, ease of access, and unique experiences, there is a growing demand from clients for meetings that are environmentally-friendly and socially responsible. That's why Starwood Hotels & Resorts has made its Sustainable Meeting Practices programme a default option for events held at its hotels and resorts, adding to their MICE appeal.

This strong advocacy on what it terms "Global Citizenship" is not only good for the planet, but also makes for better business. Says Nichlas Maratos, vice president of sales, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific: "According to a 2014 Nielsen survey, more than half (55%) of global consumers across 60 countries say they would pay more for products and services provided by companies that are responsible global citizens...we see at multinational companies that this is the point of entry: to be considered for a request for proposal (RFP), you have to show that you're being a good global citizen."

As green as you want

Starwood's Sustainable Meeting Practices comprise 16 guidelines that let meeting planners make eco-friendly choices - not just onsite at its properties, but from start to finish.

Before the Event:
• Meeting planners can go paperless with digital tools for sales proposals, menu selection, and reservations.
• A customisable app, provided in partnership with CrowdCompass by Cvent, allows delegates to access real-time content such as agendas, speaker bios, and presentations via mobile devices.

During the Event: 
• Meeting tables can come with reusable, linen-free coverings - or simply without.
• Opt for china service, which is environmentally-friendly, and adds elegance to the setting.  
• Refreshments and condiments are served in bulk dispensers.
• Spaces are decorated with potted plants and sustainably sourced florals. 
• Sustainable banquet and catering menus feature locally-sourced produce. For instance, every evening at The Andaman resort in Langkawi, a local fisherman sails up to the beach where restaurant staff and guests can purchase the day's catch to be served for dinner.

After the Event: 
• A complimentary Meetings Impact Report (MIR) assesses the environmental impact of the event using the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative. Clients can choose to offset their carbon footprint with a list of donation opportunities through South Pole Carbon, Starwood's global carbon-offset partner that supports emission-reduction projects.

Cool team-building ideas

Coral Nursery at the resort.
The Andaman is home to a coral nursery and lab that work to repopulate the marine life of Langkawi's Datai Bay. In 2014, Thomson Reuters held their annual CEO Circle at the resort. Under the Coral Nursery Program, participants from their global offices teamed up to build 40 miniature artificial reef modules and place 100 corals on the reef. The organisation also made a very generous donation to The Andaman's nature fund for research and future projects.

At The St. Regis Langkawi, mangrove kayaking comes with a difference. Paddlers are blindfolded and guided by teammates to Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. Together, they plant mangroves - vital to Langkawi's ecosystem - before sitting down for a picnic. The three- to five-hour activity - suitable for 10 to 50 participants - fosters camaraderie and also spreads goodwill to the local community.

Taking the lead

+ In 2008, Starwood pledged to cut energy use by 30% and water use by 20% by 2020 globally. Today, it is well on track to achieve this goal with a 12% reduction in energy use, 17% reduction in water use - equivalent to an estimated 116 million bathtubs of water! - and 16% reduction in carbon emissions. The company has also banned shark fin at all Starwood properties and is working on transitioning to 100% cage-free eggs by 2020.

+ Opening in the second quarter of 2016, The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur will feature an energy-efficient digital canvas made up of 47 LED screen panels that form an LED wall canvas surrounding the interior of the Grand Ballroom. Kitchen exhaust will also be cleaned and filtered before being released to the city.

+ From 1 March to 31 October, 2016, meeting planners and organisers who book an environmentally-sustainable meeting at one of nearly 300 participating hotels in Asia-Pacific will receive 2,000 bonus Starpoints. Valid with a minimum spend of US$10,000. More details at spg.com/bettermeetings.