Meeting planners are more likely to focus on diversity, equity and
inclusion (DEI) than tackling their environmental impact as part of
their sustainability policies, a new report has found.
than three quarters of planners (76%) address DEI in their
sustainability policies, according to a survey of 352 North
America-based meeting planners, by Northstar Meetings Group.
Some 70 per cent said they were trying to ‘reduce their environmental
impact’ as part of their sustainability policies, while 75 per cent
were focusing on ‘community initiatives’.
Perhaps of more concern was the fact that only four out of ten planners had a sustainability policy.
The report – "The Slow Progress of Sustainability in Meetings" –
suggests the client side of the meetings industry is lagging in its
efforts to improve environmental performance.
Associations were among the least likely to have a sustainability
policy (29%), with corporates (36%). PCOs (professional congress
organisers) were most likely to have a policy at 68%.
The UN SDGs– a holistic patchwork of 17 sustainable development goals
- have become the standard framework against which many companies and
organisations now measure their sustainability.
However some academics have argued that the word sustainability is
too vague to be meaningful and that how the SDGs are measured distorts
the achievements of countries and organisations.
NMG’s report is an indication of how direct environmental impact -
reducing emissions, enhancing biodiversity etc - is not necessarily the
focus when organisations talk about sustainability.
Alison Heppenstall, founder of Climate Action for Associations, said
tackling emissions was the priority for membership organisations on a
sectoral basis, no matter the size of their executive.
“A lot of our members ask us why we focus on climate change rather
than sustainability in general. The answer to that is that all of the
other things that come under the umbrella of sustainability will be
directly impacted by climate change. We need to bring carbon emissions
down quickly,” she said.
Others said the UN SDGs had become a recognisable framework for action.
Responding to the report in a LinkedIn post, Fiona Pelham, CEO of
Positive Impact Events, said: “There is some useful data in this report.
For example: ‘The older the planner, the lower the sense of urgency’.
Will the event sector transform so it is fit for future purpose, or will
the speed of change be too slow? One thing is clear, speaking the
language of the SDGs is what our clients will understand and their
demands for action are not going anywhere.”
And in the same thread, Jorge Treceno Pachon, congress manager Legacy
at Madrid Convention Bureau, said a lack of education was still
hampering progress in the meetings industry.
“The industry can’t build the house from the roof. It needs to
continue training and informing the value chain of events (destinations,
hotels, restaurants, caterers etc) about the SDGs, how they can be
introduced, evaluated, and developed in the short term. As long as we
continue to talk without training, the interested parties will continue
with a process of slow and delayed change.”
Source: Association Meetings International