Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Degree: Feel Good, Look Good

We are exploring the three degrees of social responsibility in meetings starting with the most popular form of social responsibility which includes donation and volunteer projects. These kinds of projects contribute to a sustainable cause, but are also directed at providing promotional benefits to the donor agency. These kinds of socially responsible acts can be measured in terms of number of media opportunities and the financial value of exposure.

Donation programs
Many meeting planners have started to take the time to integrate important donation programs into their events. These programs might be a call to action for participants, challenging them to raise funds or provide items for certain causes as part of the event. They may also include the donation of leftover conference materials or food. Donation projects are moving beyond merely giving leftovers and organizing fundraisers, however. Some organizations are budgeting funds or securing sponsorships to support experiences that are driving more socially beneficial outcomes.

Case in point...since 2002 USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo has donated 60,000 lbs of food and tradeshow materials benefitting over 31 different agencies. In addition, USGBC contributes $10,000 towards a legacy project. Greenbuild 2009 also supported 32 needs-based scholorships to engage populations under-represented in the green building movement.

Volunteer Projects
These projects are differentiated from donations as they typically include a direct action to engage in a project. It does not necessarily involve raising money or resources. The projects serve to forge connection among donors, helping them to build relationships and network through events in a very unique way.

As an example, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched Eco-Innovations in 2005. The Fairmont Orchid has developed the Room to Reef project, an integrated approach to sustainability that extends from rooms cleaned with non-toxic biodegradable products to organic landscaping, marine health and guest learning. Partnering with a local university, hotel colleagues support regular monitoring of the nearby coral reef.

To read the entire report, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?"
click here

Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Degrees of Social Responsibility

"When forging connections between people is a fundamental part of what you do, it is impossible to separate social responsibility from meetings and events." Shawna McKinley

Agreed. But what is "corporate social responsibility"? How are different organizations interpreting it? How is it impacting our meetings? Many of us are struggling to get our arms and minds around CSR and our role as meeting planners. Shawna has authored a fascinating issues brief, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?" where--with the help of meeting professionals focus groups--she has outlined voluntary action for social responsibility in three degrees:

First Degree: Feel good, look good
Second Degree: Responsible action in planning
Third Degree: Advocacy for responsibility

In the next few blog posts, I will explore each of these degrees in more detail. Please feel free to post comments about how your organization is acting on social responsibility so we can learn together.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Reason to Love that Old Mug

There is nothing like sipping your morning coffee from a favorite old mug. And if you need another reason to skip that disposable cup...just "AskPablo"

"I chose styrofoam, ceramic, and stainless steel for my original comparison and looked at the material intensity and the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of each, taking into account the fact that one was disposable and the others were reusable. My conclusion was that the production of styrofoam cups has a much lower environmental impact than the other two in terms of resource extraction and GHG emissions. But, since the styrofoam cups are disposable you need a new one every time you have a cup of coffee. The environmental impact then adds up until, at 46 uses, the ceramic mug becomes the environmentally responsible choice. And after 369 uses, the stainless steel mug also become a better choice than styrofoam. Ultimately the ceramic mug is the best choice since it is infinitely reusable and has a lower impact than the stainless steel mug (Although you could factor in the convenience and portability of a stainless steel mug with a lid).

Now, to look at paper cups… Let’s assume that a paper cup is used only once, weighs 20 g, and is made from bleached virgin wood pulp domestically. The material intensity factor for this material is 11.73 g per g of paper so the material intensity of our paper cup is 234.6 g. Using this new number along with the previous results I created a chart that shows the fixed impact of the reusable cups and the variable impact of the reusable cups (the x-axis represents the number of uses and the y-axis represents the material intensity in grams). This shows that styrofoam has a lower material intensity than ceramic until 46 cups and that 24 paper cups are equivalent in material intensity to a stainless steel mug.

If you want the full study and graphs, click this link

Then think of the impact when you are choosing china vs. disposable for your next meal function!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Art of Embracing--Four Easy Steps

Businesses should embrace sustainability as an integral part of their corporate strategy. Or, as Peter Graf, reports, "put your business at risk." In his March 19th blog, he talks about the four steps in detail, but here is the condensed version...

"Four steps to sustainability success in your business.

1. Assess your organization and plan how you can incorporate sustainability in a strategic, holistic way.

2. Measure your business activities.

3. Take action.

4. Constantly monitor and adjust your plan."

These four steps also work well for sustainable meetings and events. Here is the link to the blog post for more to think about

Friday, March 19, 2010

This Is Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

When choosing a vendor or hotel property one of the first questions to ask is about their environmental policies or mission statement. It is a quick way to tell how inherent environmental responsibility is to an organization. It will also give you a quick read into the depth of their commitment. There is an excellent post on Environmental Leader by Matt Courtland of The Natural Strategy highlighting some of the major hotel chain's mission statements

The comments are also worth taking a look at and you might want to join me and add your own two cents as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...and the dish ran away with the spork?

My little neighborhood paper, The Hollywood Star News" ran an article this month asking local residents to donate gently-used flatware to the schools. It seems, "Schools went to the seemily more efficient mode of handing out plastic "sporks" (wrapped in plastic) with a devastating effect on the environment--56,100 plastic spork packages are thrown away each school year at Alameda Elementary School alone!"

The school wants to change this system back to the olden days when reusable metal flatware and trays graced the cafeteria. The community is pitching in. I had no idea plastic sporks had become common place in elementary school--my kids are in their 20's--but in our throwaway society we train them young.

Perhaps this would be a great project your community too for local hotels, caterers, and meeting venues ridding themselves of flatware no longer living up to the "brand image."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Testing Our Intelligence

Ecologicial Intelligence. A fascinating study captured in Daniel Coleman's book of the same name. Goleman talks about how our "society has lost touch with what may be the singular sensibility crucial to our survival as a species." He goes on to say, "Ecological intellgence melds cognitive skills with empathy for all life. We display such empathy whenever we feel distress at the sign of "pain" of the planet or resolve to make things better." We need to tap into this intelligence in order to survive.

Goleman boils down our possible ecological goals to three simple rules:

1. Know your impacts
2. Favor improvements
3. Share what you learn

Simple and elegant rules to live by.

Monday, March 8, 2010

They Never Have To Take Their Shoes Off

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.
~Elizabeth Berry

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tweet Deal

Want to see how your viral networks are functioning AND boost registration numbers for your next event at the same time? Here's an idea from one of our registration gurus, Cija...

"Use Twitter to send out a tweet from your organization offering a registration discount to the conference valid or the next 36 hours only. The offer is available from that exact moment but won't last. Tell them to register right now and send it on to their colleagues as time is ticking away. If you have the option of using coupon codes in your registration system, you might also give a prize for the person referring the most registrants during that time frame."

Give it a try. What do you have to lose?