Sustainability – the new buzz word or the real thing?

For those of us who plan meetings, conferences and events, we’re always inundated with the Incorporating sustainable strategies into event planningnext trend or new fad. How much do we believe? How much do we incorporate these into our strategies and planning?

Many years ago, an MPI international president took on her cause as the greening of meetings.  She was ahead of her time – her plans died swiftly. If we all saw her vision as she saw it, we’d be further ahead.

Having said that, we’ve now moved from ‘green meetings’ to ‘sustainable meetings’ which have a much deeper meaning. Sustainable meetings go beyond waste management, carbon off-sets and using bamboo rather than paper plates.

According to Wikipedia, sustainability is:

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time, a necessary precondition for human well-being. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems…

…Human sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails, among other factors, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), to reappraising work practices (e.g., using permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or developing new technologies that reduce the consumption of resources.”

In other words, in the profession of conferences/events/meetings/exhibits, it is our job to find ways to not only leave behind a green footprint, but to also work for the future sustainability of wherever we hold our events.

Many venues in the Toronto area certainly are moving towards sustainability, involving more than ‘green’ elements. Recently, the International Centre produced a Sustainable Event Guide that helps any planner develop a sustainable event. You can download the guide by going to and click on their Corporate Social Responsibility tab.

It’s not an all or nothing approach. Each event has to look at what it can do with what it has to work with. So, can you ensure there are recycle bins around your event? Can you add an event to benefit the local area? It can be as simple as raising funds through a raffle to benefit the local school breakfast program or as elaborate as building for Habitat for Humanity.

For more information on where our industry is going with this, on a global scope, check out, the site for United Nations World Tourism Organization. Their mandate:

“UNWTO plays a central and decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, ‎sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the ‎interests of developing countries.‎

The Organization encourages the implementation ‎of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, with a view to ensuring that member ‎countries, tourist destinations and businesses maximize the positive economic, ‎social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits, while minimizing its ‎negative social and environmental impacts.‎”

Want to get more involved within our profession? Go to Green Meetings Industry Council at, and find out all you need to know.

What are you doing? What can you do? Begin with a sustainable strategic objective when you begin planning for your next event.

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