Many remarkable and inspiring new ideas on sustainability in the meetings sector were shared and discussed enthusiastically at the recent Members Meeting.
The in-depth focus on this one high profile topic brought more than 100 members together at the Aubrey Park Hotel near St. Albans to listen to experts, campaigners, venues and buyers and to air their own experiences.
Jane Longhurst of the mia provided a stimulating start, encouraging everyone to sign a pledge and join the association’s highly successful #20percentless campaign to eliminate single use plastics within the industry by 2025.
Sustainable development expert Briony Pete of The Circular Life who moderated the sessions put the whole worldwide issue into perspective with compelling facts such as the hotel and accommodation sector accounting for 1 per cent of all emissions globally. She also presented a persuasive case for encouraging delegates to travel by electric train rather than by air.
Integrating sustainability into event planning from the start, reviewing where delegates will start their journey before deciding on a location, badges and the importance of management commitment were among the points raised by the Buyers Panel of Jason Cardy of Capita Travel & Events, Alex Beckett of Wolf & White, Rosemary Major from Anthony Collins LLP and Eleanor Radford of the ISEAL Alliance.
Colleen Theron of Ardea International spoke about Benchmarking Sustainability in events, in particular ISO 20121, the standard that specifically covers sustainable events. She said this is not a ‘tick box’ standard but one that for instance helps improve resource usage efficiency and ultimately the reputation of the brand.
As the Venues Panel, Louisa Watson from Wyboston Lakes Resort, Nichola Jacklin of Center Parcs, Maria O’Connor from The Good Hotel and Monique de Beer from the Shangri-La Group explained how venues are continually searching for new, more sustainability-friendly products and services and to reduce emissions and waste. Louisa said there had to be a culture of – ‘More Sustainable, No Apologies.’
Germany-based Maritim Hotels has been investing in energy and waste reduction processes for many years. Mark Spivey revealed the properties’ impressive environmentally friendly energy, its local ‘farm to fork’ F&B and how it is driving engagement among its next generation staff.
Olio is a valuable outlet for the industry, dedicated to minimising food waste by repurposing and sharing it. Michael Barsties explained how it operates and how members could work with them.
Finally, Laura Try, a former shopaholic beauty salon owner turned Atlantic rower, engaged everyone with her astonishing experiences and life transformation. She talked of how she was now a minimalist in what she owns and about the impact of seeing so much plastic waste in the seas and oceans on her adventures.
One comment from a participant that summed up the views of many was “I really enjoyed the content of the meeting. It’s great that the HBAA is championing such an important issue, I think the content was well thought through, the panel sessions in particular allowed best practice to be shared with the members. Let’s hope that as a direct outcome to the meeting more venues and agents progress on their journey to sustainability”.