Sustainability is rising once again on business agendas after being understandably relegated by some organisations for the past year by the sheer need to survive. Yet, at its very core, sustainability is actually about survival. The two are entwined. A green post-pandemic recovery is vital for all businesses in the events and hospitality sector as they navigate the road ahead.
But maintaining forward momentum and making improvements is more challenging then ever at this time. How can organisations achieve this?
From my observations and our experience, the keys to keeping progress high on the agenda are working with audited accreditation schemes, partnering with specialists, using technology and having a dedicated ‘green team’ who own the responsibility for achieving targets and who are willing to challenge the norm.
Fundamentally, every organisation should be guided in its operational policies by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were endorsed by all United Nations Member States in 2015. While these are wide ranging, the Events Industry Council has captured the four main essentials of sustainable events and showing how they reflect the SDGs in its Principles of Sustainable Events. These are a valuable guide for all event industry professionals, agencies and venues.
Sustainability accreditation for venues, hotels and event businesses is rightly becoming more commonplace. With questions about whether an organisation or venue has sustainability accreditation and policies now frequently included in RFPs, more venues are looking closely at gaining certification from a prestigious organisation.
At Wyboston Lakes Resort, we have found that setting targets for achieving certification from audited sustainability accreditation schemes are highly valuable in focussing our attention on specifics and in driving us to implement activities to surpass those targets by a deadline date. This approach also keeps us setting new goals. For instance, we recently achieved Platinum standard in Greengage’s Eco-Smart scheme, a step up from Gold which we were awarded a year ago, as well as reaching Gold standard in the Green Tourism Awards and the International Association of Conference Centres’ scheme.
Committing to the Meetings Industry Association’s #20percentless campaign for single-use plastics and achieving it has given us another focus for attention. This target has so far helped cut back on this usage by 42% at the close of 2020.
Partnering with specialists
Partnering with organisations with specialist expertise in key areas where performance can be improved is a highly effective and valuable approach.
For example, by working with The Energy Check, the resort has implemented a series of energy-saving initiatives, based on energy audits and feasibility studies. The resort is now using 100% renewable energy, which has helped to reduce its carbon footprint by more than 60%. Projects are also underway to also remove all fossil fuels from the site. MeasureMyEnergy technology, which measures and records electricity usage in real-time has also been installed to provide clear visibility of any devices that are wasting energy.
A partnership with waste management company Ellgia has helped make the resort 'Zero to Landfill' for the sixth consecutive year. New procedures have been introduced to cut back on both food and water waste, which also saves on costs. In addition, working with Tesla to encourage electric car usage, ten more Tesla supercharger points have been installed for guests. There is now a total of 26 charger points on the site.
Developing technology solutions has a huge role to play in fulfilling sustainability objectives, and also helps to create a more hygienic and efficient experience for customers and staff. This has been particularly important in making the venues and hotel rooms Covid-safe. Self-check-in kiosks have reduced check-in paperwork by 21,000 pieces of A4 paper annually and apps for ordering food and drink will save 130,000 pieces of paper a year too. Putting in-room information online instead of in folders has further increased these savings.
Like many organisations, having a Green Team with committed representatives from right across the business who own the challenges of finding new ways to make our operations more successfully and implementing them, has been vital. Supported by strong company commitments, such as ‘more sustainable, no apology’ and ‘We do the right thing, even when no one’s looking’, the team are well on the way to achieving ambitious sustainability goals such as becoming carbon neutral by 2040 by investing in on-site renewable energy generation systems.
Looking ahead, it is critical that clear sustainability objectives and carbon-neutral ambitions are put at the forefront of our industry to help businesses thrive post-recovery and guide them in the years to come. By using accreditation schemes, partnering with experts and harnessing technology, events and venues can significantly improve their performance and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.