Collaboration with peers and partners in sustainability efforts is taking root among leading MICE venues in Asia-Pacific
Business events are, without a doubt, a major economic driver but it is also a significant generator of waste through excess food and unwanted marketing collateral and souvenirs.
The good news is, recognition of this weakness is growing and many business events venues in Asia-Pacific are doing their best to minimise waste and more, by striving for better sustainability credentials.
Embrace different aspects
Several large event venues in the region have the basics down pat. Think solar panels and maximising natural sunlight; making the switch to energy-saving LED lights; eliminating single-use plastics and using biodegradable disposable cutlery if they must; separating waste and recycling; and working with suppliers in the vicinity to reduce its carbon footprint.
For Malaysia International Trade & Exhibition Centre (MITEC), sustainability efforts started right at conceptualisation.
CEO Gunther Beissel, said MITEC was built with â€śstrict intentions to ensure that the development preserves the surrounding environmentâ€ť.
That commitment remains, and MITEC makes it a point to reuse as much as possible items left behind at events. Citing examples, Beissel said a backdrop curtain from a gala dinner could be reused as furniture storage covers or curtains for changing rooms, while remnants of timber and pipes from exhibitions would be be taken in for future events.
Looking to sow the seeds of sustainable operations, MITEC incentivises exhibition organisers and partners with certain discounts if they used biodegradable products, and encourages all stakeholders to obtain ISO standards to help develop better regulation.
So serious is the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) about sustainability that it recently appointed a leader for the task: Samantha Ferrier.
Said Leighton Wood, the venueâ€™s chief operating officer: â€śSamâ€™s brief is simple â€“ to seek out best practice in green, eco-friendly options and make it easier and more cost-effective for customers to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their events.â€ť
Within the same city limits, Melbourne & Olympic Parks is focusing on the future with Centrepiece at Melbourne Park, opening late-2021. The venue is aiming for LEED Gold Certification, meaning it will be recognised as a green building that practices the highest standards of sustainability.
Lara Burnes, general manager of premier events & experiences at Melbourne & Olympic Parks, elaborated: â€śThe venue has a sophisticated water harvesting system, which will reduce the amount of potable water it will use over a year, by reusing harvested water captured in the precinctâ€™s 4.5 megalitre underground stormwater retention tank.â€ť
Melbourne & Olympic Parks has also partnered with local company Memobottle to offer reusable water bottles as corporate gifts.
Burnes encourages corporates to rethink gifts, saying: â€śRather than handing out something that will likely end up in the bin, exhibitors could plant a tree in the name of someone or pay for travel offsets â€“ sharing a gift with their guests that gives back in the long term.â€ť
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Singapore has chosen to source seafood in a responsible manner.
Kevin Teng, MBSâ€™ executive director of sustainability, said the property has stopped serving species on WWF Red List since 2017, and is on track towards its goal of responsibly sourcing 50 per cent of its seafood by this year.
â€śTo help our clients reduce food miles, we also purchase ingredients which are produced close to Singapore wherever possible. Locally-grown sustainable kale, edible flowers and micro cress are some examples. In 2019, we procured 18,000kg of locally farmed, responsible barramundi, which was also served at our MICE venue,â€ť Teng shared.
The twin complex of Fairmont Singapore and SwissĂ´tel The Stamford, which includes the Raffles City Convention Centre, has introduced the â€śworldâ€™s first Aquaponics farm in an urban hotel settingâ€ť, said general manager, Marcus Hanna.
â€śThis project lowers water usage and power consumption for us, and makes real contributions to future global food security. It also greatly reduces the carbon footprint of food as the hotels now produce and supply more of what we need to use, and rely less on external purchases and transportation,â€ť he told TTGmice.
Finding the motivation
Understanding the need to mitigate the amount of waste a large event could potentially generate has made stakeholders mindful of the need to develop new ways to do business even more sustainably and ease the strain on the local environment.
When asked what drives them towards their green goals, Beissel shared that MITEC launched a â€ś#myWorld Programme that supports the development and implementation of minimum standards for sustainable events and exhibitions, allowing the venue to work towards reducing its environmental impact and drive sustainability.
Juliet Alabaster, general manager of business & major events at Brisbane Marketing, notes that â€śsustainability has become a key factor in the decision-making process of conference and incentive organisersâ€ť.
From the bid stage through to planning and event delivery, Brisbane Marketing works with stakeholders to demonstrate its sustainability credentials. Moreover, the Brisbane City Council recognises sustainability as critical to its long-term plan through the Brisbane. Clean, Green, Sustainable 2017-2031 vision.
Being accountable is also a big motivator. MBSâ€™s global corporate sustainability strategy, Sands ECO360, guides the way the property runs its business.
As Fairmont Singapore and SwissĂ´tel The Stamford is part of Accor, the property is required to monitor and provide regular updates on their environmental impact towards the groupâ€™s Planet 21 sustainable development programme.
Stakeholders say that the best way to better their own sustainable operations is through collaborating and sharing best practices with each other, as a cleaner and greener world would benefit all.
â€śNothing good happens in sustainability unless all of the players in the value chain collaborate. All stakeholders need to be educated, coordinated and motivated,â€ť noted Wood.
In order to promote sustainability across the industry, a leadership body is required.
The Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) in Australia, for instance, has created a Sustainability Working Group, comprising representatives from a number of event organisers, venues and suppliers across industry, working together to agree on sustainability practices and targets.
In Penang, Malaysia, Setia SPICE is taking the lead to host more international green conferences in collaboration with the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau and Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau.