Sukumar Verma, Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) vice president, industry & enterprise, and sustainability spokesperson, shares insights on the Lion City's wide-ranging efforts in navigating sustainability
Singapore was certified to meet the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Criteria in March 2023. How significant is this and what does it mean for the industry?
The certification increases Singapore’s visibility, value proposition, and differentiation as a host for international business events, against the backdrop of growing demand for greener events by international attendees and visitors.
It demonstrates Singapore’s commitment and credibility that it “walks the talk” on being a responsible global citizen.
It also sets an example for the MICE industry, which is increasingly focusing on certification, in line with the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, co-developed by SACEOS and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Being GSTC-certified is just the beginning. We recognise that there is a large spectrum of waste that the MICE industry needs to tackle, including booth stands, food waste and general waste.
The MICE industry will concurrently work towards minimising single-use materials, improve processes and pilot new initiatives in line with National Environment Agency’s 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) guidelines.
Through the formation of the Global Mice Sustainability Alliance (GMSA), we will be able to tap the industry’s expertise to implement our waste reduction plans and reduce waste in an impactful manner.
GMSA was formed in October 2022 comprising STB, Informa Markets, SACEOS, Constellar Venues, Pico World (Singapore), Cityneon Holdings and Kingsmen Exhibits.
GSTC, with support from STB, is developing new Criteria for MICE and attractions and will serve as the global sustainability standards for both industries. What does this mean for local, regional, and international MICE and attraction entities?
The GSTC Criteria serve as the global standard for sustainability in travel and tourism. Today, GSTC’s Industry Criteria are only available for hotels and tour operators.
SACEOS will play a part in GSTC’s development of the first GSTC MICE Criteria. We have committed to actively contributing feedback, and providing consultation and industry expertise to the Criteria development process, as well as encouraging the adoption of the developed Criteria when ready.
Sustainability standards set the “common language” for a business to become more sustainable. It affirms if an organisation is on the right track in its sustainability journey.
As outlined in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, Singapore’s MICE industry is actively encouraged to pursue either local or international sustainability certification.
Depending on a company’s business needs, this can be addressed by both the SACEOS’ MICE Sustainability Certification, developed for the local context, or other certifications developed and aligned to the GSTC MICE Criteria.
How would you describe MICE sustainability in Singapore thus far and what are some key accomplishments? What SACEOS initiatives and strategies have worked well and what more needs to be done?
Part of STB’s overall strategy is to build a sustainable tourism sector. This is a continuous process and a joint effort between the public and private sector, something we are aligned with.
As an example, we set up the MICE Sustainability Committee with STB in August 2022 to lead the charge in increasing awareness of sustainability efforts and best practices and rallying the industry to adopt sustainable practices and deepen sustainability competencies.
GMSA was then formed to meet the growing demand for sustainable business travel by reducing waste and the carbon footprint of exhibitions.
The seven-party alliance is working to establish sustainability targets for an identified pilot event – Food & Hotel Asia Food & Beverage 2024, where green initiatives will be trialled.
The MICE Sustainability Roadmap with STB was launched to chart clear ambitions and concrete targets for Singapore’s MICE industry. One of the targets in the roadmap includes the MICE industry achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It is a feasible target as many MICE venues and event organisers have already begun incorporating sustainability in their product development.
In March 2023, SACEOS and the Singapore Standards Council (SSC), which is overseen by Enterprise Singapore, launched a set of national guidelines for waste management and reduction at MICE events.
The guidelines contribute to one of the targets in the roadmap, and contain best practices for various MICE stakeholders, including event organisers, venues, event builders, food and beverage providers and exhibitors.
The sustainability journey will continue to be a two-way conversation between the government and industry to understand the challenges faced by players across the MICE ecosystem, which may be at different stages in their sustainability journeys.
SACEOS is committed to equipping the industry in its sustainability journey and positioning Singapore as one of the most sustainable MICE destinations in Asia Pacific.
With increasing emphasis and demand for green events, we received strong demand from our members and industry for our sustainability workshops and courses such as the Sustainable MICE – Waste Management Guidelines Workshop held on April 12, 2023, and the upcoming Sustainability in MICE Workshop on May 11, 2023, which is organised in partnership with NTUC LearningHub.
We look forward to working with the industry, government agencies, as well as Institutes of Higher Learning to roll out more initiatives and programmes to raise sustainability standards across Singapore’s MICE industry.
What are some sustainability transformation lessons learned? What overseas practices have been identified that can be adapted and adopted in Singapore?
Sustainability is the right strategy for any business and it begins with a shift in mindset. Businesses need to think about how sustainability makes business sense for them and how it fits into their business processes and models.
With STB’s Tourism Sustainability Strategy, tourism businesses are encouraged to internalise sustainability as part of their offerings, so that they can contribute to making Singapore greener and more liveable.
For the MICE industry, there is a strong business case to tap on sustainability as an engine of growth. Investments in sustainability solutions such as food waste management at events not only elevate the delegate experience but also strengthen our appeal to environmentally conscious MICE organisers and travellers, benefitting bottom lines in the long run.
While the government can lead the charge by creating a consistent set of measurement methodologies to better meet MICE sustainability standards and provide grants and resources to drive holistic sustainability transformation, MICE businesses can also do their part.
One example is by implementing innovative tracking solutions at an organisation or event level. STB’s Tourism Sustainability Programme includes the Singapore Tourism Accelerator, which supports sustainability-related initiatives by matching good tech and sustainability solutions with tourism businesses.
What help do SACEOS members say they need and what are small steps they can take to commit to sustainability?
In a poll conducted during the MICE Sustainability Summit and launch of the Singapore MICE Sustainability Roadmap in December 2022, members and industry players indicated they require the most support in implementing sustainability practices is in knowledge, skillsets, standards and guidelines, as well as incentives and support of sustainability initiatives.
To empower industry players to embark on their sustainability journey in organising greener events through practical guidelines and industry best practices, SACEOS and the SSC launched the Sustainable MICE – Guidelines for Waste Management in March 2023.
In line with the Singapore MICE Sustainability Roadmap, the guidelines aim to support the sustainable transformation of the MICE industry and position Singapore as one of the most sustainable MICE destinations in Asia Pacific, and a preferred destination choice for holding green events.
Finally, what are the association’s next action plans to meet the UN 2030 sustainable development goals?
SACEOS will continue to work closely with the industry and relevant government agencies to develop a Workshop Agreement for Carbon and Energy Management, with the aim to support the sustainable transformation of the MICE industry and position Singapore as one of the most sustainable MICE destinations in Asia-Pacific, and a choice destination for green events.
In line with the roadmap’s target of 80 per cent of SACEOS members obtaining internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025, SACEOS is also working with STB and GSTC to develop new Criteria for MICE.
SACEOS is also in the process of refreshing the MICE Sustainability Certification to help organisations attain a locally recognised certification for sustainability.