Behind the Scenes

‘The Value We Bring to the Planet’

Thoughts about the legacies that meetings can leave behind.

As we were bringing this issue across the finish line, planners and suppliers around the world were participating in the first-ever Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), an initiative of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC). It was a day to reflect on and celebrate the big and small ways that face-to-face events move business, industry, and society forward — which happened to tie in nicely with this month’s Giving Back article.

In that story, Executive Editor Christopher Durso shares how BestCities Global Alliance, a partnership of 11 convention bureaus on six continents, has embarked on a new legacy program. It’s designed to help meeting clients leave their host cities in better shape than before they convened there by making lasting contributions in any of five areas: financial, physical, educational, emotional, or social.

We know that events leave a large carbon footprint (we covered this most recently in our March cover story), so the fact that forward-thinking DMOs are making a strategic effort to ensure that their benefits to society are worth the environmental toll they take is a good message for our industry. In fact, Michael Foreman — who, as the founder of the U.K.-based CSR consultancy Kindology and a BestCities customer advisory board member, helped the alliance formulate its legacy program — said as much in a recent statement: “We, in the international meetings community, still face questioning over our value and the negative impacts we can sometimes have on the environment. The opportunity for us to show … the major positive impacts we can have on numerous sectors including health and learning is — for me — the biggest statement we can show on the value we bring to the planet.”

I spoke recently with Jim Spellos, CMP, president of Meeting U. and passionate volunteer for hunger think tank Rock and Wrap It Up! (RWU), about how our industry can simultaneously mitigate its environmental impact and help others in need. That goes for food-recovery efforts and other practices that extend beyond the meeting audience. For example, hotels stock fresh toilet-paper rolls for every new guest, and I never gave much thought as to what happens to partially used rolls. Jim told me about how RWU, as part of its Hotel Wrap program, has partnered New York City’s Marriott Marquis with The Bowery Mission in downtown Manhattan. Over the past five years, the Marriott Marquis has donated its partially used rolls of toilet paper to the mission, saving them from landfills — and, more importantly, saving the mission more than $100,000. The charity is able to invest those savings in counseling, education, “and other ways,” Jim said, “that they need to really impact the lives of the people they serve.” 

GMID happens only once a year, but we have big and small opportunities to make a positive impact — and lead the way for our hospitality and food-service partners — all year long.

Knowledge Clusters

Earlier this year, I beta-tested a new fam program offered by Meet Minneapolis. One of my hosts, Alicia Schindle (who has since left the bureau), mentioned that she had been in Korea in September to bid against Montreal to host the 2019 Apimondia congress for the global beekeeping community. I was instantly fascinated. It seemed like an opportunity to get an inside look at the bid process for an international conference with significant societal impact — the importance of honeybees on ecology and global food security is huge. Thankfully, both destinations were open to talking to us about their experience. You’ll have to read Associate Editor Corin Hirsch’s terrific cover and CMP Series story  to find out who won.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.