Specialised training for staff regarding sustainable ‘green’ practices in the meetings and conferences sector is essential for such practices to take root, says a study involving an academic from IFTM. The paper reveals that current educational schemes for employees concerning sustainability seem to be insufficient.
The study was carried out by IFTM scholar Dr. Clara Lei Weng Si, in partnership with researcher Ms. Liu Yun Qing. It aimed to assess the level of awareness among professional event planners of the environmental impact of their trade.
The findings were featured in the academic paper “Towards Sustainable Practice in the Event Industry: Insights from Practitioners”. It was published last year in the scholarly journal Event Management.
The authors identified a lack of “structured training” focused on ‘green’ sustainability, and targeting people employed in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry. That ought to be addressed promptly, via training materials covering the latest issues on sustainable standards and practices, they suggested.
The research included qualitative in-depth interviews to collect insights from event planners working in Macao. A total of 8 professionals was interviewed. Their individual experience in the industry ranged from 4 years to as many as 25.
The research results revealed that all respondents stated they “saw room for improvement” in “many aspects” regarding enhancing the environmental sustainability of the events run by their respective companies. The respondents also affirmed that strategic planning to minimise the environmental impact of events required the attention of both the private and public sectors.
All the interviewees stated they were “well aware” of the environmental impact caused by the organisation of events, noted the researchers. In addition, respondents reported seeing “the need for, and importance of, implementing corporate social responsibility programmes,” to reduce the respective environmental ‘footprint’ of their events.
Guidance for industry clients
The research also looked at the value of boosting awareness among industry customers of the importance of ‘green’ events. The authors said this was crucial for promoting overall environmental sustainability in the industry.
Guidance of clients was nonetheless “a delicate issue”, and needed to be “handled with care,” wrote the authors. An educational programme for clients required “dedicated planning and careful management, in order to achieve the educational goals without jeopardising the perception of the company’s service level.”
According to feedback from some interviewees, Asian clients were usually “less concerned about sustainable green practices”, and “less aware” of their importance, than Western customers. Based on the findings collected, the authors suggested that event organisers could provide supporting services to clients, to aid their engagement on the topic, and enhance their knowledge of practical ‘green’ steps that could be integrated into meeting planning, to make their events more sustainable.
The researchers also noted that size mattered in terms of environmental sustainability. While larger events were likely to have more serious potential environmental impact, often those events also had in place special strategies to minimise their ‘green’ footprint.
Another topic covered by the study related to recognition of ‘green’ standards and certificates. Findings showed interviewees had “a fair level of knowledge” of these accolades. “All the interviewees perceived those standards and certifications to be of critical importance to a company’s business, and to be the trend for the future, not just in the event industry but in all industries,” said the researchers.
The authors highlighted in their study that the overall economic contribution of events to host jurisdictions was “undeniable and visible”. Nevertheless, the industry had “a tremendous impact on the environment.” According to the researchers, their findings pointed to the benefit of adopting sustainable green practices in the events industry, as it could solidify “economic returns and operating cost savings”, as well as helping to promote sustainable economic development in general terms.
Dr. Clara Lei Weng Si is an Assistant Professor at IFTM. She is the Coordinator of the Tourism Event Management programme at IFTM’s School of Hospitality Management. Dr. Lei has a PhD from the University of Leeds, in the United Kingdom. Her academic research interests include event management, management education, and international business, the latter focusing on the impact on hospitality of foreign investment and knowledge transfer.