You hear the word “sustainability” a lot these days. In many cases it is merely a buzzword, or worse, used for the purposes of greenwashing.
But when clearly defined and applied in a systematic, strategic way, sustainability can help guide organizations and events toward short- and long-term success while avoiding negative human and ecological impacts. Now what’s better than that?
To ensure our future existence on this planet, humanity must find a way to live and work without continually depleting the natural resources we depend on or treating some humans as expandable or disposable. “Business as usual” is no longer a valid excuse for the damage inflicted upon our communities and our natural environment. Rather than viewing this responsibility as a burden, smart organizations see sustainability as a competitive advantage and a means of greater economic success.
It’s not rocket science! Some sustainability measures are just common sense:
- Simple interventions to increase energy and water efficiency, thereby reducing consumption, emissions, AND utility expenses (e.g. motion sensors/timers, insulation, LED lighting.) Why would we spend any more than necessary on utilities, especially when we know increased consumption leads to more planet-warming emissions?
- Diverting as much waste as possible from the landfill to reuse, repurpose, recycle, or compost. Why spend more to send material to landfill when it can be diverted to more productive uses that also reduce or eliminate planet-warming emissions?
- Granting flexibility to staff for medical appointments or family needs without fear of reprisal for not being at their desk for the same eight hours every work day.
These are just a few simple examples to help illustrate how sustainability creates a triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit. Profits that come only at the expense of the planet and/or its inhabitants are unsustainable, immoral, and ultimately, bad for business.
Meeting Revolution embraces sustainability as an organizational ethos to ensure our business contributes to the world — AND to make sure our business can stick around for the long haul!
Sustainability, when practiced properly, benefits the planet while also supporting a successful organization or event. Put more simply — it ensures an organization does more good than harm.
Measuring the effectiveness and impact of a comprehensive sustainability program is not always simple, but it’s always worthwhile — after all, you can only manage what you measure!
Direct eco-impacts such as energy consumption, water consumption and waste-to-landfill are easy to track via various paid software suites, or by simply entering monthly data points into a spreadsheet. In the course of an event, it’s important to monitor waste streams at the source (i.e. as attendees are disposing things) and to sort and weigh the recycling, food waste, and trash to get an accurate numbers on volume and diversion percentage rather than rough estimates. Ask venue hosts for any information they can share re: energy and water use onsite, as well.
Downstream impacts are more nebulous, but by maintaining open communications and getting key information from both suppliers and customers/clients, organizations can get a good understanding of where their inputs are coming from and where their outputs ultimately go (and adjust their activities accordingly).
It’s difficult to quantify human emotions like engagement and satisfaction, but surveying staff and having an “open door policy” for them to come to supervisors without fear of reprisal is a great way to start. If your organization is experiencing high turnover, regular interpersonal conflicts, and a general sense of malaise among staff, it’s probably safe to assume that improvements to the work environment/experience must be made to make jobs sustainable for those who fulfill them.
Ultimately, sustainability is not about putting out a couple of recycling bins or buying a few carbon offsets and calling it good. Sustainability as an organizational ethos is a mindset that considers ALL organizational activities through the lens of potential benefit and harm to the planet, its inhabitants, and the organization itself. While that may seem daunting at first, 30+ years of data shows us that businesses that embrace sustainability outperform their peers who ignore it. Financial performance alone should be enough to convince leaders who still somehow don’t care about negative impacts on people and the environment to embrace sustainability, so we can enjoy our beautiful world for centuries to come.