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AIPC OPINIONGetting greenertogetherThe fact that the drive towardsustainability was not deflected in anyserious way by the recent globalrecession strongly suggests that it is a factorwhich is here to stay. Meetings andconventions will be affected by this, notsimply because of the impact of theseevents themselves but because they ofteninvolve long distance travel by delegates,which is itself a target for environmentaladvocates. And when sustainability concernsare combined with the lingering economicimpacts left over from the recession, we getsituations like those now being experiencedin many areas - most notably the US andUK - where cash-strapped governments aretargeting reductions in meetings as a way ofaddressing both their financial andsustainability concerns.In this kind of circumstance, it helps to beable to demonstrate that those most directlyinvolved in staging major events likeconventions and congresses are doingeverything they can to minimise thosesustainability impacts that they can actuallycontrol. This is clearly an area where bothgroups need to work together; yet a recentsurvey of AIPC members indicated thatwhile over 85 per cent of centres haddeveloped policies and programmes tosupport more sustainable meetings, only fiveper cent said it had proven to be a'significant factor' in the client decision, witha further 40 per cent saying it was a'modest' decision factor. These are hardlynumbers to inspire facility managers, yetcentres continue to lead the way indeveloping green programming. In one sense, it is reasonable that centresshould be more aggressive in the greeningof meetings, as they have a number ofdifferent pressures to respond to. Centresare most often owned by governmentswhose own policies encourageenvironmental sustainability. They are alsoaccountable to their respective communities,who typically also want to see centresbehave in a sustainable manner. Venues arealso subject to local and national buildingcodes, many of which have very specificsustainability requirements, particularly fornew buildings.But the fact that centres have had torespond to these various audiences bycreating better facilities and practices shouldbe seen as an opportunity by planners andthe organisations they represent. It meansthat the raw materials for creating a moresustainable event programme are readily athand. And it is available from the hostfacility instead of requiring a lot of initiativeby the organisers themselves.Developing a zero-waste or energyefficient programme can be a challenge fororganisers who are coming into acommunity without any real idea of whatresources are available or what costs maybe involved. But when the centre itself cansupply the framework for a more sustainableprogramme it relieves planners of a lot ofwork and uncertainty, making it much easierto do what most of their members wouldlike to see them doing.The cost factor, often a concernassociated with creating a more sustainableprogramme, is changing too. With manysustainability initiatives now embedded inthe facilities and operating programmes ofconvention centres, costs can be spreadover a wider business base and can evenhelp lower operating costs for the centreitself. The result is that green programmes,that might have been more costly even a few years ago, are now becoming justa fact of life, particularly in newerfacilities where the design has beenAIPC President Edgar Hirtsays convention centres are well placed to deliver sustainable programmes.Edgar Hirt is the President of theInternational Association of CongressCentres (AIPC); and Managing Directorof CCH, Congress Center Hamburg.AIPC is a global network of over 166leading centres in 53 countries, with theactive involvement of more than 650centre management professionals.configured to accommodate them moreefficiently.The bottom line is things are changing ina way that makes it easier and more cost-effective than ever before to mount asustainable event programme, and many ofthe necessary resources are readily availablethrough the host convention centre. Itremains for centres and organisers to revisitthe sustainability question together in theinterest of having everyone pulling in thesame direction.February 2011Conference+Meetings World 27