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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

28Conference+Meetings WorldFebruary 2011BREAKOUTMurder suspect's weddingbooked as 'convention'British citizen Shrien Dewani, setto standtrial for the murder of his wife, Anni, inCape Town, allegedly booked the weddingas a convention through his company PSPHealthcare.The claim was made in Cape Town's Mail& Guardiannewspaper, which said theRenaissance Hotel and Convention Centrein Mumbai gave a 'convention' discountbecause of business it received from PSP.If the estimated £200,000 wedding costswere accounted for as a 'convention'expense, British tax authorities might take adim view if PSP tried to claim the expense.Shrien Dewani's publicist Max Clifford toldCMW: "There was no pretence and no taxdeduction. The wedding was paid for by theDewani and Hindocha families personally.PSP Group has travel and eventmanagement capabilities. At the request ofboth families it assisted with the significantadministration, logistics and organisation ofthe series of events in Mumbai."PSP owns nine nursing homes in the UK. Dewani, from Bristol, has always deniedany part in his wife's death. Two alleged gunmen, Xolile Mngeni, 23,and Mzwamadoda Qwabe, 26, have beencharged with the murder and South AfricanDepartment of Justice spokesman, MthunziMhaga, said he was confident Dewaniwould be extradited "very soon".The Sheela stealerDelhi police recently arrested a 43-year-old man who had been trying to sell stolenlaptops near the city's Sheela Cinema. The police said Rajesh Sharma had beenstealing laptops from five-star hotels andconferences centres by posing as adelegate. Sharma is accused of selling onthe laptops in his local area, Burari. "Despite being a graduate, he was notkeen on taking a regular job, but wantedto lead a lavish lifestyle and turned tostealing laptops," a senior police officerwas quoted in the local press. Sharma had previously been caught onCCTV footage, and realised that securityat five-star hotels had been tightened, soit is thought he started targetingconference halls and temples. He evenmanaged to attend conference dinners. He also confessed to stealing shoesfrom outside places of worship, as well aspurses from Delhi's JNU conference hall.1,700 US pharma staff left 'upin the air' by conference callWhile conference calling is an integralpart of many businesses, GeorgeClooney's character (dispatched to firestaff) in film Up in the Air, likeredundant workers at Sanofi-Aventispharmaceuticals in the US, would notbe impressed by the technology's useto fire 1,700 of them.The Huffington Postreported on 17December 2010 that employees at thepharmaceuticals giant received one oftwo mass emails on 2 December askingthem to telephone a number at twoseparate times. Those who were instructed to call inat the earlier time kept their jobs, butthe 1,700 employees who wereinstructed to ring in later were told theiremployment had been terminated. Sanofi-Aventis is the world's fourth-biggest drugmaker and the company'smedia team defended the method ofmaking the redundancies thus: "Ratherthan cascade these announcementsand stretch the notifications over thecourse of days, we decided to addressthese colleagues at one time, to explainthe rationale for the reductions andexpress appreciation for thecontributions they've made to theorganisation. We acknowledged in thecall that delivering this news on ateleconference wasn't ideal, but giventhe scope and scale of the reductions,there was no other way to share thisnews quickly and consistently".Watch yourtweets, notthe clockLondontourismboard VisitLondon hasbreathed asigh of reliefwith its future secured thanks to a £14ma year arrangement that sees it join withtwo other agencies to create PromoteLondon under the Mayor's authority. Nodoubt some relieved tweeting on Twitteras a result.As the UK waves goodbye to theregional development agencies and muchof the funding they brought to ourindustry, perhaps some of theclockwatchers at other British state-funded agencies should be looking a littlebusier and watching what they tweet?Always scanning fellow industry Twitterfeeds, CMWpicked up the following postfrom UK national tourism boardVisitBritain as 5.30pm slowly approachedon 21 December 2010:'Not long to wait now....'Followed a few minutes later by:'Is the working day nearly over?'Convictourismincentiveanyone?The word 'Convictourism' caught the eyein a travel news story recently. It seems, oncloser inspection, that the 'con' does notstand for conventions, but for 'convict'.Travel agency followed lastyear's addition of 11 Australian convictsites to UNESCO's World Heritage list, bypredicting a boost in 'Convictourism', aphenomenon where those interested in the11 key penal sites in Australia whereconvicts were shipped from the old world,can go visit. The sites are located inTasmania, Sydney, Fremantle and NorfolkIsland. Must be conference potential in theresomewhere, surely?