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20www. c- mw. net Conference+ Meetings WorldMarch 2010 AIPC OPINION Putting greeninto perspective I ssues have a way of running to excess before they come back to a logical balance between the idealistic and the realistic. The green movement has been on such an upswing for some years, and while most people have now adopted a reasonable level of expectation about environmental responsibility, there are always those who want to push the agenda as far as it will go. Many of us are devoting more energy to the green issue than we are to making the arguments about the value of meetings themselves. Many are obsessive in their promotion of the green agenda, even to the point where there is now a significant gap between what kinds of facilities and programming can be delivered and what most client groups are demanding ( or, in an even better test of sincerity, are willing to pay for). In many cases this has been at the expense of advancing our own arguments as to why face- to- face meetings remain an important element in global development, a factor that needs to be balanced against the inevitable impacts associated with the travel required to attend those meetings. Maybe it's time for us to recognise that the only meeting that has no environmental impact at all is the one that doesn't take place - not exactly a great business development strategy - and instead concentrate a bit more on discussing why a certain environmental impact is a small price to pay for what meetings accomplish. This doesn't mean abandoning our support for sustainability, that's built into everyone's program these days, but if anyone should be promoting the idea of getting the green issue into some kind of perspective, it should be us. Conventions, and convention centres in particular, will always be driven to higher standards of sustainability. Centres are overwhelmingly government owned and community sensitive. They are also increasingly adopting standards that demonstrate their environmental qualities as part of building codes, community standards and a host of emerging formal certifications. Our sector is not going to become environmentally regressive any time soon. Better to worry about the fact that, as the green arguments reach fever pitch in some quarters, it is our industry that will suffer. There is a growing list of powerful organisations calling for significant reductions in business travel and meetings participation, music to the ears of those engaged in providing technological alternatives and eager for an excuse to reduce travel- related spending. We may have brought this on by our own actions, focussing on the green agenda to the near- exclusion of everything else. Does anyone really think the world will become a better place if we all stay at home and communicate via the internet? Are we really prepared to continue our push for evermore aggressive environmental measures when the inevitable result is that fewer people will be able to travel in order to engage with their colleagues around the world? Environmental standards are not going to move backwards. We are beyond waving placards and into the stage where responsibility and sustainability are simply expectations that must and will be satisfied. So let's start applying ourselves more effectively to the other side of the argument, that the green agenda needs to be tempered by the realisation that life can't simply come to a halt because that's the most sustainable thing to do. We need to accept the fact that there are intelligent trade- offs to be made if we are going to continue our use of face- to- face encounters in order to progress as a society. If we as an industry don't make that argument, it's hard to imagine who else will. Director of programming and international development for AIPC, Rod Cameron, says the green agenda needs to be tempered by economic realities. The international convention centre association, AIPC, is a global network of over 160 leading centres in 53 countries. Visit www. aipc. org ' A certain amount of impact is a small price to pay for what meetings accomplish' Rod Cameron

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