Two dominant themes stand out from the three major meeting planning conferences I've attended since January: the globalization of meetings and the greening of meetings.
They seem old hat to me, perhaps to some of you, too, because we've been writing about these issues for years: We've devoted cover stories across our group of magazines to environmentally friendly meetings since the 1980s. And we considered international meetings so important that we have been producing this annual supplement about meeting outside the U.S. since 1994.
So why are these two themes predominant now? And how are they related? I could preach about our moral imperative to save our natural resources and prevent global warming or sing a chorus of “Kumbaya,” exhorting the interconnectedness of mankind. But it's much simpler than that: It's really all about business and the bottom line. We've been hearing from economists for decades that the economy is global and that U.S. businesses have to adapt and expand if they want to survive. That moment has arrived. And wherever international business goes, meetings are right behind.
It's a similar “think globally” message we've been hearing from scientists for decades, that the greenhouse gases we emit in the United States and in all industrialized nations are affecting climates and populations in every corner of the globe. But corporations are just now realizing that reducing those gases is really about the survival of their businesses. It makes good marketing sense, too, since many of us see the slowing of global warming as a moral obligation to future generations, and we want to reward those companies and products that embrace green policies.
The good news is that many countries are far more advanced than the U.S. in their environmental laws and policies. Even though we fly people to our meetings and incentive programs in other countries — as we're doing more and more often (see our cover story, page 6) — or we congregate masses of people in any given city, consuming lots of electricity and producing enormous amounts of waste, many venues are doing much to offset those carbon emissions. (See an example of one such meeting in our Canada wrap-up, page 23.)
While we will continue to support and advocate for the business reasons of taking meetings, incentives, and events outside the U.S. — to share education and gain business knowledge, to trade with residents in cities around the world, and to reward — we also appreciate the fact that more and more meeting organizers, sponsors, and venues are offsetting the greenhouse gases they create by purchasing or investing in carbon offset projects such as renewable energy, energy-efficiency, or reforestation projects in industrialized and third-world countries.
We can do business and do good at the same time.