Corporate social responsibility was all the buzz at this year's Motivation Show. There's been a 180-degree turn from the corporate greed of the 1990s to a business environment that values charity and stewardship.
One way that companies can give back is to incorporate charitable activities into their meetings or incentives. That's what Marriott's Individual Incentives Group did in our story on page 26, as employees came together to rebuild a playground in rural Georgia (in this case also to honor David Riddell, vice president of incentive and gift card marketing for Marriott International, who had just died). They hired Lucy Eisele of Integrity Incentives, Big Lake, Minn. — who has shaped her business around planning activities like this — to organize the event, which won the 2007 Commitment to the Community Award from IMEX in May.
Another event company withas its mission is Impact 4 Good, based in East Hanover, N.J., whose most recent offering takes just a couple of hours: Teams build solar cars from kits and recycled materials and then race them. Best of all, the cars and brand-new kits are then donated to a local school. Impact 4 Good Executive Director Alan Ranzer has seen a huge boost in requests for proposals — a 132 percent increase — between January and October of 2006 and that same period in 2007. “A company that cares is a company that employees like to work for,” he told me. “Activities like this mesh well with a company's business goals and enhance a meeting agenda by getting participants working together.”
Further evidence that CSR is growing more prominent in our industry is Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.'s new “Meaningful Meetings,” where groups booking 10 or more room nights at any Ritz-Carlton will see 10 percent of the total room revenue donated equally between a charity of their choice and the Community Footprints Fund, which benefits hunger and poverty relief, education and development for disadvantaged youth, and environmental conservation. According to Bruce Himelstein, senior vice president, sales, the program was driven by group clients looking for ways to help the communities that they visit.
In a 2006 survey by PR giant Fleishman-Hillard, 46 percent of consumers said that they seek out information about a company's corporate social responsibility “all of the time” or “sometimes.” There's no reason that meeting planners can't be as discerning in choosing their hotel suppliers. Or at least start by understanding their companies' CSR efforts and including activities that give back in their agendas. The time to start is now.
For examples of how meeting planners and hotel companies are incorporating CSR into programs, visit meetingsnet.com and search for “giving back.”