Confex-North-Mail-Banner

Changing the Industry to Save The Planet: Interview with Louise Goalen

By April 17, 2019Features
Louise-Goalen-Interview

Louise Goalen, Director of Venues at Top Banana reckons change must be made in the industry in order to save the planet. From what major players in the industry are doing, to how we can think green, here’s what she thinks we need to look out for…

The world is waking up as messages of sustainability and eco-friendly alternatives flood our day-to-day lives. But sadly, 50% of plastics in the hospitality industry are still single-use and as an industry we’re producing 289,700 tonnes of waste each year.

The industry is becoming increasingly aware of this, and we’re now starting to see real change across the event and hospitality sectors, with companies changing policies and going to new heights to be environmentally aware and show the importance that they place on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This however isn’t only to benefit our planet, but also to satisfy a growing population of consumers who want to pay for hotels and experiences that consider the environment – as we continue to pass through the most environmentally conscious generation that we’ve ever had.

I’ve noticed significant change in the industry over the last several years, but there’s more that needs to be done. Here are the key environmental movements that I see as principal in fighting climate change in our industry and the things that you need to think about to keep green…

 

Reducing Single-use Plastic

We all know the problem with plastic, but recently there’s been a surge in venues offering eco-friendly alternatives. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts recently declared that all of its properties have gone plastic-straw free, while Nikki Beach Hotels has also created a “360 approach to sustainability” programme, opting to stop using takeaway containers, reduce plastic packaging and straws, opt for recyclables and regularly hosts beach-cleaning events.

Airlines are also getting in on the action and since 2018, Alaska Airlines are plastic straw free in both its airport lounges and all flights. This was after it announced that in 2017, it used a huge 22 million plastic stir straws and drink cartons – just a snapshot of how much waste there is in the industry.

 

Making Venues Sustainable

Plastic pollution is just one part of the problem and some venues are already thinking ahead and making their hotels sustainable in other ways. The Planet 21 Programme joined by AccorHotels is a pledge to ensure that hotels are driving measurable change throughout their businesses – with promises such as guaranteeing endangered sea species aren’t being served on menus, as well as cleaning with eco-friendly products and providing eco-friendly soap, shampoos and conditioners.  Hilton similarly has promised to halve its environmental impact by 2030 by making changes across its businesses that go beyond plastic waste.

Venues creating designated CSR programmes is definitely a trend that’s rising, and it’s a welcomed advancement as it gives, us, the venue finders, a clear picture of a venue’s commitment to environmental change.

 

Eco-friendly Delegate Experience

In the industry, we’re seeing delegate gifts, break-out sessions and incentive trips becoming more environmentally aware. Take a note from Bacardi’s ‘no straw’ movement against plastic straws and stirrers. Its removal of the items from all company events and from in-house happy hours is expected to save 12,000 straws and stirrers from landfills annually, alone.

By making delegates aware of these changes, we can make them consider their actions and give people the opportunity to make more considered decisions. A huge event taking this stance in 2019 is Glastonbury, which has announced that plastic water bottles are banned from the event and there’s a bigger push than ever to get attendees to either bike into the festival or use public transport. Plant the seed in your delegates’ minds and who knows, they might take the lessons home with them and continue to make a difference!

 

Final Thoughts

Though it’s impossible to say if or when we’ll see universal change on these matters – there are things we can do now to start making a difference. Start by looking into a venue’s CSR policies before booking – and if it doesn’t have any, challenge! If delegates arrive and are greeted with plastic bottles and straws – you’re likely to get a few complaints from a very knowing and conscious generation. So always ask the question, push the boundaries and you could create real change.

Another way you can help is by reading up on a recent initiative by the mia – #20percentless – which has been produced to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly operations, to encourage the meetings and events industry to take small steps to make a big difference. You can sign the pledge and start helping our planet – today.

 

Visit Mia-uk.org/20PercentLess to sign up to the pledge.