SITE Week saw SITE Global hosting 46 Ideation Sessions over the course of 2 days, 2 times zones, and catering to over 1500 registrations. The idea was simple – facilitated brain-storming to help us all prepare for the road ahead, collaborating through the sharing of thoughts, insights and perspectives from across the globe, while collaborating and celebrating the togetherness of the larger SITE community. Each session was attended by a scribe, who was tasked with the articulation of his/her thoughts into a thought-provoking and informative article as a summation of their takeaways from the session.

This week we hear from Cole Lim Yong Ping from the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) on his takeaways from the session on Let’s Talk Sustainability: Building a Strategy and Meeting the UN SDGs in Travel and Events, hosted by Miek Egberts, Founder and Owner of InspireME and Claudia Van’t Huulenaar, Founder of Sustained Impact.

Cole Lim Yong Pong talks to us about the importance of leadership in developing sustainable practices.

Cole Lim Yong Ping is a final year student at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) pursuing a degree in Hospitality Business. His specialisation track is in meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions. SITE Week was his first involvement with SITE, which he says he found enriching and enjoyable!

The Problem:

“The world is a big mess right now, our consciousness is screaming. In addition to the global pandemic, another big wave is coming – climate change, biodiversity loss, and injustices. Something is happening here.”

Claudia Van’t Hullenaar, Founder of Sustained Impact

The Solutions:

What follows are some of the key learnings from this session, tips to help us all more actively contribute to the betterment of the environment, our society, and the economy, as well as the importance of leadership in developing sustainable practices.

Take a Top Down & Bottom Up Approach

Miek Egberts, CEO of InspireME Monte Carlo, firmly believes that a corporate top-down approach is the most effective method to take meaningful steps towards sustainability. However, many organisations jump into action without much thought, so she advises taking a step back and evaluating what you want to truly achieve, stating that “sustainability should be integrated into the DNA of your organisation”. While leadership is fundamental, now, more than ever, anyone can be a change agent within an organisation. It is the responsibility of everyone to raise concerns and call out unsustainable practices or suggest alternative ways to be environmentally-friendly. In fact, organisation leaders can be influenced by their employees’ commitment towards protecting the environment and hop on the sustainability journey as well. Conscious leadership and change mindset are key in developing sustainable practices.

Avoid Greenwashing

One participant of the session commented that she believed leadership was important in developing sustainable practices. However, she also felt that those leaders with a passion for environmental sustainability were often lacking the appropriate skills required to avoid greenwashing and to incorporate sustainability professionally. Both Miek and Claudia agreed that while leaders must personally have strong knowledge on environmental sustainability, it is also essential to have the correct tools and engagement strategies with various stakeholders. The younger generation particularly values the environment and will not work for a company that is perceived to be greenwashing or confused about the intention of certain green initiatives. For this reason, integrity and trust in the process is vital.

Get Others Involved

Miek emphasised that although destinations may be doing a lot in terms of environmental sustainability, it is just as important for agencies and local partners to impart knowledge to the consumer market when organising events. However, Claudia suggested going beyond the consumers and to also engage with suppliers, who can often be overlooked in the planning process. Agencies are in a strong position to influence them to offer green products and services. However, the transition for suppliers going green may require complicated agreement structures globally with diverse regulatory requirements, so it is not always an easy feat. Policy making may come into the picture too as suppliers often meet with barriers to cost-effective green options. Overcoming these obstacles requires time. Hence, it is more crucial than ever for all stakeholders to work together and develop more sustainable solutions – while also paving the way for other industries to follow.

Inform Yourself

For organisations within the travel and meeting industry, the Vancouver Manifesto is a useful referral tool as it outlines the 17 UN Global Sustainability Goals as well as the top 3 action points for this coming year. Additionally, there are resources such as the ISO20121 (Sustainable Events) which offer guidance and best practice on how to limit your impact on all three sustainability pillars – the economy, society, and environment.

Written by: Cole Lim Yong Ping, Student of Hospitality Business at the Singapore Institute of Technology