These days, recycling water bottles and reducing paper at meetings isn’t enough for attendees. They not only want meetings and conferences to be more energy efficient, they also want to take part first-hand in making a change socially and environmentally. Choosing a destination known for its sustainable initiatives is a great first step toward achieving these goals for both the corporation and its employees.
This year the spotlight is on Bristol, deemed the greenest city in the UK and awarded the status of 2015 European Green Capital. With sustainable innovations stemming throughout the city and its venues, and more projects in the works throughout its green capital year, Bristol has made it easier than ever for the MICE market when it comes to hosting a green meeting. A beautiful countryside setting doesn’t hurt, either.
"Bristol’s European Green Capital status in 2015 has undoubtedly increased interest in the destination and we have always highlighted the city’s green credentials when presenting to organisers or at trade events," says Kathryn Davis, head of tourism for Destination Bristol. "We also promote access to the city by public transport very heavily, including promoting special rates for those traveling by train."
Judged on 12 environmental areas - ranging from local transport to waste and water management - Bristol's proposal hit the mark when it came to investment plans for transport and energy, as the city aspires to become a European hub for low-carbon industry and has spent the last 40 years championing these environmental efforts. Already, almost one-fifth of the city walks to work and the number of cyclists has doubled over the past few years. The city's innovative outlook also caught the judges' eyes, as one declared the award goes to "the city with the sense of fun".
As the first UK cycling city, and the first UK city to be awarded the title of European Green Capital, Bristol plans on using this role to become a leader for other European cities, as a "Laboratory for Change", showcasing its efforts via social media and live lab conferences, all the while reducing its carbon footprint.
This year also marks 10 years of Bristol being a Fair Trade City, and it will be the host of the International Fair Trade Towns Conference in July.
What's Trendy in Bristol Right Now
Speaking to Davis about how Bristol got to this green point, she mentions that the way consumers are looking at destinations in terms of sustainability is on the rise.
"We saw a great deal of interest pre-recession in specifically requesting venues with tangible green credentials, and while this remained important during times of economic difficulty, this wasn’t a ‘first’ option for many, preferring to look at budget ahead of any other factor in many cases," she says. "I think that a venue or destination's commitment to the environment is now one of the considerations in choosing the right location, with access and budget remaining the most important deciding factors."
Consumers love the "feel-good factor" that goes along with a socially and environmentally conscious venue, and this makes the organisation seem more caring and inviting, pleasing everyone from the clients to the delegates.
"We are fortunate to have some fantastic venues that not only invest in green accreditation, but also take these matters seriously themselves and have very clear environmental and social policies to help meeting planners make decisions. Many venues are also charities, and we see that meeting planners can also look at venues where their event will support the charity," Davis explains.
Since the convention bureau works closely with its venues (think eco-farms and manor houses) and arranging specific green requests, meeting planners know they're in good hands making sure their requests get across to the venue, for example ensuring a locally sourced menu. Davis also points out that the city will undergo major changes in the next two years as new venues pop up increasing the range of options for meeting planners.
Green Team Building
Going back to what makes this city so fun is its location. Set in South West England, Bristol has an 800-year history but isn’t resting on its laurels. The city is constantly looking at new and innovative ways to make sustainable changes, and this extends to the MICE market in terms of team building.
"We look for experiences or activities that are unique to the city and can offer something very special", Davis says. "We work with a number of charities locally who may be interested in offering a corporate group an opportunity to participate in what is essentially a team-building activity that genuinely benefits them…this can be clearing sites or building paths."
From learning "Bushcraft" wilderness survival skills or sheep shepherding at Folly Farm Centre's nature reserve to exploring the local wildlife on a safari through Gloucestershire, planners have plenty of options for green experiences that are unique to the area. "We are focused on finding ‘green’ team building experiences, and as we are surrounded by beautiful countryside, there are a number of very special activities that can be offered," Davis says.
Expect a year-long celebration of sustainability as the community gets involved in hosting festivities surrounding the city's 2015 European Green Capital status. This means nature summits, tree planting and discussions on climate change. The city is also hoping to get others on board hosting their own green events, and has even created guides to going green with tips on ways to make events more sustainable from the inside out.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.