...the above title is the name of the sustainability call-to-action currently in place at the Professional Conference Organiser – PCO, and Association Management Company – AMC Kenes Group, which has recently appointed Elena Fis (pictured left below) as their Sustainability Officer.
Elena Fis is an event professional who has been part of the Kenes team for almost a decade. Over nine years with the company, she has worked in procurement, managing hotels and venue purchasing activities worldwide. Research analyses, negotiation and contracting, and team management have been her focus, which in recent years has allowed her to witness the development of sustainability strategies within the key players of the sector. Now, she has taken on a big task at hand: to develop Kenes Group’s internal and external sustainability policies.
How does she plan on accomplishing it? Following, an interview with Elena to learn more about the company’s efforts towards a more sustainable meetings sector:
How would you describe the sustainability efforts carried out by Kenes Group so far?
Interestingly, when we currently hear about sustainability, attention seems to focus only or mainly on green issues such as recycling, carbon footprint and waste management. Nevertheless, the topic of sustainability goes beyond the green talk and encompasses other goals, including gender equality, responsible consumption and production, quality education and good health and well-being.
In that sense, during its 58-year history in the meetings sector, Kenes Group has always engaged in this conversation and kept these matters at the top of its priorities. For instance, today our global team is 73% women and our local office managers make every effort to ensure their well-being.
More recently, right before the pandemic lockdowns, we identified a need to strengthen our green approach. That’s why we worked closely with the Sustainable Event Management Agency ‘Meet Green’ to develop a company strategy and reports that could be implemented by our Senior Account Managers, Project Managers and other departments, as well as our partners, to reduce the negative impact of our meetings on the environment, as well as company-wide educational sessions on sustainability.
I would say that the pandemic had a double effect on our efforts: on one hand, our educational programme lost momentum as we faced an adjustment period where re-purposing and teaching new skills to our team arose as a priority. On the other hand, focusing on virtual events also proved to be a great playground for us to learn more about sustainable practices and how we could take them beyond the pandemic context, which we successfully did for a few of our subsequent in-person events.
Just to name a few examples, last year we held two association meetings and one Kenes Original Events – which is a meeting initiated by our company without an association client – with a strong focus on sustainability: respectively, the Congress of the European Academy of Paediatric Societies, the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases, and the Flash Radiotherapy and Particle Therapy Congress. Here, we offered carbon emissions offsetting options, catering with local and regional products, food surplus donations, less printed materials, and selective waste collection, among others.
Kenes Group has also shown commitment by making part of the IAPCO Pledge Against Single-Use Plastic and the Net Zero Carbon Pledge for the Events Industry. We therefore have plenty of strategic goals to contribute to!
What are you currently working on?
So far this year, my focus has been on better understanding where we as a global team stand on sustainability. I am convinced that the awareness needs to start at home with individual actions, to be spread out to our offices and ultimately to our events.
This is why we started 2023 by carrying out an internal survey. We found out that the issue of climate change is extremely important (49%) or somewhat important (49%) to most; that the preferred personal actions are cutting down on meat consumption, reducing food waste and using public transport more often; and that the main sustainability challenges for the events sector are considered to be the cost of implementation, staff training and the lack of commitment from teams and partners.
So, based on the survey findings and the work previously done with Meet Green, we established to focus on four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): SDG3 – good health and well-being; SDG4 – quality education; SDG5 – gender equality; and SDG12 – responsible consumption and production.
We also assembled a Sustainability Dream Team with 32 team members from all our office locations! I was very happy to see that so many of my colleagues wanted to join the discussion and support our company’s effort in a more committed way. We already had our first monthly meeting and some of the conversations were about whether we should do more carbon offsetting or simply do fewer activities that increase the carbon footprint. Also, how the different countries where we work have different approaches to sustainability.
And, at a personal level?
I must admit that even though I have been generally interested in sustainability, it has taken me some training and studying to better understand the scope and relevance of this matter. I have been taking several e-learning courses on sustainability and innovation, and attending industry webinars to soak up as much context as I can.
What’s coming up?
We have set up a timeline for the rest of 2023 that involves the development of a Sustainability Policy for the company and each one of the office locations. We have a resource library that was built in collaboration with Meet Green for our Senior Account Managers, Project Managers, and Procurement and Business Development teams that we want to continue to socialise and teach how they can implement the existing reporting templates and contract examples.
Also, introducing measurable actions and standardising minimum practices to be achieved for each client and congress. I think this is the most challenging task we currently face, because it involves not only our individual and team actions, but also our partners and stakeholders.
We are aware that this is a process that requires a change of mindset and a willingness to invest resources with a different set of priorities in mind, so we look forward to continuing our education efforts to get as many people as possible on the same sustainable boat.
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