HQ #109 / Sustainable Development Through Circularity

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Everything grows, everything changes, and so can everything survive; this is also the case for the values that preside over a society. Even if they follow a constant pattern, the changes that occur in a society are usually very slow. For starters, to assume that “sustainability” means the same as “environmentalism” may come in good faith but couldn't be more wrong. Ask 20 people on the street if they have heard of or know what 'regeneration' or 'circularity' means, and we think you would be amazed at the answers!

Sustainable development rests on three fundamental pillars − social, economic and environmental − which interact with each other, often influence the outcomes of each and undoubtedly move contiguously towards the same desired impacts – a circular economy. It is clear that a more expressive commitment to environmental sustainability is emerging, not only among delegates and travellers, but throughout the industry chain and association network.

However, the path that leads to a sustainable initiative can include unforeseen but truly interesting shortcuts. On our trip to Tallinn last month, we were able to see how the community and local authorities have reclaimed old Soviet factories to transform them into multi-purpose precincts, small business blocks and museums. What could be more socially sustainable than this?

We could also see that some of the major Swiss convention centres are making sure through their national Swisstainable programme that supply and first services are purchased from local and environmentally responsible companies. Isn't this an excellent proof of economic sustainability?

As one of our interviewees from Kenes this issue puts it, "when we currently hear about sustainability, attention seems to focus only or mainly on green issues such as recycling, carbon footprint and waste management. However, the topic of sustainability goes beyond the green discourse and encompasses other objectives such as gender equality, responsible consumption and production, quality education and health and well-being."

In the sphere of associations, the ICCA 2023 survey reveals that the majority of respondents (83%) express a trend towards more sustainable events in their requests for proposals, even if lack of funding, resources, in-depth knowledge and buy-in from boards limit this steady path. Either way, MICE requirements are increasing in terms of sustainability and associations that rely on them going away will pay dearly by 2030!


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