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Sustainable Brands

Sustainable Brands: Interview with David Fiss, Executive Producer – Live Events

Sustainable Brands Conference took place 25-28 September 2016 in Copenhagen – the Capital of Sustainable Meetings, and welcomed business innovators and sustainability experts from some of the largest brands across the globe. The message was clear – sustainability needs to be embedded into business models – it is a catalyst for innovation and a driver for profit. It is an opportunity for businesses, society and the planet. With live events increasingly becoming part of many brands content marketing strategies, it makes sense that brand professionals need to be considering the implementation of sustainability into their events, too.


Amanda Thurlow attended and interviewed David Fiss, Executive Producer – Live Events, Sustainable Brands.

Has the inclusion of a sustainability strategy complicated or simplified the event planning process and how?

We are currently beginning to utilize the ISO 20121 sustainable event management system for our main events.  This pragmatic approach allows us to organize and integrate our sustainability strategy into all areas of our decision making/planning process.

The Radisson Blu has a clear sustainability strategy, what strategies have drawn you to other suppliers?

We appreciate our suppliers partnering with us to help achieve our sustainability goals.  While working with partners with a clear sustainability strategy is helpful, we equally enjoy working with suppliers who are just beginning their sustainability journey and are willing to work together to try new initiatives. Leaving a positive legacy of sustainability in the communities we visit contributes to our overall sustainability objectives.

By implementing a sustainability strategy has this increased or decreased expenditure?

Give and take – we save money in some areas such as eliminating water bottles and printed programs.  While others may cost a little more, such as implementing a Back of House waste sort. There is also a large “reputation cost” of not implementing sustainable meeting practices at our events.

What are the biggest challenges in creating a sustainable event and what are the biggest lessons that you have learnt?

The biggest challenges have been, and continue to be, engagement of our stakeholders and helping to create behaviour change.

During the event one of the speakers implied that the environmental impact could be reduced even further by taking the event online. Are there any plans to move the event to a digital platform? Why do you believe it is important to hold a face to face event?  

Face to face meetings allow us to leverage our whole selves and to fully exploit the opportunity to create outcomes and solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts.

A main theme of the event was around sustainability not standing still and there always being a need for innovation. What future plans do you have to increase sustainability at future events to keep up with innovation?

We are always willing to push the envelope and try new technologies and strategies to increase the sustainability of our events and participation by our attendees and suppliers.  One area we are increasing our focus is on local community engagement. Each community we bring our event has unique challenges and solutions to those challenges.  We are excited to both highlight these organizations and bring their amazing work into our SB community.


Photos by Sustainable Brands

Sustainability – beyond the hot topic

At the Sustainable Brands Conference in Copenhagen sustainability went beyond the conference programme and was embedded into the event planning strategy – here is how:


Copenhagen lends itself perfectly to a destination for a sustainable event. The city aims to become the first carbon neutral capital by 2025 and it is clear that the local community are on board with achieving this. It is also centrally located in Europe, making it easily accessible to delegates from many other destinations. On arrival in Copenhagen the venue, Radisson Blu Scandinavia, is 15 minutes by public transport from the airport.


As stated on their website “Radisson Blu is recognized by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) for leadership and innovative best practices in sustainable meetings’ solutions”. Wolfgang Neuman President & Chief Executive Officer of the Rezidor Hotel Group delivered a session at the conference sharing how each brand in the portfolio of hotels was taking up the challenge to become a more responsible business around youth unemployment, carbon emissions, human rights and water stewardship. The initiative that was promoted at Radisson Blu Scandinavia was  Blu Planet, which focuses on reducing water waste.

The chain works with Just a Drop, the international water aid charity and donates money when guests re-use their towels to save water. Through this initiative the brand ensures a lifetime’s supply of fresh drinking water is available to over 12,000 children. When asked attendees to make a show of hands Wolfgang was impressed to see how many had participated by re using their towels. People were changing their behaviour. Radisson Blu also joined the Soap for Hope programme to recycle waste soap to help improve hygiene and prevent disease in communities that have no access to soap.

The hotel also implements further initiatives around using eco friendly cleaning products and offering water light breakfasts.


Wolfgang Neuman President & Chief Executive Officer of the Rezidor Hotel Group

Promoting well being

The conference committed not just to the well being of the planet but also the attendees. Yoga classes were on offer each morning and cycling was encouraged within the transport plans for the fringe activities, serving the dual purpose of reducing CO2 and promoting physical activity. Free bicycles were available from the hotel.

The well being of attendees was further encouraged through the food offering. The lunch menu promoted the six principles of brain food with lots of fish, wholegrain products, fruit and vegetables. Tied into this was the use of fresh, locally sourced products, reducing the carbon footprint of the event whilst also contributing to the local economy.

Reducing waste

Delegate bags were offered in a deconstructed format. Instead of putting everything in a bag for each attendee, items were left on a table for them to select on the items they wanted, therefore reducing waste. “Sprout” pencils,  the world’s first sustainable pencils were offered. They are made from sustainable wood and contain a dissolvable seed capsule in the end so once finished with they can be planted. Paper was offered outside rooms for people to take if required rather than being placed on each table setting.

All event specific signage was to be sent back to the printers for recycling and all brand signage was for long term usage so would not be disposed of.

As part of the waste reduction efforts exhibitors were also encouraged to minimise waste and use eco friendly products where possible. The Google Cardboard viewers offered on Dong Energy were as sustainable as they could possibly be and if users knew of better options they were invited to suggest them. Carlson Rezidor promoted their Green Meetings initiative at their exhibition stand by offering attendees the option to help offset the carbon footprint of the event. Small flyers made from seed paper were given out and attendees were encouraged to write on them how they intended to activate their purpose. Then they were asked to plant them at the Carlson Rezidor exhibition stand. For each card planted the chain agreed to offset 1 ton of carbon and plant 1 tree in Kenya.

When it came to food waste attendees were offered smaller plates at the lunch breaks. This encouraged smaller portions, meaning that everything on their plates was eaten and food waste was reduced.

Radisson Blu and Sustainable Brands also partnered with Beyond Coffee to turn coffee grounds from the conference into edible oyster mushrooms.


Activating Purpose

Banner stands near the coffee machines in the refreshment areas promoted the Positive Cup initiative from Nespresso which aimed to promote farmer welfare and improve the sustainability of the coffee industry.

Alongside eco friendly initiatives the event also promoted the community and humanitarian initiatives within the sustainability framework. Local community initiatives  were offered speaking platforms at the event to promote create business partnerships for both attendees and charities. CPH:CHANGE, a local collaborative platform for social change initiatives had the opportunity to speak to attendees with the intention of matching each of these initiatives with brands marketing strategies.


Sustainable Brands demonstrated how event organisers can work with suppliers to reduce any negative impacts. Sustainability strategies can be included in all events – not just those with sustainability themes. How can you ensure your next event has social, economic and environmental benefits?

Photos by Sustainable Brands

How can we accelerate the adoption of sustainability in events?

Business innovators and sustainability influencers from some of the largest brands across the globe gathered together in Copenhagen, 25-28 September 2016 for the Sustainable Brands Conference. The message was clear- sustainability needs to be embedded into business models – it is a catalyst for innovation and a driver for profit. It is an opportunity for businesses, society and the planet. With live events increasingly becoming part of many brands content marketing strategies, it makes sense that brand professionals need to be considering the implementation of sustainability into their events and what better opportunity than to learn from the experts in Copenhagen – the Capital of Sustainable Meetings.

One thing was clear from the low turnout of attendees at Copenhagen Convention Bureau’s breakout session – more awareness needs to be raised about creating sustainable events. As our facilitator, Ulrika Martensson, PR and Communications – Meetings and Conventions at Copenhagen CVB pointed out – events are an extension of the brand so sustainable brands need to be creating sustainable events. Ulrika, who greeted attendees in a Bee Sustain T-shirt and bee antennas, is the face of #BeeSustain – the campaign to promote sustainability in events. The aim of the campaign is to share the lessons learnt by the CVB from the sustainable events they had been involved with. Since assisting the UN in implementing a sustainability strategy at their climate change conference in 2009, which was attended by 33,526 people from NGOs, media, business and government, Copenhagen CVB have gathered a lot of best practice examples.

As attendees entered the room they were given case studies and asked to work in groups to brainstorm ideas about how to engage delegates in community projects at events and to identify the pros and cons of sustainability strategies at events. Experts from all corners of the industry including sustainable business consultants, event agencies, waste management organisations, hotel chains and more were available for delegates to consult with before presenting their answers. Groups could also use the inspiration hub that had been created to read case studies and testimonials from sustainable event organisers. Once the answers were compiled each group read aloud their answers and the experts awarded jars of honey sweets to the group with their favourite answer. Before the session ended attendees were given a miniature pot of honey and were asked the question  – how do we accelerate the adoption of sustainability in event? Each option was printed out and attached to a bowl. Attendees then voted for their answer by placing their honey in the bowl under their preferred answer. The answers with the highest votes were:

  • By playing the lead role and sharing best practice
  • By using sustainable suppliers.

Common misconceptions about implementing sustainability into events included that it is too complicated or too expensive. In a session earlier that day, where  a panel of sustainable event experts sat on a panel, the issue of cost had also been raised. Inge Huijbrechts, Vice President Responsible Business, Carlson Rezidor, asserted that sustainability should not cost extra – it should be a standard component in companies business models. Paul Salinger, Strategic and Creative Communications/Sustainability Champion, Oracle, identified quality issues as a common concern but assured delegates that quality had improved and was often better than the non sustainable options. He posed the question – if sustainable products equated to quality why would you not want to pay more? The MICEBlogHQ took this concept and polled Twitter followers on their preferences. 73 % of those who responded said they would be willing to pay extra.  With regard to sustainability making the event planning process more complicated, Ulrika advocated that using the brand values as a framework for the event actually simplifies the process – people know the criteria they needed to make their decisions by e.g  if the supplier supports sustainability in the same way the company does then they are a match for working together.

Discussions amongst the group and with the experts revealed that when it comes to sustainability, there is a lack of accountability. People assume the government is taking care of it, event professionals assume the hotel is taking care of it, marketers assume that the event organisers are taking care of it. The session concluded that it was everyone’s responsibility. As event professionals we have the ability to change behaviour in a multi dynamic way. We can demand sustainability from our suppliers. If suppliers do not have a sustainable offer then we can encourage them to adopt one. We can change the behaviour of delegates by implementing small changes to the delivery of our events to ensure we leave less of a carbon footprint – changes that actually enhance the attendee experience. We can also educate delegates by explaining why we are making these changes. By making attendees consciously aware of the changes we make, we are able to improve our own business image, reduce our impact on the environment and change delegate behaviour to reduce their impact on the environment. We are able to support social projects and local businesses.

The world won’t save itself and individual torch bearers can’t do it alone. This is is going to take collaboration between all sectors to create an industry wide shift.






Photos by Copenhagen Convention Bureau

Sustainable practices for #eventprofs – Takeaways from Sustainable Brands

Last week I attended Sustainable Brands London at The Beaumont Estate in Windsor. It was a three day event of which I only attended the last one. It wasn’t for event planners (as the ones I usually attend) but I still picked up few excellent tips I can use to run more sustainable events. Here are my takeaways.

Excite your audience about renewable energy

The highlight of the morning session was a presentation by Laurence Kemball-Cook founder and CEO at Pavegen Systems which is a flooring tile that converts steps into electrical power. It has two main applications, first is that energy is stored in batteries and used for lighting later on and secondly for data, e.g.- how fast people move. Company’s vision is to use this data to convert it into something tangible companies can use to interact with customers. One of the projects they had was with Shell where they installed a football pitch in Brazilian favela so the kids could play safely at night. It was very successful and their vision is to install it in stadiums around the world. Laurence is also a great speaker and can excite the audience about renewable energy! His presentation is available online so definitely recommend you to watch.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

Communicate sustainability

In the afternoon we could choose between three different sessions, one of which was “Communicating Sustainability at a Brand Level: A Close Look at What is Working, and What Isn’t, for the 15 Largest Global FMCG Companies”. Matthew Yeomans, founder of Sustainly talked about the research they conducted online observing the way brands communicate sustainability to their audience on Facebook and how audience interacts with it. They found out that while brands don’t communicate it enough on Facebook, audience engages in the comment section about certain topics, Nespresso capsules for example. Another interesting point he mentioned was that if you, as a brand, want to communicate sustainability you should use visuals as they are more engaging than text. Takeaway from this session was that Facebook is still one of the major social media channels and brands should use it to communicate sustainability and not only as a sales and marketing platform.

Driving behavioural change

Second session was about behavioural change “On a Quest for Solving Ever More Complex Behavior Change Challenges: Emerging New Tools and Frameworks” moderated by Joss Tantram Founding Partner at Terrafiniti and hosted Alex Batchelor, Chief Operations Officer at BrainJuicer and Sille Krukow, Chief Behavioral Designer at Krukow. Alex talked about consumer behaviour and said that before engaging people in sustainability we need to understand human behaviour. He showed some examples, e.g. when logging into wifi it can be anything from 22 to 4 inputs, thus showing that designing sustainable behaviour is making life easier, not more complicated. Also he mentioned that the language brands use to communicate sustainability can play a major role in decision making.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

Sille’s talk was more from an academic point of view and looked at theories such as “designing choice architecture” – instead of creating more awareness on sustainability guide employees and customers to change behaviour. Examples include reducing plate size at food buffets, and instead of saying “don’t” show how to do the right thing, e.g. – indicating where to dispose cigarette butts.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

To conclude, motivation and education don’t lead to behavioural change, therefore behavioural change is how to change customer and employee behaviour in a way that they will be comfortable with it and embrace the change.

In the closing session the founder and CEO of SB brands KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz announced that from next year the event will be moving to the capital of sustainable meetings, Copenhagen and Ulrika Mårtensson from Wonderful Copenhagen took the stage to welcome everyone next year in Copenhagen. I really admire how committed the team at Wonderful Copenhagen is and how they engage the different stakeholders to promote the city and its USPs internationally. Ulrika was joined by Thomas Kloster founder at WhereGoodGrows and Inge Huijbrechts, Global Vice President Responsible Business at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, where the event will take place. The hotel is known as a frontrunner within sustainable hotel management and they are aiming to welcome about 500 participants.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

Overall the event was very good and provided excellent content. There were few points they can improve in the future.

First of all in terms of marketing, the event was branded as Sustainable Brands London which is wrong as it took place in Windsor. It is not relevant anymore as the event will be moving to Copenhagen next year but just a takeaway for event planners to be aware of it.

Secondly sustainable practices weren’t present at the venue or the event. Feedback forms for example were in paper format rather than electronic. The venue itself is not classified as a sustainable venue and I would expect for such conference to take place at a sustainable venue, e.g. -The Crystal. On the other hand I assume the organisers chose this venue because it is close to Heathrow airport and many delegates came from oversees.

Lastly I found the afternoon sessions too long, up to 1.5 hours. It is not so easy to stay concentrated for so long so I would highly recommend doing shorter sessions and maybe more interactive, especially after lunch break .

I have no doubt that from next year the event will have a new approach to sustainability, offering the delegates the chance not only to hear about it but also to be more engaged and implement it.

See you next year in Copenhagen!