If you are one of many clients or PCO's that check the sustainability credentials of a venue before your event, how sure are you that the facility actually meets the standards that it claims to?
Recently, while working with a client that had selected their venue in this way, we found that the certification on which their decision was based was less than accurate and that the venue was simply incapable of meeting obligations. Although the property has been certified ISO14001 compliant, we found that its management systems and capabilities failed to meet even the basic ISO standard and that in fact, they were greenwashing their abilities behind a facade of the certificate. This raises serious concerns about the process that was followed in certifying the venue, but also in the seriousness with which management treats the entire process.
Any environmentally certified facility must be able to meet the basics like measuring energy consumption; water consumption; waste separation and recycling and other basic management practices, but too many certified facilities can’t even do this right. What is so difficult in monitoring consumption and separating waste anyway? What makes the problem greater is that management at this property was given the right tools, systems, recommendations for improvement and training five years ago, but they have either forgotten the process or simply don't care enough. If management cannot see that providing single-serve, plastic packed butter portions on tables that have gone to the n'th degree to be sustainable is just plain wrong, what are they doing?
Going through their facility, one gets the impression that they are going through the motions when we find that over a hundred downlights in their public space still use 50w incandescent lamps and that they only intend replacing them in two years’ time. Air handling equipment is burdened by poorly managed doors and access points that allow extreme external temperatures to negate their effectiveness while closed or unused spaces remain air-conditioned and lit for hours on end. In the meantime, they are staggered by their consumption costs and are spending a fortune on consultants to advise them what to do to save energy. It's the simple things that make a difference - the most effective being common sense.
All this adds-up to a disservice to the client. Once a client has made the decision to hold a 'green' event - and has advised their venue of this fact, management needs to get on-board with the measures that are needed to support the performance of the client and to assist and make possible everything the client needs to achieve their goals. Giving energy and water consumption data two weeks after the event is unacceptable - about as unacceptable as telling the client they can't provide data on the waste stream of the event, and this undermines their efforts to achieve their goals.
To the average venue manager, these shortcomings may seem trivial and an overreaction by an environmental zealot, but they aren't. This is all-too-commonplace in our industry and nothing more than another case of greenwashing and irresponsible business practice. Either do it right or stop pretending to give a damn and life becomes a lot simpler for your business and for the choices clients need to make.
Here's the news for those that haven't heard it yet. Your clients are embracing greener events because it has become part of their corporate DNA and if you are unable to meet the sustainability vision of an event, stop masquerading behind an obviously ineffective certificate of compliance because of the reputational damage you face. Come right out and say that you aren't green. Your clients are far smarter than you give them credit for.