An EEAA Young Stars networking event on Tuesday 7 August has an environmental focus, but as Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia Chief Executive Joyce DiMascio reveals to Australasian Special Events, the Association has even bigger plans afoot to put the environmental issue back in the spotlight.
By Bronwen Largier
On the same day as the Young Stars event, the EEAA will be hosting the first meeting of a working group focussing on environmental sustainability in the business events industry.
The goal of the group is to develop and deliver an environmental charter for the EEAA to be followed by all the Association’s members and to be a model for the wider industry.
“We need to revisit the opportunity for our sector to be responsible practitioners in business and in the greater community,” explains DIMascio.
“This is not the first time we have addressed sustainability. We have, as an industry association, recognised and rewarded, through our awards program, responsible and sustainable business practice.”
“But like a lot of things in business sometimes these things are on centre stage and then they fall to the background.
“Australia was very proactive in this area of sustainability and corporate social responsibility around 2007, 2008, 2009 and it’s kind of gone a little bit to the background.
“There are some organisations that are very active and there is some excellent work being done but we thought it was really time to put this whole area of corporate social responsibility, waste management and sustainability back on centre stage for consideration by our members again.”
With the environment already put on the agenda by the EEAA Board in 2017 by including it in the Association’s five year plan, the group came about after a presentation on sustainability in business events at the EEAA National Conference in June by new EEAA Board Member Leighton Wood, Chief Operating Officer of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Association then asked members whether it wanted to actively engage with the issue further. The answer was yes.
“I think there are things that you lead the industry to and then there are other things that the industry are very proactive in,” says DiMascio.
“And so our work, which will kick off … with this working group meeting in Melbourne next week, is designed to have the members involved in establishing what the pathway forward will be for our industry. It’s engaging the members to come up with a practical approach and an achievable approach that keeps sustainability on centre stage.”
DiMascio says the ABC’s War on Waste is a “happy coincidence” for the EEAA’s mission.
“We reflect what’s going on in the business community and in the community generally. I think the campaign led by the ABC also reflects what’s going on in the community,” she says.
“It’s getting a lot of media attention and that means in the business events sector, hopefully our clients will also be more demanding of venues and suppliers and organisers when it comes to delivering business events.”
“I think the important message … is that the business events sector cannot be passive about its responsibilities to the environment.
“‘Do nothing’ is not an option.
“We produce a lot of big events, there’s a lot of consumption and we need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of our corporate social responsibilities.
“This is not a fashion statement. This is not about taking action because it’s topical, this is about taking action because it’s the responsible thing to do. It also makes good business sense.”
DiMascio says actions by the EEAA and its members could impact many other areas of business.
“We are an industry which is an enabler – we enable other industries to flourish through bringing them together through business events.
“Ultimately we’re working for clients though and … we have to deliver on the client’s expectations, but in some ways, we have the opportunity to also influence the client in terms of the design of their event, the products that are used, where food comes from, materials used, sources for materials – there’s a whole range of things that can be done and I think that’s what is going to be exciting about the work of the working group.”
“We can amply the messaging because we do reach into hundreds of other industry types and thousands of other industry associations and corporate end users. We are in a position where we can influence a wider community, but it’s really important to start with our own back yard.”
DiMascio believes there is plenty of learning that can be shared around the industry and that the Association can have a significant effect on galvanising people into environmental action, simply by offering a clear way forward.
“Some of it is simply about turning the lights off and reducing power consumption.
“There’s a whole range of really positive things that have been done and what we need to do is inspire the wider business events sector to keep doing this.
“And for those who haven’t taken any action, because they don’t know where to start, we want to empower those to make some steps forward.”
To inform the working group, DiMacio is drawing on her experience as the head of Business Events Australia between 2007 and 2010.
“Way back then, we had embedded in the brand for Business Events Australia, key principles around supporting an events industry that was going to operate sustainably and we produced some how-tos to help the industry embrace the brand.”
“We did really good things around 2008/2009. We led the world – we won awards all around the world in the business events sector for our groundbreaking work – it’s time to look at it again: 10 years on, are we fit for purpose?”
“What we’re saying now is given that there’s been a lot of change occur in the business events industry, we’re using new technologies, we’re designing different events, have we revisited sustainability to ensure that our practices are fit for purpose?”
“In many ways it’s a big stocktake. The rest of the community is thinking about it and the rest of the community is our community – we support the rest of the community. Are we in the right zone?
Tickets may still be available for the EEAA Young Stars Networking and Sustainability Forum on Tuesday 7 August at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information and to book click here.