Report from the Green Meeting Industry Council Conference DAY 1

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The annual GMIC Conference is the place to be if you’re an event planner or supplier interested in sustainability issues. Targeted at a wide audience, participants range from experienced green meeting professionals to those just getting started with green event practices.

The conference looks at events through a sustainability lens, and considers topics like venue & destination selection, menu planning, measurement tools, as well as broader topics like community outreach, CSR and sustainability objectives & strategy.

Portland is such a great destination for sustainability geeks, right off the plane you know there is something different about this city. I mean it’s one thing to have mass transit via the TriMax train – but a dedicated place to assemble bikes? That’s stepping it up a notch.

I had the opportunity to participate on the opening plenary panel on the business dimension of sustainability. We were a diverse bunch, joining me was James Tansey from ISIS and Offsetters , Ian Lee from the Sprott School of Business, Regina Hauser from the Natural Step and Guy Bigwood from MCI.

Guy set the stage by leaping onto it in a super hero costume – which, while making the panelists nervous, was effective in getting folks to contemplate what it will take to up our leadership and take on the challenge of being sustainability superheros. The session was casual and conversational and probed us on themes relating to business and sustainability.

The key message I’m taking away is that there is both risk and opportunity driving the business dimensions of sustainability. I was particularly intrigued by the connections Ian made between trends in the aviation industry (only 5 airlines will survive in Europe with oil at $150 a barrel) and trends in the marketplace towards localization. While our customers may be driving demand for locally made or story laden,  ‘charismatic’ products, (to coin a term James used) dwindling resources and shifts in global transportation norms may be creating the conditions for localization to succeed.

It was great to see such synergy amongst a disparate panel on the issues of the social dimension of sustainability, the need for fewer standards, and  the desire for more transparency in, and stories about, our supply chains.

I’m looking forward to keeping the conversations going over the next couple of days – tomorrow I’ll aim to get some insights up on the vendors and exhibitors that are showing their wares.

Oh, and go team Cedar!

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