Prevue asked Kim Pickering, Manulife Financial’s Manager of Meetings & Conference Mgmt, her thoughts on sustainability trends for 2011.
Q: What are the latest trends you’re seeing revolving around sustainability?
A: Most hotels have implemented a “green” program, and now we’re seeing hotels take the next step and offer incentives to promote these green practices. Properties will offer a Starbucks voucher, for example, if you turn down housekeeping services for a certain number of days.
Our partners are very involved in sustainability as well. One in particular will donate $1.00 per room night for every hotel room we book through them. This donation will be made to a charity of our choice, which could be in the city we are hosting the meeting or in our home community.
Our team is making the effort to limit the amount of printing we take on site. Gone are the onsite binders that weigh a ton. We now download the information onto iPads.
Q: What are a few sustainable programs or events that you have created in the last year?
A: For our welcome receptions, we work with the chef to incorporate local offerings into the menu, local produce, sustainable seafood, etc. In addition to the amazing food that is offered, we have also invited local artists to set up a “market” type atmosphere. We allow attendees to select items as part of their welcome/registration gift. This allows the location to showcase some local talent and also helps to inject money back into the artist community.
We also incorporate a “give back” element into our welcome reception by asking attendees to complete part of a mural. Once completed the mural is donated to a local school, and attendees enjoy the experience.
Q: What are some CSR activities that you offer?
A: For our incentive programs we offer organized activities, and we’ve begun making one of them a CSR activity. During our program in June in Naples, FL, we partnered with a DMC and provided attendees the opportunity to give a little back to the community.
They assembled camp packs for sick children or patients at burn camps; packed stuffed bears for children with trauma; built and decorated rocking horses or wagons for children at hospitals and schools; and refurbished games and toys to be given to underprivileged children in a community of their choice.
Q: What has been some of the group feedback surrounding sustainability?
A: More and more attendees are aware of “going green” or sustainability. We receive many questions relating to: “What is Manulife doing to become more carbon neutral for their events?” In response, we have begun to include an outline of any and all green initiatives that are being implemented for each specific program.
This communication includes details as they relate to our vendor partners and our own initiatives. Attendees like to see that Manulife is taking steps to ensure our meetings are environmentally responsible.