Simple Steps to Greening Your Meetings

Whether your organization is large or small, profit-centered or charitable, there are affordable options for green efforts in your face-to-face meetings with customers and employees. The only requirement is some new thinking.

With a recent study from Experian finding that 29 percent of US adults (more than 62 million people) claim to be green-aware, it doesn't take long for consumers' wants and preferences to move up the business ladder and into the world of B-to-B marketing.

Businesspeople are also consumers, and they bring their consumer attitudes with them to the workplace. So, if organizations are going to be greener, it makes good sense to include your B-to-B interactions -- such as meetings, conferences, trade shows and sales efforts -- in your green initiatives. This means making some changes to business as usual, and in the process can be very good for business and save money.

Opinion polls have been pointing out the burgeoning environmental consciousness trend since the turn of the millennium. A McKinsey & Co. global survey in 2007 showed an astounding 87 percent of consumers in 8 major economies around the world were concerned about the environmental impact of products they buy. Closer to home, an AMP Agency report found that 53 percent of consumers factor a company's social and environmental activities into their purchasing discussions.

Green Initiatives Must Be Cultivated

The first step on the journey to being able to present a green image in your meetings and events is to do your homework within your own organization. Is there a sustainability plan? Does your company have a Sustainability Officer? Is there a Green Team, and if so, how can you get on it?

Make a list of your company's green efforts so you can answer questions from customers or develop a promotional piece to highlight them. Today's audiences are very sensitive to "greenwashing," so don't exaggerate your efforts or their impact on the environment. Your customers realize that going green is a process so they will not expect you to have all programs fully operational right away.

In conducting your research, you may find that your company is greener than you think. For instance, does it encourage recycling of office paper or bottles and cans? Has your office installed water coolers in place of individual plastic bottles? You may find green tactics already in place that you can extend to your B-to-B efforts or others that you can highlight to increase your customer credibility.

Be assured that you are not alone in your quest to add green tactics to your face-to-face marketing efforts. There are plenty of websites that offer tips and ideas -- and answer questions -- about going green. See Exhibitor Online's Ask Mr. Green column, and the BlueGreenMeetings.org website.

How To Start Greening Your Meetings, Exhibits and Events

According to a profile of the convention and meeting industry in the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. meetings are a $107 billion industry serving 136.5 million people attending 1.2 million business events annually.

Most of those meetings could benefit from signficant greening. So, what can be done right now that's cost-effective?

Next page: How to green any aspect of your meetings