Intel saves money and energy with greener events

[Editor's Note: Shawna McKinley, director of sustainability for MeetGreen, writes about what prompted Intel -- one of MeetGreen's sustainability clients -- to go beyond "checklist tactics" to create greener events.]

The road to green events is paved with checklists. Green catering checklists. Green stuff we communicate to attendees checklists. Green transportation checklists. Vendor contract checklists. Exhibitor best practice checklists.

Sometimes we get so focused on checklists we lose sight of the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve by integrating sustainability into events: making them better and smarter ways to inspire, engage and learn. However, with the pending launch of the ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management System Standard, planners are waking up to the value of sustainability as a business strategy for events, rather than a mere checklist of green tactics.

Intel has been bucking the green event checklist trend by empowering staff and vendors to strategically improve events through sustainability. Does this mean Intel events are checklist-free zones? No. But it means the company is taking progressive steps to make sustainable event planning more circular and integrated and ensure the results contribute to broader company objectives.

Since beginning to measure their impacts over a small number of events in 2010, Intel has:

  • Avoided 10,478 MT of carbon dioxide
  • Saved $200,000
  • Avoided 330,000 kWh energy use
  • Conserved 350,000 gallons of water
  • Prevented 72 MT of waste

How did they get there? A few checklists, yes: provide recycling, repurpose graphics, reuse event materials, practice paperless meetings and eliminate bottled water, to name a few. But also through some innovative system solutions: standardizing green event planning processes, training and mentoring event owners, developing a property reuse program, requiring measurement by vendors and improving shipment consolidation practices.

Lou Cozzo and Regan Rhodes are leading the charge at Intel and represent a unique duo in the sustainable event space. Cozzo works in Intel Corporate Event Marketing as manager of executive speech strategy and event services. Rhodes works in Intel   corporate strategic procurement and is responsible for managing sourcing for events and retail globally, focusing on environmental social governance. Their mission? To ensure event planners and procurement work hand-in-hand to integrate sustainability into events and communicate the value of this work back into Intel’s corporate responsibility strategy.

Now, sustainability professionals might be thinking this is nothing revolutionary: Integration of sustainability across the organization is key to realizing value. However while many companies pay close attention to how sustainability relates to their products, as is the case with Intel’s processors, few organizations are considering how support services like event marketing factor in.

Cozzo describes how a personal epiphany while attending an external seminar about the environmental impact of events woke him up to the problem of waste:

 “They talked a lot about plastic waste, how it doesn’t degrade, pollutes the ocean and harms wildlife. And as I’m listening from an event perspective, I’m thinking about all the waste that is generated when planning and executing events. It’s not like it was new information, but I’d never thought about it within events. So I realized there was a good opportunity to address the problems by planning and executing events in a more sustainable way.”

And taking action is exactly what Cozzo and Rhodes have done over the last three years. Rhodes describes a four-step process that has evolved in a responsive and continual way. Intel has:

  1. Implemented a green plan for Intel’s Developer Forum (IDF), the company’s largest event.
  2. Created a cross-functional collaborative team to share best practices and inspire planners to expand the effort to other events.
  3. Developed a green event handbook, “The Blue Guide to Being Green,” which has over 70 tools to help planners through a step-by-step sustainable event process.
  4. Educated event program owners through webinars and a newly created mentorship program that provides one-on-one support.

Next Page: Cornerstones of the process