Take5: Guy Bigwood, MCI, on the importance of sustainable meetings

Guy Bigwood, MCI Group Sustainability Director
VisitDenmark put 5 quick questions to Guy Bigwood, MCI Group Sustainability Director, about his untiring enthusiasm for advocating sustainable meetings! Read Guy's answers here...
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

VisitDenmark: Guy, your mission is '…to increase the sustainability of the events industry…' Why and when did this journey begin?

Guy: In 2005 I organised an event for CEOs, and invited Al Gore as a presenter. He was relatively unknown for his environmental work as it was before the film and book. He really opened up my eyes to the "Inconvenient Truth". Two months later, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Struggling to understand this condition, I found out how we are poisoning ourselves with the food we eat, the paint we put on our walls, the chemicals we use to clean our homes and how we lead our lives in general. I decided that i needed to get into action and work to improve the wellness and impacts of MCI and our industry.

VisitDenmark: On the subject of creating sustainable destinations; What does it take to create a sustainable destination? What is the key ingredient(-s) needed to succeed? 

Guy: First of all you need Leadership. Someone to take a stand, make a commitment and develop a compelling long term vision. Then you need a strategy on how to get to the vision by understanding the reality of today’s issues and then developing goals and a plan to get there. Once you have a plan you need to share it with your stakeholders and engage them as partners in the journey. Once they believe and support you then you can start to integrate sustainability into the operations of your destination. I suggest the APEX-ASTM guidelines that define 9 areas of work. Finally you need to set up a structure of good governance. This comes with certification and reporting to enable transparency and shared learning.

VisitDenmark: Is Denmark really a frontrunner when it comes to staging sustainable meetings?

Guy: Certainly. We have developed the above approach into a methodology called the CSMP – Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol. We have used in the development of the event sustainability strategy of Copenhagen and now Aarhus and Aalborg. It has also been used by your cousins in Gothenburg. In turn, we used the CSMP for two pioneering sustainable events: COP15 Climate Conference and the EU Presidency. Now there are few countries in the world with such a high percentage of certified hotels and venues, catering companies and restaurants that serve Organic food at parity prices, and agencies with such an indepth knowledge of sustainability.

VisitDenmark: The Scandinavian Sustainability Index, created by the ICCA Scandinavian Chapter in 2012, what to you is so unique about the initiative?

Guy: No other region or group or countries has ever come together to collaborate on sustainability in the meetings industry. The ICCA Scandinavian Chapter defined a vision of success and for four years have been meeting regularly to develop and advance the strategy to be a "Scandinavian Sustainable Meetings Region". We share a common "Accord" or group of principle and have been transparently reporting our progress for the last two years.

VisitDenmark: What do you see as the biggest challenge(-s) and/or obstacle(-s) for creating more sustainable meetings worldwide?

Guy: I'd say the following three matters are key in relation to this:

1. Education and awareness about sustainability

2. The misconception that sustainability is more expensive and less quality

3. The fear / resistance to change!

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Learn more about sustainable meetings in Denmark here

Learn more about Copenhagen - European Green Capital in 2014 - here

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