Made in Germany
How the German Convention Bureau is making sustainability and environmental awareness its trademark
November 1, 2018
Sustainability expertise is key to the success of the German events sector
Germany is a global leader in environmental technologies and the responsible use of resources, enabling sustainable growth and creating a worldwide demand for German products and services. This sustainability expertise is evident in Germany’s conference and events industry, where it offers first-class infrastructure, excellent value for money, expertise in business and science (including environmental technology) and a wide range of venues and facilities for green events. These factors contribute to Germany’s success as a destination for conferences, conventions, meetings and events of all kinds.
Germany’s international standing in the sector
In the 2018 International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) ranking, Germany was ranked as the number one association meetings country in Europe for the 14th time in a row and number two in the world rankings (once again ranked just behind the USA). The German Meeting & Event Barometer 2017/2018 recorded 405 participants attending just under 3 million events in Germany in 2017.
IMAGE: German Convention Bureau
The role of sustainable meetings in Germany
Sustainable meetings play a vital role within the German market and are high on the agenda, as seen in the results of the German Meeting & Event Barometer: in 2015, 86 percent of service and product suppliers in the meetings and events sectors named sustainability as an “important or very important goal.” The number of sustainable venues for meetings and conferences is growing continuously and almost 40 percent of German venues have already implemented a sustainability management system. In Germany, social, ecological and economic sustainability have moved far beyond just being a trend and for the German events sector, it has become an important quality indicator in the global competition with other event and conference destinations.
GCB German Convention Bureau as a leading force and trendsetter
As the German event and conference sector’s marketing organisation, the GCB has been driving the sustainable meetings agenda for many years. A range of initiatives for suppliers and event planners have provided inspiration and ideas for greater sustainability throughout the industry.
It is very important for the GCB itself to behave responsibly and operate sustainably. This includes arranging sustainable travel to reduce its carbon footprint, avoiding waste, and using regional, seasonal or fair trade products. The quality criteria of the ‘fairpflichtet’ voluntary sustainability code for the events sector, the Green Globe certification and an internal code of ethics serve as a basis. The GCB has adopted the EU’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which has the most demanding standards in the world for environmental management, and auditing provides the strictest framework for all internal GCB measures. Every two years, the GCB s subject to an external audit of all business processes to keep its EMAS certification.
IMAGE: German Convention Bureau
Measures for the events sector: commitment and training
To establish sustainability in the events sector in German-speaking markets, the GCB, together with the European Association of Events Centres (EVVC), initiated the ‘fairpflichtet’ sustainability code in 2011. Supporters of this code enter into a voluntary commitment to run their business in a sustainable manner in all relevant areas of economy and ecology, as well as with regard to social aspects, and to document this in a transparent way. In 2017, an impressive 500 German, Austrian and Swiss businesses in the events industry supported this code.
The GCB also offers two seminars (‘Sustainability Advisor in the Events Sector’ and ‘Sustainability Advisor 2.0’) to further spread the message and the know-how throughout the industry. Both seminars have received industry awards and train participants in the basics of sustainability, sustainable events organisation and implementing sustainability in a holistic manner. Since 2012, more than 300 event professionals have attended the seminars and subsequently returned to their organisations armed with new knowledge about standards for sustainable event planning. This year’s workshops have been updated, taking into account the latest key figures, codes and standards, such as the mandatory CSR reporting regulation. Participants also learn how to implement sustainability in everyday event planning and how to communicate their measures.
Green meetings recognised by politics
In 2011, the GCB launched the ‘Green Meetings and Events Conference’ jointly with EVVC, providing an important opportunity to engage in conversation about sustainability topics. The fourth conference took place in 2017 and for the third time, it was organised under the patronage of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The event offers more than 20 talks, interactive workshops and excursions, with renowned speakers highlighting the importance of sustainability for the sector and innovative formats opening up new and unusual perspectives. The different host cities profit from the attention they get from the industry and use the conference to showcase their sustainable venues and facilities. As part of the conference, the ‘Meeting Experts Green Awards’ recognise industry members that particularly stand out for their efforts in environmental protection, the conservation of natural resources or social matters.
IMAGE: German Convention Bureau
Accessibility as a sustainability issue
Alongside economically and ecologically responsible behaviour, sustainable development also covers social aspects, including accessibility. Conferences and events should be open to anyone who has an interest in them. The GCB therefore promotes inclusivity and accessibility in the events sector and has produced a white paper on inclusive meetings and conferences that’s available for free to organisers, planners, venue suppliers and hotels.
The report provides general information on the topic and guidelines on how to organise accessible events, supporting the industry in establishing standards for accessible meetings and conferences in Germany. In general, the aim of initiatives around inclusivity and accessibility is to ensure people with physical or mental disabilities are integrated successfully and can shape their life and working environment. This includes people whose mobility is restricted as well as people with visual impairments, restricted hearing or cognitive impairment.
In the context of meetings and conferences, this means that all components of an event need to be aligned with attendee demands, from travel to and from the destination and the venue to accommodation, catering and the social programme around the event. This could include an accessible event website or the organisation of a get-together that does away with high tables in the interest of attendees using wheelchairs. Last but not least, accessibility also requires staff on site to be appropriately trained and have a high level of awareness. However, it seems most suppliers are already making accessibility a priority; about 80 percent indicated in the German Meeting & Event Barometer surveys that the issue is an integral part of their corporate philosophy.
More information on sustainability in the German meetings and conference sector at:
German Convention Bureau
Birgit Pacher, Communications Manager
Phone: +49 69 24293018
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