Sustainability is more than counting carbon emissions or recycling plastic water bottles (although it's that too). As defined by the UN, sustainability has evolved to encompass all activities that work toward “peace and prosperity for people and the planet”.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were first introduced in 2015 with a view to become “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all." They are a collection of 17 goals addressing the global sustainability challenges we face including climate change, poverty and inequality. Many corporations, including BCD, have aligned many of their sustainability policies and targets with the UN’s goals. Our collective mission is clear: As individuals and organizations, we all share the responsibility of good stewardship rooted in sustainability to maintain a vibrant world. Connecting a meeting program’s sustainability goals with the UN’s makes it simpler for your stakeholders to understand how their meetings fit into the big picture.
Even though the global COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shifted in-person events to virtual formats, we can still drive adoption of sustainable practices in the implementation of virtual events.
How to Incorporate UN Sustainable Development Goals
Into Your Virtual Event
Good Health and Well-being
Goal: Ensure Healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
Consider the time and format of your event – are you asking attendees to join unreasonably early or too late in the day? Have you built in enough breaks in the day to allow people the opportunity to exercise/move around?
Build wellness activities into your meeting’s agenda: Introduce a wellness challenge for attendees, incorporate movement breaks between sessions (offer desk yoga or encourage everyone to take a short walk), or invite a wellness guest speaker. Remember mental health is an important part of the equation, especially while many of us remain socially distanced.
Gender Equality & Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Goals: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable inclusive institutions at all levels.
Use your agenda and platform to promote events such as International Women’s Day on 8th March and create content and action points for your attendees linked to it. This could include using placeholders at break times to celebrate female pioneers or important landmark dates and events in the fight for equality
Ensure your content is inclusive, thoughtful and truly represents the diverse communities we serve. Speakers and attendees who are diverse in gender, race, and background are critical components in creating content that resonates with all (or most) instead of a few. This is an area that needs to continuously be addressed to ensure that we as an industry are giving equity to everyone who is part of it.
Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Ensure all suppliers and vendors used for the event (including your virtual platform vendors) have fair employment policies/codes of conduct. Review your company's own practices and values and make sure they align. For gifting, for example, look to local artisans who can provide unique crafts that connect to the community.
Goal: Reduce inequalities within and among countries.
With attendees attending virtually from multiple locations, coordinating an event that supports locally can be a challenge. Try incorporating a charitable project into your meeting agenda that demonstrates understanding and respect for the local communities. Encourage attendees to donate to their local food bank, or allow attendees to expense meals purchased for local healthcare workers. Create ways for attendees to support a cause or engage with an organization virtually.
Now is also a great time to update your company’s meetings policy to incorporate sustainable practices for in-person events as we prepare for a post-COVID-19 world. BCD Meetings & Events has developed tools to qualify venue sustainability, incorporate sustainable practices in individual events & meetings, and measure impacts of these practices across all meetings within your program. Look for a future article or contact your BCD M&E account manager for more info!