Why should the business tourism industry care about going green?

Going green isn’t a new concept; in fact, it’s been the ‘in’ thing for a while now. Although some of us may be slower on the uptake than others, it’s never been a better time than now to change. Three green gurus tell Meetings SA why the business tourism industry should, and need to, go green.

The Heritage Environmental Management Company operates the most successful tourism-based environmental certification programme in Africa. They’re the sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean partner to Green Globe Certification, the world’s most successful certification programme.

Managing director, Greg McManus, says: “The business tourism and MICE sectors need to understand that going green is a necessity in today’s market – not because it results in a more caring approach to the environment – but because it makes business sense.” According to McManus, going green, or what it’s now being referred to as responsible business, is not a fashion statement or nice to have. It has become the single most important differentiator in the corporate market today.

“Unless businesses act more responsibly on all fronts – social, environmental and financial, and understand the impacts they have on their communities, future generations and investors – they won’t survive into the next generation. Being green is more than just changing light bulbs or planting trees. It’s a holistic approach to the way in which we’re perceived by our market place and accepted by our communities. Perhaps the most important question anyone still doubting the need for more green business practice should ask is: ‘Can I afford to let my competitor go green first?’ The answer – a definite ‘No’,” concludes McManus.

Global Carbon Exchange (GCX) is a strategic sustainability think tank that assists leaders in the private and public sector integrate social and environmental sustainability into their organisations. Over the past six years, GCX has developed a framework that can be adopted by any size organisation, in any sector, that wishes to ensure its overall sustainability and that of its stakeholders. “Our clients are generally large, complex organisations where significant impacts can be made to address sustainable development objectives,” says Kevin James, GCX CEO.

In James’ opinion, market trends will ultimately force the tourism industry to go green. “At the moment requests by leisure and business tourists for responsible tourism is not yet mainstream. Europeans, especially Scandinavians, are more conscious, but most of the world wants to have as nice a time as possible for as little money as possible,” he adds.

“The hotel industry could do a whole lot more. They, like others, are only committed to addressing low hanging fruit and few go the extra mile to take leadership position in terms of greenness. There are a couple of tour operators who’re making the effort. For them, it’s the right thing to do and enhances their brand in the eyes of foreign tourists. Safari lodges have embraced renewable energy and efficiency mostly by virtue of where they are situated, so I believe they’re greener out of necessity,” explains James.

“In order for conference organisers to reduce their carbon foot print, they need to watch procurement. We have an entire event greening guide outlining choices that can be made resulting in less energy, waste and water usage. There’s so much that can be done to reduce the impact of what’s a very wasteful industry, given its transient nature. We’ve consulted too many events where we measure the impact of the event and offset this using carbon credits and energy certificates,” he concludes.

According to Andrew Cole, Carbon Calculated business development manager, travel is a major contributor to man-made greenhouse gas emissions and travellers need to be aware of this.

“Any travel, whether for business or leisure, carries a significant carbon footprint. Depending on the class of travel and destination, a minimum of 350 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted for every thousand kilometres flown by an individual. The World Tourism Council estimates that an average 19 kg of CO2 is emitted per hotel bed night, and of course, all forms of motorised terrestrial travel incur their own direct carbon footprints. These combined impacts should persuade all travellers to consider the necessity and mode of travel used, as well as organisers of large events or long distance trips,” explains Cole.

He adds: “When calculating an event’s carbon footprint, it’s important to remember economy class flights have a lower footprint than business class, while rail is less impactful than road. When it comes to accommodation, seek out those establishments that source green and, embrace energy efficient technologies, such as motion sensors and low-flow showerheads.”

“There are numerous information portals available to the modern traveller, allowing them to make smart decisions that reduce their impact on the planet. It’s increasingly the responsibility of all travellers (whether directly or indirectly), to consider the environmental as well as financial costs when planning a trip or attending an event.”

We need to do more and that’s all there is to it. After all, green is the new black.