Tree planting at SITE AGM landscape image

Tree planting at SITE AGM

Article Published 28/02/2022

Since its creation in 1973, global association SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) has an active community of more than 2,500 global members which are located in 90 countries. Members of SITE work across the entire destination supply chain.

The association has 27 active chapters across the globe, including one in Scotland which acts as the voice for the country's events and incentive industry.

We caught up with Gillian Rae, Account Director at Spectra DMC and Olga Walker, Managing Director at GoodCause Travel & Events - both active members of SITE Scotland and Sustainability Ambassadors for the chapter to discuss the association's sustainability work and the renewed importance of CSR for businesses.

Congratulations on your recent achievement of obtaining the SITE Sustainability Certificate for the Scottish SITE chapter. Tell us a little bit the certification process and what impact this will have on your work going forward.

We started working on this project last year when we became Sustainability Ambassadors for the Site Scotland chapter. Site Global has created a structured process, which provides guidance on the steps to achieve the accolade.

Each chapter that participates has to decide on 10 different tasks, which allows them to gain 100 points. Only those who reach a minimum of 100 points will achieve the certificate.

The tasks we selected included:

  • To create and host an event for Earth Day 2021
  • To produce a 2021 Sustainability Road Map for 2021 with clear goals and objectives for SITE Scotland
  • To organise a sustainable event for the chapter (which was our Summer Educational Summit) and to measure the level of its sustainability using the sustainability measurement system approved by Site Global, called SMPP

We also had to embrace at least one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year and weave them into all the chapter's sustainability related activities and events.

The process of achieving the certificate has opened up our eyes to the impact of our businesses and what we and the industry need to do to be more sustainable.

As part of your Sustainability Road Map, you place a great emphasise on educating the industry and sharing best practice. How important do you think collaboration is for the business events industry to work sustainably?

Collaboration and learning from each other is key to our success as an industry. We are all at different stages when it comes to sustainability, and it is important that we collaborate to improve our credentials and processes. Scotland, as a small nation, has a lot to shout about and many of our organisations are on their own journey to become more sustainable and towards the country's Net Zero 2045 goal.

As an industry, it is crucial that we consider the potential environmental and social impacts of all our events. Throughout 2021, the team at SITE Scotland shared ideas on CSR activities and best practices across different types of businesses. It was fascinating to hear from our industry friends on the changes that they have introduced to be more sustainable.

In April 2021, you created an event to celebrate Earth Day. Can you tell us more about this and what was achieved?

The mission for Earth Day was to encourage our members to research food and beverage options and healthy eating and look at how they could reduce their food waste.

Members were challenged to look at local and seasonal ingredients and to create recipes, which help towards to the goal of reducing waste. 16 SITE Scotland member took part in the challenge and shared their tips and recipes, which were included in a cookbook and shared with SITE's global members.

We also provided education session on healthy eating, zero waste and food reduction, which we hope encouraged members to continue to think about how they can reduce their impact on their environment through events and personal choices.

Did your perspective on sustainability change throughout the process of obtaining the certificate? If so, how?

Yes, we have learnt a lot about the impact our industry can have on the planet and that we must implement sustainable processes and resources as a matter of urgency.

We have made some progress, if we think back to how we would have run an event five years ago with mountains of food, endless plastic bottles, unnecessary transportation it seems a little shocking now but there is more to be done.

It is important to question everything we are doing and the impact it has on our communities and environment. One of the key take outs for us is that when we talk about sustainability it is not just about the environment, there are three separate pillars which need to be considered which also include social and economic impacts. The CSR element is important and helping and supporting local businesses is also key to a successful sustainable event.

The pandemic has placed renewed emphasis on CSR. As someone who works at a DMC, how has the interest in CSR changed for your clients?

CSR will continue to be an important part of incentive and events going forward. Millennials are a driving force for this issue, and they are of the opinion that CSR enhances delegate engagement at an event. Millennials have a strong desire to make the world a better place and incentives are a great way of allowing them to make a real difference. Sustainability and CSR reach so much further than simple activities we are currently practicing and to really appeal to the millennial audience, the activity needs to mean something and make a real difference. The results of incorporating sustainability and CSR initiatives into an incentive will be not just a legacy for the individual but for the company and the project.

What's in Site Scotland's sustainability agenda this year?

We are keen to carry on with the chapter's sustainability goals and objectives and we are planning to start with surveying the chapter's members asking for their input on sustainability topics they would like us to focus on this year, as we believe in working on the chapter's sustainability agenda as a team to ensure engagement. The results of the survey will be collated into 2022 roadmap for sustainability.

At AGM we will be introducing The Larder social enterprise - the Chapter's Sustainability partner in 2022. We are hoping to involve the Larder in all the Chapter's events to support their wonderful mission in building resilience and social capital of young people in need.

We are also starting to plan the Chapter's Earth Day event on 22nd April, so please stay tuned, we will be sharing the details with you shortly.