In Scotland we believe that business events can mobilise impactful change. From big policy exchanges at global association conferences, to corporate meetings and intimate incentives can have a real impact on the destinations we visit. VisitScotland is committed to promoting sustainable event solutions, working with venues and businesses across Scotland to create sustainable options for clients, and to make critical decisions in their choice of suppliers and in the services they offer. But we also need to ensure our key markets are aware that sustainable, impactful events are possible in Scotland.

This summer, VisitScotland Business Events and five Scottish partners (Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts, Hello Scotland, Visit Inverness Loch Ness, Virgin Hotels and IHG Hotels & Resorts) hosted networking events in Hamburg and Munich, to showcase their sustainable options to selected German agencies. The events were an opportunity for VisitScotland to promote the country's sustainability credentials, the passion that its partners have for sustainable events, and to show that in Scotland business events can create real change and impact.

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VisitScotland Business Events' networking event with five Scottish partners in Germany

Purpose

The two events were an excellent opportunity for the team to reconnect with German event agencies as well as corporate companies and to promote our Journey to Change messaging, have meaningful discussions about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and enjoy delicious organic cuisine with a Scottish twist. We were keen to promote the message that by choosing Scotland to host their events, they are working with a destination that is passionate about sustainability, the environment and creating a welcoming atmosphere for all.

How to be sustainable in an event

From the outset, we wanted our events to have a minimal carbon footprint and be fully inclusive. During the initial planning, we looked in depth at all aspects of the event and identified the suppliers we wanted to work with in order to achieve our objectives.

Venue choice was critical; our host venues Bambule! Bar and Kinfelts Kitchen & Wine were chosen for their excellent public transport links, use of regional and organic produce and their relaxing atmosphere with indoor and outdoor areas, which were accessible to all.

The culinary teams created fusion menus which featured seasonal local ingredients with a Scottish flair, including show-stopping fish and chips, oysters and a huge selection of vegetarian dishes. For entertainment we chose to work with local musicians and recruited sommeliers who created a cocktail workshop using climate positive gin from Ardikie Distillery and locally foraged garnishes.

To ensure that our events were as green as possible we kept all our communications online and created a digital app where we uploaded the menus, a directory of each partner and a campaign video, which was accessed through a QR code.  Other details included ensuring that our technical equipment was energy-efficient and encouraging our attendees to use public transport and to stay at hotels which held suitable sustainable credentials.

Prior to dinner, our Scottish partners took the opportunity to present their organisation and give examples of their commitment to sustainability. It was vital that we brought partners who are on a journey to become more sustainable. IHG hotels have offered 37 placements to disadvantaged and unemployed people, helping and trianing them in skills required for the fast-paced hospitality industry. Their Scottish hotels use in-house watering filters which has saved 132,682 water bottles and also don't provide single-use plastics saving 168,858 miniature bottles.

Hello Scotland also work to create a sustainable offering to clients and continuously improve the green credentials of their supply chain. Marine and Lawn proactively seek suppliers committed to sustainability such as Caudalie Vinotherapy, a spa brand which contribute 1% of their turnover to organisations working to protect the environment.

Visit Inverness Loch Ness are the first carbon-neutral Business Improvement district and achieved this though teaming up with Trees for life and have also launched a far-reaching Climate Action Plan this Year.

Heather McNee, Corporate & Incentive Assistant Manager at VisitScotland Business Events and Natascha Langhein, Representative of VisitScotland Business Events in Germany, Switzerland & Austria at Lieb Management then detailed Scotland's sustainable direction of travel.

We wanted to avoid giving gifts but wanted to thank event organisers for attending. This led to us working with Visit Inverness Loch Ness who generously planted trees in their corporate grove in the Highlands of Scotland to represent each attendee at the event to create a legacy from these events.

Building connections

With these two we steered our conversations in a different direction beyond tradition, placing sustainability truly at the centre of the events. The Journey to Change theme enhanced the quality and depth of discussions, resulting in interesting exchanges centred on Scotland's credentials and our key sectors. There was particular interest in how Scotland is innovating within the renewable energy sector and creative industries.  It was clear planners were looking at the country through a new lens. The role that the 17 UNSDGs play in Scottish government legislation and business events was of great interest and led to fruitful discussions about how events can play an important role in a sustainable future and the positive impact that bringing people together and collaborating can make. German guests were particularly eager to find out which Scottish suppliers they could work with, such as Invisible Cities, as sustainability and corporate social responsibility becomes increasingly important to corporate clients.

The Outcome

The events demonstrated how responsible event planners want to champion sustainability and were an invaluable opportunity to have a true exchange about the role that events can play as a source for collaboration and change. In the days that followed we received some excellent feedback and engagement on social media:

"Thank you very much for your invitation and the wonderful evening with all of you in the Hamburg HafenCity. It was really an inspiring experience with great contacts and nice conversations. I was also able to network directly with some of your Scottish event experts who were there last week. I was particularly impressed by sustainability as a high priority among the suppliers!" Antje Hoffmann, KPMG AG
 
"I was very pleased to join your fabulous evening and to meet great colleagues from Scotland. I really hope to convince a client soon to consider Scotland with its sustainable and CSR possibilities." Liza Funke, Proske GmbH
 
"I have not seen Scotland as so multi-faceted and sustainable until now!" Carola Enzesberger, msg systems ag

VisitScotland's Heather McNee, who organised the events along with German Agency Lieb Management, said "We are thrilled at the response to our Journey to Change proposition. The summer evenings have sparked conversations about how to create sustainable events and ignited interest in why Scotland is an ideal destination for any organisation which cares about sustainability. In the months since the event, we know that Hello Scotland (a DMC) have been working with one of their new German contacts to develop content that showcases Scotlands sustainable options for corporate clients. This is really exciting as it shows the German events agencies believe this can be a powerful selling tool to their clients. We've also had several further conversations around the Journey to Change messaging with attendees, and how it can be incorporated into events coming to Scotland. Agencies and clients alike are looking for sustainable, impactful event solutions. In Scotland we can provide both, and it's really important we get that message to market. These events were a great success and we're excited to keep developing our relationships and message with our European colleagues.