© visitBerlin, Foto: Mike Auerbach

28 May 2019

How Berlin puts sustainability in the limelight

“Sustainable Meetings Berlin“ makes expertise accessible for clients and supports suppliers in their sustainability endeavours

The results of the latest German “Meeting- & EventBarometer-Ausgabe 2018/2019” send a strong message: Just over 40 percent of event venues in Germany already have a sustainability management system in place, compared to 27 percent in 2011. While this shows considerable and very positive growth, there is still room for improvement when it comes to organising sustainable events. In this context, making sustainability something that is natural and shouldn’t really be discussed anymore is a responsibility of everyone working within the meetings and events industry. visitBerlin’s Berlin Convention Office (BCO) approaches this task with the innovative “Sustainable Meetings Berlin” initiative that has just been launched at IMEX in Frankfurt and is based on the vision of establishing Berlin as one of the most sustainable event destinations worldwide.

Dynamic Berlin meetings industry advocates sustainability

“It has become a proper movement.” Luisa Mentz, Project Manager Conventions at BCO, sums up what makes the Sustainable Meetings Berlin project and website of the same name stand out. Over the last 1,5 years, it has been developed in close cooperation with local hotel, agency, venue, catering and event technology partners. This community spirit fuels sustainability in Berlin and ensures that this key topic of our present and future is taken up with such verve and commitment. Originally started as an initiative of BCO together with individual partners, it is by now also being supported by visitBerlin Convention Partner e. V. as the city’s industry sector network that also has made sustainability part of its vision.

As a central element, Sustainable Meetings Berlin offers a supplier listing platform that is integrated in the website. This planning tool enables international and domestic event planners to research and identify sustainable suppliers that are certified according to sustainability criteria and have undergone an audit process. The website as such is also a hands-on hub for information on sustainability in the event sector, providing suppliers and clients with tips and insights. The wider network of partners in the Berlin meetings industry, with all the companies who are currently in the process of implementing sustainability principles within their operations to attain certification form the third element of Sustainable Meetings Berlin.

Catalogue of criteria defines route to sustainability

So far, twelve partners have been audited by an independent, external organisation and are listed on the online planning tool. This means that they meet a list of sustainability criteria that are based on established standards such as the German Sustainability Code or Global Reporting Initiative. “Many companies, particularly smaller ones, are initially overwhelmed by all the different aspects of sustainability. They don’t really know where to start and how to proceed,” says Mentz. “This is where our catalogue of criteria comes in as a kind of itinerary that allows suppliers to assess their status quo and clearly see a route to follow, including all the necessary to dos. It also provides customised information and individual sets of criteria for all the different trades involved, be it venues or technical service providers, as the sustainability requirements for the different players within the event sector obviously vary. The feedback we get from our partners confirms how helpful such a clear plan is and, most importantly, we can see that it helps overcome initial hurdles that prevent companies from embarking on the sustainability route.

Berlin’s collaborative sustainability network

As important as a formal sustainability roadmap is the constant exchange with others in the network. Regular meetups have helped establish a certain “joint learning” culture amongst event industry suppliers. Experiences and know-how are shared, people help and encourage each other. This collaborative approach is supported by an online group where everyone can at any time post questions or provide input. The sustainability commitment of the BCO and Berlins’ MICE community is met by growing client-side awareness and demand, not last because of CSR (corporate social responsibility) reporting obligations: “We noticed in recent years how sustainability has increasingly become an important topic and how customers are looking for answers to their questions on sustainable event planning,” notes Marketing Manager Conventions Kyra Gragert, who also works in the Sustainable Meetings Berlin team.

© visitBerlin, Foto: Mike Auerbach

Making sustainability possible

In the context of this heightened awareness, the new platform takes on a vital role by putting sustainability prominently in the limelight for every event organiser to notice. They can use it to find relevant information and, most importantly, to get direct access to all the resources needed for the implementation of sustainable events. Many event organisers still fear that sustainability will be costly and take too much time, i.e., will simply be too complicated. Or, in other words, while everyone thinks it is great in theory, many do not turn that thought into reality. Berlin’s sustainability planning tool fills this gap by taking over all the preparatory work, saving event planners time and convoluted research for the right kind of partner. Instead, they can directly tap into a ready-made pool of vetted sustainable providers who all have fulfilled a demanding list of criteria. This clear and transparent presentation of sustainability expertise is, no doubt, a key factor on the way to making sustainability a no-brainer in event planning – while Berlin is setting another clear signal as a sustainable event destination.