“Every meetings organization, irrespective of size, scale or scope, is linked to the global marketplace – and that marketplace is increasingly engaged with CSR.”MPI Green Power: Fuel for Change, Supplement to January 2012 CSR Report.
ZOË Alliance just became a new member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and I am excited to have recently joined the Events for Communities of Sustainability (ECOS) Committee.
I am really looking forward to being an active member of this community because I believe that the meetings industry has an incredibly important role to play for business and society. Meetings are about people getting together to work on “something”. Growing a business, solving a technical, environment, social challenge….whatever the shared task at hand.
Gathering talented individuals to accomplish something is not a “nice to do”, effective meetings whether in person or virtual are the foundation of accomplishing anything at all.
It’s the same sort of thing with CSR or sustainability. This is not a sideline activity, and while it is about the environment, it is equally about people. The Meetings Industry is uniquely positioned to have significant impact on the sustainability of our society and, not surprisingly, has taken some really exciting steps toward providing leadership in this area with the 3-year research study that MPI has commissioned Leeds Metropolitan University to perform.
Sustainability initiatives within the private sector can address the critical shared global issues of poverty, insecurity, social injustice and systemic barriers to inclusion.
That was a mouthful, so lets sit with that statement for a minute and let it soak in. The economic power of the private sector cannot be understated. The Meetings Industry alone in Canada generates $33.8 billion in GDP. The little niche that ZOË focuses on represents $40 billion in spending annually in North America.
How we decide on where we will spend our money when we acquire the goods and services we need to perform our businesses or live our lives wields tremendous power. It directs the focus, business practices and yes…even the values of the supplier communities that vie for that business. In fact, how we decide on where we will spend our money reflects our values.
I love the framework that the MPI study has developed for categorizing the continuum of CSR activity. Must, Should and Can levels of action that range from merely meeting regulations, to honouring societal expectations, to proactively addressing societal issues that can be addressed through the business choices of a specific entity.
The best illustration of this concept that I can give is from our little sphere of action. The other day I was sitting with one of our advisors who has over three decades of experience in international sourcing of products. He was showing me picture of a typical working environment in an offshore factory that technically met all the guidelines of the UN Global Compact or most Company Supplier Codes.
It was clean, there was no coercion, no child labour, benefits, all the right boxes were checked off. It met the local societal and cultural norms in terms of working conditions and pay levels. It was a Should Do level operation.
So what is the problem? In developing countries rural poor survive by one of the family members migrating to urban centers to work and send money back. Families are separated for most of the year and the family member who is working in the urban center, works almost all of the time willingly because there is nothing else to do and they want to maximize the amount they can send back to their family. The factory above provided the benefit of small “bedroom” stalls that the workers lived in. This is a benefit because it meant they did not need to live in local urban slums.
What do you think? I think we “Can Do” better, which is why I like the common framework of the MPI continuum as a way to capture the essence of the opportunity we have to address global issues that will increasingly affect us all.
This worker’s family still lives on less than $1.25/day along with 1/3 of the planet. For our little niche, we have some ideas on models to address poverty, (see 2 minute video), for your business you will have different ways.
Each organizations implementation of the “Can Do” level of impact will vary, however it is clear that as companies within the Canadian Meetings Industry that wield $33.8 billion in economic decision-making power, the solution is in our hands. All we need to do is dust off our RFP’s and add a couple of criteria to the evaluation matrix for our suppliers. I think we “Can Do” that, don’t you?