How Germany is making green meetings a core of the industry

Matthias Schultze, managing director of the German Convention Bureau is adamant that our environmental impact on the world needs to be addressed. He spoke to M&IT about the way forward.

How important is sustainability to delegates in the meetings industry?
Sustainability and environmentally friendly conduct in all walks of life is very much part and parcel of German society and therefore also of the country’s meetings industry. In general, people care about the environmental impact they have and that’s not a ‘trend’ or new phenomenon in Germany. Based on my international trips and experiences made elsewhere, I’d even go as far as to say that sustainability is more of a priority in Germany than in some other parts of the world. Not for nothing has the Green Party in Germany been an established political player for decades now, at times even in coalition governments. In line with that, ‘green meetings’ are a core aspect of the German meetings industry.

We conduct yearly research for our Meeting & Event Barometer that looks at the general state of the meetings industry in Germany. In 2016, just under 90 per cent of event venues and about two third of event organisers said that sustainability is an important or very important goal. When we look back at our barometer research over the years, we can also observe a continuous development in the growing importance of sustainability both for suppliers and organisers in the event industry. Our next Meeting & Event Barometer will be released in May and it will be interesting to see the latest sustainability results then.

Matthias Schultze, GCB's managing director.

Matthias Schultze, GCB’s managing director.

What is Germany doing differently?
Germany’s meeting industry has made sustainability and environmental awareness its trademark. To do that, a concerted effort and dedicated focus including necessary structures is vital to really see some change. You can’t just wait to let it happen and rely on people to do something on their own accord. Initiatives, offers, platforms, guidelines and standards are necessary if you really want to see change.

Our green meetings & events conference, launched in 2011, is a major platform for our industry to discuss and be educated on all things sustainability. It takes place every two years under the patronage of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

 Which events are leading the way?
Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag (German Protestant Church Assembly), which takes place every two years in summer, is one of the most environmentally friendly large-scale events in Germany (100,000 participants and 2,000 individual event sessions). This also includes dedicated environmental and climate protection projects, e.g. a student competition to develop alternative cooling systems for temporary event venues such as tents that do without air-con for the next Assembly in June. Since 2007, the event has been EMAS-certified, adhering to the standards of one of the globally most sophisticated environment management system.

Sustainability criteria are increasingly taking centre change when deciding on locations and venues. When the German Federal Environmental Foundation announced the host cities 2018-2022 for their annual German Environment Award, the emphasis was placed on sustainability criteria.

The sustainability commitment of the GCB as a national convention bureau is also recognised on a government level: Svenja Schulze, German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, attended as patron and encouraged our industry to continue championing sustainability and develop innovative ideas for eco-friendly events.

More than 30 per cent of clients booked Landgut Stober because of sustainability credentials.

More than 30 per cent of clients booked Landgut Stober due to sustainability credentials.

Statements by sustainability consultant seminar participants
“In my role as congress manager at the European College of Sport Science, I wanted to dive deeper into sustainability and all its aspects. The sustainability consultant seminar provided me with valuable insights and helped me to change my approach to sustainable congress organisation, i.e., it made it more concrete and systematic. I particularly liked the different methods of teaching and learning, including talks, discussions and group sessions.”
Juliane Leyva Gonzalez , Congress Manager, European College of Sport Science (ECSS)

“It was important for me to get a first overview of the topic and the seminar really made me more alert to sustainability situations in everyday life. I also benefitted from exchanging experiences with other participants and particularly liked the compact structure of the seminar.”
Mareike Kitz, Frankfurt Convention Bureau, Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main

 Hotels benefit from green credentials
The conference hotel Landgut Stober near Berlin was commended in the sustainable event centre/venue category at the green meetings & events conference this February. “Overall, a lot of players in the German meetings are already implementing sustainability measures. Based on a study by the University of Potsdam, more than 30 per cent of our clients book us because of our sustainability approach,” said Michael Stober, Landgut Stober’s manager.

“Sustainability does not have to be more expensive but it actually generates measurable economic internal and external benefits. As for leading cities, I’d mention Stuttgart and as leading events – the GCB’s green meetings & events conference – or re:publica in Berlin.”