In the wake of COP26, the focus on climate change has never been sharper. The behaviours and actions of individuals and organisations alike are under intense scrutiny, as we continue to shape our understanding of the planet’s vulnerability. With the issue claiming centre stage in the public consciousness, the EICC is taking action to improve our sustainability practices.
As the EICC’s newly appointed Sustainability Programme Manager, Aaron McKeen is responsible for leading our sustainability plan: Step Change. He talks us through the five main ways the EICC is becoming more eco-friendly, how our actions tie in with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and why we’re well placed to achieve net zero by 2030.
Events Impact Reporting
The events industry shoulders a lot of responsibility when it comes to carbon usage and waste. In order to better monitor an event’s energy output and offer full transparency to our clients, the EICC has recently implemented an event impact reporting scheme.
Tying in with SDG 12, ‘Responsible Consumption & Production’, the event impact reports are short reports which go to each of our clients. “They summarise the client’s energy usage, their gas usage, how much waste was generated during the event and how it’s being recycled,” says Aaron. “Our medium term goal with this is having sustainability be a far more front and centre topic for event organisers who are bringing events to the EICC. We hope that, once armed with this information, our clients can make informed decisions on future event procurement, and use the document to assist with accreditation and reporting.”
Opening up the Dialogue about Sustainability Practices
“We’re back into running a full line-up of events … and since returning we’re seeing a significant shift in the appreciation and the engagement with sustainability.”
‘Sustainability’ as a general topic can be quite a daunting prospect. To make it a little less overwhelming , the EICC is making the discussions more inclusive, interactive and easy to understand.
“We’re back into running a full line-up of events since COVID-19 restrictions have eased across the industry, and since returning we’re seeing a significant shift in the appreciation and the engagement with sustainability,” Aaron explains. Through project presentations and brainstorming sessions, which everyone in the organisation is invited to, the EICC is creating a company-wide platform on which thoughts and ideas are explored.
“Because there is such a diverse breadth of skills and experience across the company, we try to engage with everyone to share their ideas on sustainability. So, we benefit from insights from everyone from chefs to freelance technicians, and from there we’ve generated some great ideas for actions, which positively impact the environment, to implement into our business practices.”
Developing Smarter Food Choices
“We’re working with Leith’s to further prioritise using local, more seasonable food with far fewer carbon miles. This also means a shift away from a classic meat focus to more diverse, plant-based options.”
It’s widely reported that reducing our consumption of certain types of food is one of the most impactful ways we can make a difference. Therefore, we’re including more sustainable options when it comes to the meals or buffet service we provide. The EICC’s catering partners, Leith’s, already create delicious, locally-sourced food options; an approach we will continue to build on.
“We’re working with Leith’s to further prioritise using local, more seasonable food with far fewer carbon miles,” says Aaron. “This also means a shift away from a classic meat focus to more plant-based options.”
Aaron continues, “this involves working with our clients to ensure that the food offered to their delegates is of the same delicious standard they expect but served in ways to reduce wastage and ensure that as much food as possible is being enjoyed, rather than being sent for recycling.”
Investing in Education
We believe that running a sustainable business extends beyond making a positive environmental impact. For us, it goes right through to educating the next generation of event professionals, to ensure that they’re equipped to continue the good work, and to evolve and improve standards.
Our most recent, and by far most significant, commitment is the development of a hotel school. The hotel school is an integral part of a new EICC run hotel, which is set to open in 2024.
Over the last few years, we’ve enjoyed collaborating with Edinburgh Napier University to deliver a Masters Degree in Business Event Management - which was the first of its kind in the UK. And we frequently open our doors to students, who are interested in a career in events, for open days, site visits and work placements.
Our most recent, and by far most significant, commitment in this area is the development of a hotel school. The hotel school is an integral part of a new EICC run hotel, which is set to open in 2024. With Edinburgh College as educational partner, the range of courses will set students up with strong career paths for Scotland’s leisure and tourism industry.
Aligning Sustainability Values with our Partners
Over the last few years, the EICC has been working hard to positively impact our community – not only by partnering with local educational institutions, but with suppliers of accommodation, transport and event services too.
Aaron explains how we’ll be using our strong local and national network to align ourselves with SDG 17, ‘Partnerships for the Goals’.
“Aligning with this goal encourages us to work with suppliers and partners who share our sustainability ambitions - therefore helping us to become more sustainable through every area of our business, including our supply chains.”
“Such partnerships also benefit our delegates. We’ve recently established relationships with local and national transport providers, so that we can encourage our clients and delegates to choose sustainable options when traveling to the conference centre. Through these partnerships we’re also able to arrange discounted travel options for delegates.”
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