Sparks Session Recap – CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility:  Being more than “green”

By Katie Schaeffers

November 13, 2011

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Elizabeth Henderson (@ehenderson) at Event Camp Vancouver over the course of two “sparks” sessions focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility.  In two 45-minute sessions we uncovered various ways our colleagues in the events industry were defining, implementing, and forming corporate culture around CSR.  We also realized that CSR is about much more than simply being green. In many ways, our key takeaways over two sessions were just the beginning of an infinitely connected puzzle.  What we highlighted repeatedly was the need for constant discussion around and evaluation of best practices.  Top takeaways:

  1. The Triple Bottom Line. Corporate social responsibility is about much more than being green.  We must take into consideration people, planet, and profit.
  1. CSR can inform multiple touch points in your event planning.  Consider sustainable menu choices, use of LED lighting, donating conference swag to local schools and/or engaging your community in your labor force through such organizations as Starworks (
  1. Reverse Logistics.  Sustainable planning requires dedicated human and financial resources.
  1. What is the ethical obligation?  Do event professionals have an obligation to employ sustainable practices, even if their clients do not wish to incorporate “green” elements into their events, or perhaps do not have the financial bandwidth to support these elements?  The resounding answer was YES WE DO!
  1. Corporate culture vs corporate checklist.   CSR must be “a way of doing business” as opposed to just a checklist.  Company leaders should instill this in their teams.
  1. Regulation and Standards.  Some of us questioned the guiding principles and regulation around CSR.  Elizabeth shared some great resources such as:
    1. The APEX ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards
    2. ISO20121
  1. Education.  Event professionals can educate their clients and in turn educate the wider public through event that employ sustainable and green practices.
  1. Sharing Resources.  How do we share resources both locally and nationally?  We identified a need for a sharing tool or technology so we can share best practices and resources.  In the words of Glenn Thayer:  “will you take that on?”.  This was our core action item from the culmination of our session.  We would love to hear your thoughts on how something like this could be implemented.

A big thank you to Elizabeth and all of the participants in this important and very encouraging dialogue.  As event professionals we can be leaders in the education around sustainability and corporate social responsibility.