The New Site-Selection Factors: ESG and DEIB

Many organizations have incorporated Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) policies into their annual goals and strategic plans, which is helping drive positive change for us all. I’m seeing these initiatives beginning to manifest themselves in the event-sourcing strategies of a number of companies. And, dare I say it, politics are also affecting some sourcing decisions as well, as organizations react to some states’ legislation on abortion, gun control, and LGBTQ policies. 

Here are a few of the specific issues likely influencing the today’s sourcing decisions.

• Environmental consideration is likely the biggest destination influencer among ESG issues. Although we have been talking about green meetings for 20-plus years, I am encouraged to see that venues’ sustainability practices are finally having an impact on decisions about where to place a piece of business. Many hotel brands and chains are providing measurement tools for water, waste, and energy use for individual meetings, which is a start. Even though there is a lack of consistency among these tools, planners are able to measure a baseline for current meetings and set reduction targets for future meetings. Another tactic for many is locating meetings in destinations that require fewer attendees to arrive by air, by focusing on locations that are closer to the majority of attendees and/or have good rail and public-transit options.

• Diversity of suppliers is another area of focus for buyers. It can be very challenging to determine if ownership of a particular hotel property is diverse, especially hotels that are part of an ownership group. So, a lot of the diversity focus is on the next tier of local suppliers: Seeking out minority, women, veteran, and disabled business owners for services like catering, audiovisual production, and ground transportation. It may take a little more effort than going with the big-name vendors in a city but the payoff can be immense, providing more creative, flexible, and unique offerings for the same or possibly less cost.

•  Contentious local legislation might not be part of your site decision-making criteria. However, it should at least be on your radar. Passions are running high, especially regarding abortion rights, and laws are changing quickly. However, there are controversial issues that affect almost every state, so a decision that seems right at one point in time may feel different a month later. Also keep in mind that there could be more harm from unintended consequences of not fulfilling a meeting in a certain destination. For a group that has a meeting that’s been contracted in a location with a new, objectionable law on the books, the ability to move that meeting might not be financially feasible. Plus, there are two schools of thought on this issue: While some feel they don’t want to support a destination with certain legislation, others believe that pulling a meeting out of a destination harms front-line workers who might also be adversely affected by the new laws.

Many of you know I frequently use the term “seek to understand.” I encourage you to ask your customers and internal clients what is important to them, so you can share how you could help them achieve their goals.

Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, president, Bondurant Consulting, works with organizations to implement strategic meetings management programs. She has over 30 years industry expertise in hotel sales, procurement, and meeting and trade show management.

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