Meeting and event professionals have a valuable role to play in the global sustainability movement, and Congrès Inc. says Japan is putting forth further initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Meetings and events, particularly those on an international scale, involve movements of many people and goods, thus consuming resources that have historically impacted our environment. Taking on the challenge to reduce the impact, industry stakeholders are taking diverse actions.

In Japan, many professional conference organisers (PCOs) and other meetings and events stakeholders have been certified under the ISO 14001 international standard for environmental management systems, striving to ensure environmentally-friendly conferences and the highest quality service to customers. Critical assessments post-event also create a positive synergy for enhancing the sustainability of future events.

Carbon offset programmes in Japan enable event organisers to, in turn, invest in projects such as reforestation, forest management and supporting reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster of 2011, enhancing the legacy of the event.

Venues are also pursuing the sustainability of their physical facilities. PACIFICO Yokohama, the major convention complex in Japan, has been implementing a wide range of initiatives. They include aiming for 100 per cent recycling of industrial waste discharged within its facility, one aspect of which is “waste reports” submitted to event organisers, rainwater recycling, eco-friendly carpets, EV/PHV vehicle charging stations, and local partnerships for sustainable food use/catering, and more.

SDGs as a vehicle for vitalising communities and impacting social good through developing facilities that become community exchange centres

Tomomi Takahashi, Project Manager, Strategic Business Development, Congrès Inc., shares, “Another perspective on contributing to sustainability vis-à-vis facilities is stimulating community interaction through nurturing and developing the facility to become an active hub of exchange in the region.

“Facility management of conference and cultural/tourism facilities is another business domain for PCOs in Japan, and Congrès currently operates 90 facilities around the country.

“In addition to physical facility-related environmental management issues, facility managers proactively plan and produce events that educate and raise the awareness of the SDGs, thus endeavouring to make an even greater contribution to communities and impact social good. At Westa Kawagoe, a multi-purpose public complex with city hall offices, events geared towards diverse sectors of the community are regularly planned, including women empowerment events and hands-on programming classes for kids.

“mBOT” Programming Classroom, Sound & Science Museum at Westa Kawagoe.

“Similarly, in Nagasaki, the newly opened Dejima Messe Nagasaki, the city’s first full-scale convention centre, is tackling various projects with meetings and events at its core, promoting exchange toward further revitalising the region.

“Through self-producing events at facilities this way, we can contribute to the realisation of a sustainable, mutually-supportive and interactive community.”

Revolution in the meetings and events industry – education and new initiatives to involve different business fields

Firstly, within the industry, continuing education and raising awareness is one of the keys to advancing the SDGs.

Japan Convention Management Association (JCMA), comprised of members from all types of meetings/events-related companies seeking to advance the integration of the SDGs at conferences and events in Japan, recently held an “SDGs x MICE” seminar for its members.

Secondly, new initiatives emerged in Japan during the pandemic, realising proactive collaboration with diverse industries and fields to respond to the drastic changes that were demanded with the advent of the global pandemic.

The MICE Innovation Society (spearheaded by Congrès Inc. and the Institute of Creative Industries & Culture) has hosted 17 online and hybrid seminars and new technology demonstrations since its launch in July 2020.

By bringing in different business fields and promoting digital transformation, Japan’s meetings and events industry is pursuing sustainability and shared value through incorporating the 17 SDGs.

One innovation introduced at a MICE Innovation Society meeting was the telepresence avatar robots for remote communication. It was used at a hybrid international meeting, UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific 2021, held at Congrès Square Nihonbashi in central Tokyo.

iPresence Co., Ltd.’s avatar robots were utilised during panel discussions with presenters from overseas, and afterwards, members of the audience in the physical venue could speak with presenters. This collaboration brought the online presenters much closer to an in-person meeting experience.

There is a traditional saying in Japan, “Sanpo-yoshi”, meaning three-way satisfaction, or a “Triple-Win” spirit that historically referred to a Japanese merchant’s philosophy of seller benefits, buyer benefits and local community benefits. That has today become a management philosophy in Japan – business must benefit all of society, not simply the seller and the client.

Congrès says business event professionals are called upon to possess a global perspective to pursue a much broader range, including supply chains and beyond, towards realising a planet-scale “win” status, and simultaneously, to maximise outcomes through accelerating active collaboration among diverse stakeholders. Through this, Congrès seeks to advance the SDGs and contribute toward realising a better world for all.

Congrès is a member of IAPCO, the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers. IAPCO is a global not-for-profit organisation representing 138 accredited business and professional events organisation companies in 40 countries. All Members have undergone a qualification process to become a Member of IAPCO and must continually demonstrate a high level of service through the IAPCO annual quality assessment audits.

 IAPCO’s mission is to raise service standards amongst its members and other sectors of the meetings industry through continuous education, interaction with other professionals and research. IAPCO is committed to UN SDGs and is particularly active with four of them.

Also read… Narrowing the gender gap in Japan.


Featured image by Su San Lee on Unsplash.

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