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Multi-Stakeholder Industry Perspectives: Impact of the EU CSRD Reporting Law on the MICE Market

SiteHow will the new EU Corporate Sustainability and Reporting Directive and increased focus on people in sustainability affect the MICE market? This recent SITE webinar provides answers.

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Sustainability Is No Longer a Nice to Have
The Best Way to Help Destinations, Get Your Guests Off the Beaten Track
 
A new European Union sustainability reporting law as well as pressure from organizations around the world for more disclosures on the environment and people will have a significant impact on the MICE (meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition) market, according to this recent webinar from the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence.
 
The program focuses on the recently published SITE Foundation Report: What SITE Members Need to Know About the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and Its Impact on the MICE Market.
 
The program host is Bruce Bolger, Founder of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, and author of the SITE Foundation study.  Panelists are Lisa Grimaldi, Editor, incentives and destinations, Northstar Meetings Group; Marc Matthews, Founder and CEO, Pulse Experiential Travel; and Rachel Riggs, General Manager, Environmental Strategy, Maritz. Mike Wallace, Chief Decarbonization Officer, Persefoni, sat in for Gabrielle Spanton, CAG&CO Consultants Inc., who had an unexpected last-minute schedule conflict.
 
Click here for a recording of the program. It’s free to SITE members; $15 for nonmembers.
 
According to Bolger, the law “affects most companies with more than 250 employees or €40 million ($44 million) in annual sales in in the EU, starting in 2026 for non-EU firms. The key intent to is to reduce ‘greenwashing.’ It is a law, not a regulation, with criminal penalties in at least some countries. The law promotes the concept of double-materiality: what risks and opportunities does the organization create for all stakeholders and the environment, and vice versa. The law contains over 80 disclosure metrics required on not just sustainability, but customers, employees, the supply and distribution chain and communities. All reports must be audited by the same organizations that conduct financial audits.”
 
Among the key conclusions of the SITE report: Sustainability is as much about people as it is the environment. Vendor vetting will become more rigorous because of growing standardization of reporting. Most corporate responsibility reports will become obsolete in that they must now focus not just on the environment or charitable activities but provide concrete information on the opportunities and risks organizations create for their stakeholders and the environment and vice versa.
 
In addition, Bolger says, “Opportunities will increase to create and market authentic experiences, and there will be a need to address the hospitality industry’s own  ‘S’ or social problem: employee turnover, both of which can offer opportunities for SITE to create new value for members by helping them address these issues.”
 

Sustainability Is No Longer a Nice to Have

 
Will the new law and sustainability trends have a major impact on the MICE market? Answers Mike Wallace of Persefoni, “The fact of the matter is that more and more of your customers and especially institutional customers are going to expect you to report on a variety of topics that are important to them. So, we can talk about regulation and compliance around government, but where the rubber really meets the road is large, institutional clients. They are going to require you to figure this out whether you like it or not. And we're not just looking at the environmental impact, but also the social impact-- how we're going to move people around, keep them safe and healthy, and not expose them to contaminants. Companies are going to be required by both lenders and insurers to address more of these issues going forward. Sustainability is being led not by raging environmentalists; it's really coming from business.”
 
Rachel Riggs of Maritz agrees. “My advice to SITE members is to start by getting your own house in order, because companies are going to increasingly ask you about these issues.”  Have sustainability demands died down due to some of the pushback on ESG (environmental, social, governance)? “I see demand for disclosures going up almost daily. I am regularly asked to review master services agreements and requests for proposals from a sustainability process and procedure point of view to make certain they are consistent with requirements. You can imagine how much that involves with a company like Maritz with such a large supply chain around the world.”
 
Lisa Grimaldi agrees that sustainability issues are having an increasing impact on the incentive and meetings marketplace but not exactly in ways people would expect. “Almost one in four of the participants in our latest industry survey who are all incentive professionals said that they are seeing an increase in sustainable measures required for their programs...Ii's a little low compared to European and other parts of the world but 25% is pretty darn good compared to what it has been been....On the other hand, we're seeing a drop in the interest in corporate social responsibility programs at events. I think people want free time when they have so little time to travel. I see a difference between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic in interest in CSR activities during programs.”
 

The Best Way to Help Destinations, Get Your Guests Off the Beaten Track

 
Marc Matthews of Pulse Experiential Travel believes the best way to help local communities through the MICE market is to provide people the time to explore the communities surrounding the resorts used for the event and to build sustainability into programs without necessarily requiring people to give up valuable free time.
 
“Whether people are purchasing our sporting event experiences like the Masters Tournament, Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby or tours in Italy or an African Safari, we automatically make contribution to causes that plant trees, help save turtles, clean up ocean plastics, revive coral reefs or planting seagrass. That is automatic. The donation is made with every program.”
 
The other opportunity, he says, is getting event participants out of the resort into local communities to enjoy authentic experiences. “The key point here is that we're dealing with the local tour operators, villages, local restaurants, and shops—these are the businesses that put money back into the local economy. And it also creates a vested interest by those tour operators and those locals to maintain their environment. No one wants to go see a dump, you know? So, if they make a mess of the local jungle or destroy that beautiful stretch of beach, the area loses its attraction. Tourism gives the locals a vested interest in supporting their communities’ assets.”
 
Another issue identified in the report is the high levels of turnover in the hospitality industry and how SITE can potentially provide training or other resources to help properties around the world address both recruitment and retention.
 

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