Education, expectations and engagement are driving the E in ESG

Education, expectations and engagement are driving the E in ESG

There’s much more to actively addressing Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues than just ticking boxes. At the recent Ideas Exchange 2.0, hosted by FCM Meetings & Events, key speakers revealed their perspectives on ‘environment’ – from sustainability in travel, to minimising food wastage.

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For Felicity Burke, General Manager at FCM Consulting, a big part of the environment puzzle is understanding what today’s – and perhaps more importantly – tomorrow’s customer wants. She admits it’s a big topic to tackle, but organisations can start by asking whether other corporates and suppliers they work with have similar values in terms of ESG? And if they don't, how can you work with them to get them on the same page?

“We asked some questions recently to see where corporates stand today on the area of sustainability?” said Felicity. “We found that 60 per cent have a company wide statement around sustainability, however that only translates to 30 per cent of the companies having it in their travel program. And only 27 per cent have a carbon offset program in their travel.”

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Of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, climate action is number 1. However when FCM Meetings & Events asked corporates – ‘When choosing travel suppliers, what is the most important factor?’ – price, and the impact on business profit, was rated higher than sustainability. One reason is perhaps that most travel programs are managed from procurement and they have savings targets to meet  – so it raises the question, how can we influence change?

FCM Meetings & Events asked Michelle Degenhardt, Global Sustainability Officer for the Flight Centre Travel Group, who is in charge of ESG for the group globally. “When it comes to the environment, it’s easy for us to say – it's up to the airlines to sort this out, or it's up to the hotels,” said Michelle. “But we're not going to get anywhere unless we get into the conversation and start really pushing the airlines or the hotels to make the product that we sell, sustainable.”

The Flight Centre Travel Group recently conducted a 360 business analysis, to really understand what's important to customers, investors and suppliers. We asked questions like - what are we going to do about over tourism? We send customers to Barcelona where there's 32 million visitors a year and it’s having a severe impact. So how can we make a positive impact in these destinations, as well as looking at our own operational carbon footprint and working to really understand our supply chain?

However, knowing your supply chain is a challenge in itself. “With our global business, there's upwards of 100,000 suppliers in our supply chain,” said Michelle. “So we really have to clean up our supply chain and understand who they are.” The process can seem overwhelming, but there are also smaller, more achievable issues we can focus on locally – like food and reducing waste.

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At Ideas Exchange 2.0, FCM Meetings & Events invited Jordan Monkhouse, Head Chef and Director of Culinary at Hyatt Centric Melbourne to run a cooking education session. “This is a great example of partnering with a supplier, like the Hyatt Group, who is making genuine changes,” said Michelle.Jordan’s tips for the audience included choosing local and sustainable suppliers, and ways to reduce food wastage – like maximising herbs. Sure, they only cost a few dollars to buy, but you can pick what you need and put the rest in water or a pot to keep them growing. “Whether it's coriander, basil, or parsley, we use everything,” said Jordan. “It’s all edible, you can even use coriander roots. The reason we do that is because there's less wastage – which is the sustainable model we use in our Hyatt kitchens.”

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Apart from selecting local produce for the event, another example of how you can support sustainability is in your supply chain. “Look at these aprons, they’re 100 per cent organic cotton and they're made in Australia,” said Jordan. “We found a local supplier who bases her whole business model on being fully sustainable from start to finish, even to delivery – while giving back to the community and the environment.”

So the industry can make changes and FCM Meetings & Events recognises that the travel industry as a whole has to change. “We want to use our position to make that change,” said Michelle. “We need to be prepared, because our customers – and your workforce – five years from now are going to be so well-educated and want to make really informed travel decisions.

“The next generation is very purpose-driven and it's all about giving back. It's not about just what's in it for them, they want to know what are we doing as an organisation, for other communities. So it’s also about making sure our customers have a sustainable product choice when travelling. Can they book a hotel that supports local women? Or choose a tour that gives back to a local community?”

It seems that all sources agree that the message is clear – we need to get ready and we need to change the industry. It’s going to be challenging for sure, but it all starts with a conversation.  

Find out more about FCM Meetings & Events sustainability goals here.

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