Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

Best CSR Initiatives

by By the Editors of Convene | Aug 06, 2013


Launched less than a year ago, American Forests’ Meeting ReLeaf is a carbon-offsetting program for meetings with 1,000 or more attendees. The idea is simple: The hosting organization agrees to pay American Forests one dollar per attendee to plant one tree per attendee. 

Thanks to Meeting ReLeaf, more than 20,000 trees have taken root in various American Forests restoration projects, including a program to replant forests affected by devastating fires in California and one to repair wind-damaged forests in Minnesota. “Meeting ReLeaf makes sense for associations for a lot of reasons,” said Scott Steen, American Forests’ CEO. “It is turnkey for the meeting planner, meaningful for the attendee, because they get a tree planted in their honor, and makes a real difference to a threatened ecosystem.”


Every year at its REALTORS Conference & Expo, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) gives attendees a chance to move from sales to manufacturing — by participating in the Volunteer Build program. During NAR’s 2012 conference, held in Orlando, about 100 attendees, working with Habitat for Humanity, built three homes for families in need of affordable housing.
Dana L. Gurnsey, an administrative assistant with the Illinois Association of REALTORS, said: “Being associated with the real-estate industry, I think we sometimes take the homes we live in for granted. When you work on a Habitat for Humanity build, frequently you get to meet the owner or owners and occasionally you attend the dedication. When you see the smile on the face of those owners, it’s like seeing one of the things that make this a great nation, and then you understand how important this really is. You’ve helped someone change their life.”


It’s one thing to green a single meeting or even a building. But how about an entire presidency? That was the goal of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ logistics team when the country assumed the 2012 presidency of the European Union.

Denmark committed itself to making the entire administration — its events and other operations — as sustainable as possible. That included energy provided by Danish wind turbines, waste sorted into 16 different categories of recyclables, eco-certified hotel rooms, CO2-neutral freight, no conference handouts, and no cut flowers or bottled water. Indeed, the administration came to be known as “the Tap Water Presidency.”


Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference offers a variety of local volunteer opportunities — and at last year’s event, held on Sept. 18-21 in San Francisco, they included helping the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter assemble emergency-preparedness kits, each was packed with food and water, first-aid supplies, batteries, blankets, duct tape, and more.

 At least one attendee was struck by the ease of it all. “American Red Cross emergency-bag fill at Dreamforce 2012 showed that a program is never too big to engage attendees in a personal CSR experience that does not involve a large amount of time from their schedule,” said Eve Schmitt, CMP, CEM, senior manager of global meeting sourcing and vendor relations for VMware. “Less than four minutes and the aha moment was achieved.”


Here’s how Stop Hunger Now describes its meal-packaging program: “an immensely fun, hands-on, and rewarding experience for anyone of any age. A group of 40-50 volunteers can package 10,000 meals in just two hours.” Just imagine how many of those meals — “Every dehydrated rice/soy meal is fortified with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients” — a good-sized conference can handle.

Terri Crovato, CMP, manager of meetings and events for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), brought Stop Hunger now to USCCB’s General Assembly in Baltimore last November. “This process worked well within our allowable time frame and made it very convenient for everyone to participate,” Crovato said. “We were able to involve local archdiocesan youth groups to work with the bishops toward a common goal. As a result, many bishops have planned Stop Hunger Now programs in their local dioceses.”

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