4 Tips for Selling Sustainability

Author: Jasmine Zhu       

Paul Salinger

Creating sustainable events is hard work, and includes a variety of different challenges — not the least of which is managing food waste or maintaining active group involvement. But what about getting the commitment from management just to get started?

Paul Salinger, vice president of marketing for Oracle, discussed how to navigate the “business side” of sustainability during the recent Sustainable Brands 2018 conference held at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Here are four takeaways from his “Building a Business Case for Sustainable Events” session:

1. “Sustainability is about more than being green.” While environmental impact plays a major role in sustainability, there are additional factors to consider, including using resources more efficiently, job creation, and more. Sustainability shouldn’t be a one-off effort either, Salinger said, adding that keeping policies consistent is important. His examples include recurring sustainability efforts, such as Meatless Mondays F&B initiatives, and planning groups walks in lieu of using a bus to reduce the carbon footprint. 

2. “Think about what the business side cares about.” Yes, sustainability is important, but aligning the events side with the business side is crucial to its success, according to Salinger. Management’s two top priorities are growing the company brand and lowering company spend — and both can be enhanced by sustainability initiatives. Legacy projects, awards, and favorable press will help put a gloss on the company’s brand and creating more efficient money-saving operations will have management taking notice. It matters: “Companies are volatile — 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies are gone since 2000. CEOS are thinking about not just thriving, but how to survive.” 

‘If you’re not measuring KPIs on a year-over-year basis, you’re not going to get very far.’ Photo Credit Adobe Stock

3. “Don’t set goals in isolation.” In order to create a business case for sustainable events, planners need to have good data, Salinger said. He suggested setting big goals but working toward them incrementally, through setting standardized key performance indicators on a year-over-year basis. “If you’re not measuring or baselining KPIs on a year-over-year basis,” he said, “you’re not going to get very far.” 

4. “Get other people to champion you.” Getting initial support internally helps, Salinger said. Find opportunities to make the case for your initiative on all rungs of the company ladder, keeping in mind that proposals can be instigated bottom-up or top-down. How to get buy-in on your sustainability efforts? Don’t mandate — instead make people feel like they’re part of the process, he said. “It’s about engagement. Make them feel like they have skin in the game.”