We are exploring the three degrees of social responsibility in meetings starting with the most popular form of social responsibility which includes donation and volunteer projects. These kinds of projects contribute to a sustainable cause, but are also directed at providing promotional benefits to the donor agency. These kinds of socially responsible acts can be measured in terms of number of media opportunities and the financial value of exposure.
Many meeting planners have started to take the time to integrate important donation programs into their events. These programs might be a call to action for participants, challenging them to raise funds or provide items for certain causes as part of the event. They may also include the donation of leftover conference materials or food. Donation projects are moving beyond merely giving leftovers and organizing fundraisers, however. Some organizations are budgeting funds or securing sponsorships to support experiences that are driving more socially beneficial outcomes.
Case in point…since 2002 USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo has donated 60,000 lbs of food and tradeshow materials benefitting over 31 different agencies. In addition, USGBC contributes $10,000 towards a legacy project. Greenbuild 2009 also supported 32 needs-based scholorships to engage populations under-represented in the green building movement.
These projects are differentiated from donations as they typically include a direct action to engage in a project. It does not necessarily involve raising money or resources. The projects serve to forge connection among donors, helping them to build relationships and network through events in a very unique way.
As an example, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched Eco-Innovations in 2005. The Fairmont Orchid has developed the Room to Reef project, an integrated approach to sustainability that extends from rooms cleaned with non-toxic biodegradable products to organic landscaping, marine health and guest learning. Partnering with a local university, hotel colleagues support regular monitoring of the nearby coral reef.