Mark Frary

This week in Singapore, the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainability Development, held at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, will become the first event held in the city state that has been organised according to new sustainability guidelines adopted by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Chew Tiong Heng, Executive Director, Business Tourism Development at the Singapore Tourism Board, says, "With corporate clients and delegates becoming increasingly concerned about the environment, business event organisers and meeting planners are turning to destinations and venues with strong sustainability policies in place. Green initiatives are therefore gaining traction among MICE event organisers, who recognise that such endeavours significantly enhance the overall visitor experience."

The new guidelines have been drawn up with reference to a number of international standards such as ISO 20121 and the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards.

ISO 20121 was released as an international standard to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics. It is designed to help organisations in the events industry improve the sustainability of their event related activities, products and services and had input from the members of the sustainability team for LOCOG.

The green legacy of the Olympics means that others, including Singapore, are looking at adopting some of the ideas it contains for their own event.

"In our pursuit of quality tourism, we must meet these emerging needs to enhance the experience of our business visitors," said STB's Chew Tiong Heng. "The Sustainability Guidelines will help our MICE partners and stakeholders take the first step in adopting sustainable practices, and eventually integrate these practices across all aspects of their MICE operations. Over time, all these efforts will strengthen the attractiveness of Singapore as a dynamic exhibitions and conventions hub in the region, and reinforce our reputation as a City in a Garden."

The guidelines cover seven industry categories: venues, hotels, event organisers and meeting planners, transportation, food and beverage, as well as audio-visual set-up and cover waste management, efficient water and energy use and employee initiatives to adopt sustainable practices.

Hotels in Singapore are already doing much on the sustainability front. The Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) organises a biennial Singapore Green Hotel Award to recognise local hotels for their efforts in water management, energy conservation, waste minimisation, waste recycling and other green initiatives. Recipients of the 2013 Singapore Green Hotel Awards include the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore, Grand Hyatt Singapore, and Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore.

Several Singaporean venues have also been honoured in the Green Mark scheme run by the Building and Construction Authority such as Marina Bay Sands, MAX Atria, Gardens by the Bay, Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore, and ParkRoyal on Pickering.

Marina Bay Sands, where this week's forum will take place, won its award in 2012. Commenting on the award, George Tanasijevich, President and Chief Executive Officer for Marina Bay Sands, said,

"Going green is a long-term aim of Marina Bay Sands. We've built sustainability into the design of Marina Bay Sands and took special care to procure green materials during our construction days. Now that we're serving tens of thousands of guests every day, we're even more committed to incorporating eco-friendly practices into our daily operations."

The programme at the hotel goes beyond the now traditional scheme where guests are encouraged to re-use their towels.

It has a rainwater harvesting system to water plants and flush toilets, self-closing taps and constant flow regulators in its public toilets which together will reduce potable water consumption by more than 350 million litres a year compared with conventional hotels.

The hotel is also fitted with lifts with regenerative drives that convert excess heat to electricity and energy-efficient LEDs are used as standard.

For events such as this week's Responsible Business Forum, the hotel has a number of sustainability initiatives:

  • a Green Meeting Concierge who helps event organisers create sustainable meetings;
  • a post-event sustainability report that captures  an event's sustainability highlights and provides a comprehensive summary of energy and water consumption at a glance; and
  • a Green Harvest Menu offering sustainable food and beverage options. Other venues following the green agenda for meetings often provide water dispensers instead of bottled water and make use of natural daylight to reduce electricity usage.

Guy Bigwood, past-President Green Meeting Industry Council and MCI Group Sustainability Director, said, "To transition to a sustainable meetings and events industry, convention bureaus have a key role to unite their members and partners in collaborative action and innovation on a destination scale. Their role as a leader is key to help organisations understand the business value of sustainable practice, educate stakeholders, share knowledge, recognise best practices, champion the use of standards and to lobby for greater action. STB's sustainability strategy and newly developed Sustainability Guidelines will inspire their community and bring Singapore to the forefront of sustainability on a global scale."

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