More from Lara McCulloch-Carter, Regal Tent Productions Ltd
What got you committed to going "green" in your business operations? (Was it the release of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, or where you always eco-aware?)
I have to give credit where credit is due. "An Inconvenient Truth" made most people who watched it awaken to our ghastly environmental realities. This movie really was the catalyst to evoke knowledge, concepts and ideas that were otherwise reserved for Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging environmentalists. Whether you subscribe to all of the claims made in the movie, or not, one thing is clear--we all need to do something. And we've seen a big influx of environmental awareness and action--from government to consumers to major organizations. Green is the word of today.
What is the scope of your green initiatives? What have you changed about the way you do business to go greener?
Regal's first step was to create a committee of employees who ideate, assess and manage implementation of environmental and social initiatives for the company. Our 'Giving Back Task Force' was made up of a cross-functional team, each member representing a department of our company: Human Resources, Purchasing, Operations, Sales and Marketing. This was very important as it gave us the ability to assess the organization from 360 degrees. We began by having the task force members audit our business operations to identify areas for 'green' improvement. A long list of potential green ideas was created and each idea was categorized by level of investment. Just as we did, I'd highly recommend that any company starting green initiatives focus on no- or low-cost and -time investment initiatives. Some of our easy-to-implement initiatives included:
- "Plant a Forest" initiative - for every new client to Regal Tent Productions, as a small token of our thanks, we plant 7 trees in their honor
- Develop a vendor survey and audit to identify green thinking partners
- Book green hotels and efficient automobiles
- Created partnerships with not for profit organizations to donate 'throw-away items' such as used carpet, frame and tent fabric
- Promote no-waste lunches by providing Regal lunch boxes and thermoses
- Reduce paper by printing double sided and reusing single-sided printed paper
- Go paperless where possible - using emails and whiteboards
- Carpool to events and job sites
- Develop an 'ideas box' for all employees to submit their thoughts on how we can be a greener organization
- Reduce print subscriptions; where possible, we read online magazines. In cases where we were receiving subscriptions for multiple employees, we reduced it to one copy, which we circulate through the office
- Replaced disposable office supplies and replaced them with reusable supplies
- Spread the word on our green initiatives to help inspire others
What are clients’ reaction to your green efforts?
Our new clients love it! When they receive a letter thanking them for their business and letting them know we've planted seven trees in their honor, they feel good to know that they have made a positive impact on the environment. All of our clients see going green as a positive step.
I know many hotels are bashed for “green-washing"--that is, taking credit for going green when they are accused of being wasteful in many areas. Do you think this is true or is it unfair?
I don't feel informed enough to provide a viewpoint on hotels specifically, but this question leads to a very important point: Consumers and customers need to investigate 'green' claims made by companies. What specifically is green about their product or service? How do they support this claim? Outside of this claim, is the rest of their operation environmentally sensitive? Unlike other industries, there is limited governance on environmental claims--although this is slowly changing. Even the food industry, which is heavily governed by the FDA (and the CFIA here in Canada), has a history of making misleading claims (just remember the whole 'lite' food fiasco). It takes an educated consumer to sort through the marketing fluff to find the truth.
Are there any green initiatives you tried that just didn't work out?
No. Again, we've stuck to initiatives that are no- or low-investment with no- or low-risk. However, I would caution business owners that not everyone may feel as strongly as you do about going green. To truly become a green organization, you need to get buy in from the ground up. In other words, you have to show value to all of your employees. In our case, we had a launch meeting to talk about going green. We involved all of our employees in developing ideas for our organization. We made sure to create programs and processes with minimal impact on their jobs. And, we've provided incentives and recognition for green achievers. In essence, we've eased them into green thinking. As all of our employees, from senior management to part time staff, become more comfortable we'll continue to add programs and adapt processes.
What do you say to people in the event industry who complain that truly going green is too expensive and too time-consuming?
First, I hope that I've demonstrated that it doesn't have to be complex or require a large investment to go green. Second, quite frankly, as your customers become more environmentally aware, they will demand that you are too. We just completed an RFP for one of the world's most well-known sporting events. Part of the proposal had to include proof of your business' environmental and social action. This used to be an anomaly--but we're seeing more and more companies including green criteria as part of their decision-making process. Lastly, in an industry saturated with competition, every company should be looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. Developing a green process, product or service can help you do just that. If a green genius could come up with one product or process for you, what would it be?
Ooooh, I'm so glad you've asked this question. In many of our meetings we've batted around product ideas that would make the green in us swoon. One of them is creating a solar-powered tent. How amazing would it be to be able to run solar lighting and heating in a temporary structure!