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IRF Study Examines Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Groups seek sustainable options, but cost can be a barrier.

By Beth Buehler

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has released results from a study that explores the trends and implications of sustainable business practices in the meetings, incentives, conferences, and events industry. Social Responsibility and Sustainability examines how businesses are implementing sustainable practices to differentiate themselves, align with corporate goals, and reduce costs.

Juices were made from imperfect produce at the Misfit Market during IMEX America CREDIT IMEX Group

Findings at a Glance

Almost 80% of respondents report at least some pressure from clients to provide more sustainable options in meetings, events, incentive travel venues, and transport.

However, cost is the primary barrier to the sustainability movement. Meeting and event planners must identify and implement sustainable practices that can reduce event and incentive travel costs. For example, destinations closer to home, especially those that do not require air travel, are gaining in popularity due in part due to environmental and sustainability concerns as well as costs.

The use of local entertainers, food suppliers, and speakers also can reduce costs, lower environmental impact, and support the local economy. This is a great way to give attendees a chance to experience the community where they are meeting. One of the best ways to tie into the local scene is hiring destination management companies to design meaningful, sustainable experiences in communities where corporate events are held.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2023 worked with an local dog shelter in Columbus, Ohio, to bring smiles to attendees and promote pet adoption CREDIT Whatever Media Group

Sustainable rewards and benefits are becoming more prevalent. Examples include charitable contributions on behalf of employees, the opportunity for employees to reward their co-workers, and the donation of employee work time to a charitable cause. Employees report being happier and more satisfied when rewarded with a charitable contribution to a charity of their choice as opposed to cash, and this satisfaction is linked to greater overall team performance.

“Our interviews for this study revealed that sustainable practices are becoming more important to clients and more prevalent in RFPs,” says IRF President Stephanie Harris. “However, many clients reconsider if there is resulting increase cost or compromises in venues and reward choice.”

Incentive Research Foundation

IRF is a private not-for-profit foundation dedicated to understanding, educating, and advocating for the use of non-cash incentives. Based in McLean, Virginia, the organization funds research and delivers education to advance the science and enhance awareness and appropriate application of non-cash incentives in business and industry globally.