How to master the New Green RFP

In Smart Meetings’ latest Smart Chat Live webinar, “How to Master the New Green RFP,” attendees learned about how to create a sustainable RFP and prioritize sustainability in every area of their sourcing processes. Spoiler alert: the most overlooked areas are often the most impactful.

Smart Meetings hosted Emily Scheiderer, senior director of education, sales and services at Destinations International (DI), Michelle Moore, senior director of meeting sales and services at Experience Kissimmee and Rory G. Archibald, senior business events manager at Visit Scotland.

Smart Meetings and Destinations International recently conducted a joint survey to assess where meeting professionals include questions about sustainability in their RFPs. Over 60% said they look for venues with detailed programs around ethically sourced ingredients and minimal food waste. Forty-six percent reported they consider whether a building or city is LEED-certified. Seventeen percent reported that they consider carbon offsets.

With these results in mind, the professionals on the Smart Chat began their discussion.

Start with the Sustainable RFP Discussion

Scheiderer explains, “We still have a way to go as it relates to making sure [sustainability is] included upfront, in the RFP conversations.” She acknowledges that these conversations about a sustainable RFP can feel overwhelming. “I have always and always will advocate that that’s why we start with the destination organization…take a step back and think of this in the RFP in three very manageable buckets.”

She goes on to explain the three E’s: Examine, engage and educate. To examine, she recommends reviewing the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Include those goals in the RFP. Archibald agrees that including the SDGs as part of your RFP is monumental.

When it comes to engaging, Scheiderer says, “[Destination organizations] can help point you towards resources that can help you in that measurement conversation, and really help you impact the community as a whole, which is their goal, along with the success of your event.”

To educate, look to post-event reporting. It can uplift individual attendees, sponsors and exhibitors, and even your CEOs and board members. “Everyone gets more comfortable with the financial and the experiential changes that have to take place in order to meet [sustainable goals].”

The Impact of Our Industry

Archibald expresses, “Our industry needs to have a frank conversation about where we are…My personal feeling is that we are still majorly part of the problem. We need to work in partnership with destinations and clients to create the most sustainable events possible.”

He shares an example of an event menu, which, rather than each meal’s calories, displayed the carbon emissions it took to produce each meal. “If that education is there and it’s in your face, then it removes the excuse for being ignorant or not knowing,” he later says.

The most important changes are those that reduce carbon emissions, he says. At the time of the Smart Chat, he was in Copenhagen for an event. “Right now, 600 people are flying in from all over the world for this event. That’s the biggest carbon emission and is one of the massive hurdles where we are still part of the problem.” To reduce their carbon impact, many of them are spending weeks in Europe and doing client visits before attending another event, rather than traveling back multiple times throughout the year.

He also says we need to advocate for biofuels and cleaner air travel. “That’s where Destinations International, the power of PCMA and all these industry associations and their advocacy comes in.”

If we look at the UN SDGs, around 40% relate to reducing inequality, poverty, providing quality education and more. “Those are all elements our industry can help with, either directly or indirectly…You can’t have sustainability without having DEI.”

Creative Ways to Offset Carbon Emissions

Moore describes Experience Kissimmee’s DEI Initiative, IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Sustainability) and their guiding principle: “We believe that every human being should be able to discover and enjoy the benefits that the destination provides without barrier, and we will work with our partners to reflect the diversity of all communities.”

Their meetings incentive, “It Pays To Meet in Kissimmee,” offers up to $10,000 cash-back based on the number of rooms planners book at a Kissimmee hotel. They recently tacked on a sustainability initiative; Through a partnership with UN-approved organization Trees4Travel, they will reforest developing countries in need of biodiversity to offset carbon emissions produced by travel to Kissimmee. “If a meeting organization booked 500 room nights in Kissimmee through our incentive, we are going to plant 500 trees [on their behalf].”

Those Secret Asks

In another webinar, our Smart Meetings host learned that carpet has a surprisingly large carbon footprint due to its manufacturing, shipping, installation and disposal. Archibald explained that in Glasgow, exhibition floor carpets are usually donated. The group discussed that some amenities we’re used to, such as carpet, may have to be sacrificed. To alleviate potential attendee frustrations about a lack of carpet, Scheiderer says, “It goes back to the fundamental need for education.” Moore explained that notifying participants of this change during pre-registration so they can prepare, displaying signage during the event and following up with participants post-event to share the positive impact of the change are all important steps.

The three speakers agreed that changes to transportation, F&B and built environments (which are then dissembled and disposed of post-event) can make major positive sustainable impacts.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. To go in-depth on this discussion and get a real sense of how you can initiate these positive changes through creating a sustainable RFP, watch the recorded Smart Chat here or on Smart Meetings’ website. See the webinars Smart Meetings has coming up, and register to attend here.

headshot of Emily Scheiderer
Emily Scheiderer, Senior Director of Education, Sales and Services at Destinations International

“You don’t have to start big, but you do have to start now…I would recommend looking at [the UN SDGs], creating a goal in each category, putting that on your RFP and having that conversation with the destination organization about how you can work together to meet that goal.”





headshot of rory archibald
Rory G. Archibald, Senior Business Events Manager at Visit Scotland

“What is a sustainability strategy or CSR policy for your organization? If you don’t have one, create one, and use that as a basis for the questions that you need to ask in an RFP that will help you to achieve your KPIs and your goals as an organization.”






Headshot of Michelle Moore
Michelle Moore, Senior Director of Meeting Sales & Services at Experience Kissimmee

“We know that event organizers have power, and a lot of it. You can see how we can really make a difference. When there is consistency in adding these areas to your RFP, I think it’s really going to drive change—the change that we need.”


White Paper

Destinations International’s RFP Guide

The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals