Asia’s First Zero-Waste, Zero-Emission Business Forum in Singapore

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Initiatives, Singapore will welcome over 600 business & sustainability leaders, senior government officials, UN agencies, NGOs from across the globe for the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development (RBF) in Singapore on 22-24 November 2016.

Large-scale conferences tend to be highly resource-intensive with major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and waste for the host city and residents. Taking the environmental impact into consideration, the 5th Responsible Business Forum in Singapore sets itself the ambitious target to be Asia’s first Zero Waste to Landfill Zero Emission Event, underpinning its commitment to a sustainable economy not only with the issues addressed in the programme but also in the logistics of putting the event together. This is the first time such efforts have been undertaken at a large-scale business conference in Asia.

“With 2016 as yet another hottest year on record, it is now urgent to innovate, scale up and increase efficiency to achieve the SDG’s” explains Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Asia-Pacific. “The zero-waste zero-emission Responsible Business Forum leads by example on how this can be accomplished”

“As we engage the business community here at RBF to break new ground on their existing sustainability commitments, we need to ‘walk the talk’ ourselves in running the event. We also want to get everyone thinking about how much each single plastic cup, plane ride, conference badge actually impacts the earth,” explains Tony Gourlay, CEO, Responsible Business Forum, Global Initiatives.

Together with Marina Bay Sands (MBS), RBF’s venue sustainability partner and with their Sands ECO360° programme, everything has been minutely reviewed from food to napkins to stage set decorations in order to raise the bar exponentially this year to minimise the waste and footprint during the event, wherever possible, to reduce its carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

“This is our fourth and most ambitious Responsible Business Forum event to date. We have initiated solutions to meet the Forum’s high sustainability targets each year, but this year is particularly exciting as it is Marina Bay Sands’ first-ever Zero Waste to Landfill event. We are sparing no efforts to calibrate our services to minimise all waste produced within the boundaries of the event’s footprint,” says Kevin Teng, Executive Director of Sustainability, Marina Bay Sands.

RBF Singapore will be audited on all its sustainability efforts including the zero-waste to landfill, zero emission targets and certified by SACEOS (Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers) on its Management Approach, Waste, Energy, Water, Community, Human Resources with the MICE Sustainability Certification (MSC), an initiative by supported by the Singapore Tourism Board’s Sustainable Event Guidelines. MBS will provide RBF with a sustainability impact statement that captures the event’s sustainability highlights and tracked usage data report. RBF will then publish a comprehensive sustainability report about a month after the event.

Key impact issues that RBF faces include carbon emissions created by the high volume of international flights to Singapore for delegates, food waste, stage set production waste, delegates communication materials, catering as well as a high energy demand for the event. In order for RBF to achieve its zero waste to landfill goal and be a zero-emission event, here are some highlights of measures taken:

● No printed programmes or business cards – RBF has a bespoke live mobile app with live session Q&A, integration with LinkedIn and social media that enables live chat with participants, digital programme and media events schedule
● Badges made from 100% recycled banana fibre
● No meat. For the first time, Marina Bay Sands’ chefs will create a locally-sourced, vegetarian menu using 100% digestible ingredients. Any leftover food will go to the food waste digesters on site at Marina Bay Sands, resulting in a zero-food waste contribution to the event’s bottom line
● No printed tickets. Digital ticket system, Participants urged not to not print their tickets upon registration
● No printed logos or banners – only digital signage and technology for sponsors’ visibility and event branding
● Limit energy waste by reducing the use of air-conditioning within the premises and aiming to reduce the total energy consumption to less than 20 kg of greenhouse gas per delegate at the venue. Electricity and air-conditioning will also be offset.
● Zero-emission target: Calculate the carbon footprint after the event. RBF estimates to offset approximately 320 tonnes of carbon dioxide generated by transportation & energy use. An additional 130 kg carbon dioxide will be saved due to this year’s zero waste to landfill target and from energy use at the premises.

What cannot be reduced will be offset. All carbon emissions from over 200 international flights to and from Singapore related to the event will be 100 % carbon offset through our climate partner South Pole Group. At last year’s RBF, 207 tonnes of carbon dioxide were generated – 92% were due to international flights, all of which was offset by RBF. With a much higher number of participants, this year’s zero-emission target is estimated to result in offsets of approximately 320 tonnes of carbon dioxide with emission reduction projects in Thailand & China.
This year’s zero waste to landfill ambition is expected to contribute positively to the emissions balance of the conference and save an additional 130 kg of carbon dioxide.