Dominik Deubner: "Sustainability is a question of confidence!"

Dominik Deubner reveals why sustainable MICE events are mainly a question of attitude.

Tags: Sustainability Events

Share this news:

Dominik Deubner, founder and owner of the MICE Club, is in constant talks with MICE experts and reveals why sustainable MICE events are mainly a question of attitude.

Mr Deubner, you regularly share infos with MICE planners. Is sustainability gaining importance in the planning of events?
Absolutely! The topic is on everyone’s lips in the industry, and not just since the Fridays for Future movement. The MICE industry is a very wasteful industry per se: travelling, transfers, catering, elaborate stage productions, and with much being produced and used for just one occasion and then disposed of again. Our industry can and must play a pioneering role in this respect and put a lot of effort into persuading others.

And how do you persuade agencies and customers to take on such a role?
Telling people what to do and giving them a guilty conscience is definitely the wrong approach. We can only implement sustainability if we engage people. We have to avoid being dogmatic, but rather actively raise awareness and persuade through facts. We need to make it clear that sustainable alternatives are not about loss in the sense of doing without. A good example is the storage of exhibition stands. Recycling instead of buying new is not only more ecological, it also saves money. This example enables us to make people curious.

But budgets are often arguments against sustainable alternatives. Is it a legitimate argument?
No. Value chains cannot be geared just to prices. We simply can’t leave a scorched planet for future generations. Increasingly more companies understand that without active and sustainable thinking, their businesses will soon fail to function. We must acknowledge how vital it is for businesses to change their behaviour. This can be through feedback like: hey cool, I was just at a sustainable event.

What responsibility do agencies have in this? And customers?
Most customers are not yet fully aware. Agencies, as a providers of ideas, therefore bear responsibility. They are the drivers of innovation. But there are also customers who know about the issues and who have codes of conduct. Such ethical guidelines are unfortunately still too often just given to agencies without them being fully understood and practised. I sometimes want to ask customers how they expect to get catering as cheaply as possible while also having locally sourced products. More consistency from customers would be good here.

And can the ‘plastic-free’ argument become decisive in pitches?
There is an increasing number of tenders in which avoiding disposable tableware is a factor in awarding contracts. We therefore offer workshops on sustainability, for example, to increase awareness of the topic especially in supplier companies.

This brings us to carbon offsetting. What’s your opinion?
Avoidance is better than offsetting. For example, we always recommend climate-neutral journeys, including event tickets from Deutsche Bahn. We offset the emissions that are produced. This is important to us. But we are limited in the extent to which we can persuade customers to do the same. It sometimes helps to show that offsetting is only a two-digit figure. If you want to advertise your events as climate-neutral, then carbon offsetting is crucial. This is especially so when the destination is not accessible by train. If we stop flying all together, we will lose the important interaction between cultures. So it can’t be the solution.

Try the CO²-Calculator for group flights 

TechXperience, you served only vegetarian food for one day. Is that the future?

For events lasting several days, a vegetarian day should be the future, yes. It sends out an important message, is healthier, and the feedback we received has only been positive. I have to confess that the idea came from our partner. The vegetarian day was proposed by the caterer. But this was a very welcome suggestion, of course. And the participants loved it. For events lasting several days and where expectations are high, having a competent partner is crucial.

So would you recommend just giving it a go?
Exactly. It’s is a question of confidence. Going forwards is always the right direction. You need to clearly communicate your values, and even turn down a project if it isn’t appropriate. But the main thing is to give people the right facts.

Editor's note: This interview, along with other articles & interviews on sustainability & events, originally appeared in the PRO SKY Destination Report 2020.