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Sustainable MICE catering? – It goes without saying!
Summary of the blog post
Ten years ago, most suppliers and venues had no idea what 'sustainable MICE catering' was. The situation today: sustainability has become a must for many customers! In our blog, we are joined by two experts to help us uncover the reason for the change in attitudes.
When the Q Berlin conference is held at Station Berlin, there will be vegetarian catering this year – with exclusively regional products. Guests can quench their thirst at drinks stations. Dopper is providing cool reusable bottles especially for this purpose. And to ensure that nothing goes to waste, Food Savers will be supporting the Q. And by the way, the entire conference will, as goes without saying, be planned in a way that is socially sustainable and without using disposable containers. But why are we even mentioning this? Hasn’t that long since become self-evident? Awareness of CO2 emissions, waste and recycling in the MICE industry has in fact increased sharply. And what’s more, sustainability has become one of the basic requirements placed on service providers for meetings, incentives, conferences and congresses. Many of our partners from Sustainable Meetings Berlin have been laying the foundation for this change in attitudes for years. Kaspar Althaus and Oliver Gaschler recall how that happened.
Looking back: from currywurst to organic food
When Swiss native Kaspar Althaus founded aveato Catering in Berlin a good 20 years ago, the MICE industry was still far from being aware of sustainable, regional food: “There was barely any high-quality catering here. Most of them had only currywurst and other fast food to offer.” Another problem was the equipment. “Ten years ago, the catering sector was all about metal, plastic and aluminium,” Althaus says. And when aveato had already become 100 percent climate-neutral by 2008, it was the first in the industry to do so. Today the audited Sustainable Partner is one of Germany’s leading business caterers, and was named Caterer of the Year in 2017 as a sustainable catering company. This clearly shows that sustainability has become an integral part of the MICE industry over the past two years.
This is also confirmed by Oliver Gaschler. When he was selling lattes to campers at festivals in 2005, plastic and paper cups were still very popular. When he takes his mocca mobil to events these days, participants now bring their own returnable cups with them. This is new and shows that the industry is currently experiencing a major upheaval. “Something has changed rapidly in the last two years,” the Sustainable Partner confirms. One reason for the still-new change in attitudes is obvious: the new sustainability guidelines resulting from a new climate policy have raised customers’ awareness and created important incentives for them. But that’s only one aspect. For Sustainable Partners such as aveato or mocca mobil, sustainability has been part of the corporate DNA for much longer.
Changing attitudes: sustainable by conviction
At the Berlin MICE Summit 2018, Oliver Gaschler learnt by chance while attending a workshop on the subject of sustainability that his company is actually already sustainable. “The principle was already embedded in our DNA,” says Gaschler. This is the only way to change things for the better at all, as the entrepreneur is convinced: “Because you do something based on your own motivation and not because the customer expects it.” This is how mocca mobil became a sustainable MICE partner right from the start. First, because Gaschler wondered: “Why should I cart water around the world when good drinking water comes from every tap? This idea saw him kicking down doors and bringing tastily prepared tap water with mint and lemon to events instead of disposable bottles (in the worst case drunk with a straw). His idea to go without disposable packaging was also unusual for many customers at the beginning. “We wash up there and then and bring the dishes ourselves to avoid trips transporting them,” explains Gaschler. Many customers first had to get used to this idea. For Gaschler, on the other hand, it was very much a personal stance. His conclusion: “Only those who take unconventional paths at their own initiative can come up with new solutions.”
There’s still a lot to do!
Kaspar Althaus had a similar experience when he and his team began to use melamine boards to replace ceramic, plastic, metal and aluminium. “This made us a trailblazer in the MICE industry,” says Althaus. However, one of the greatest milestones in the company’s history is the snack plate made of an organic palm leaf – and which was invented by aveato. “Many customers initially found eating from a leaf a horrible idea,” – something which Althaus still finds amusing. Then street food suddenly became hip and customers discovered they liked to use them. “I’m proud of that, because it’s something we developed.” The idea also came before the demand, because the caterer enjoys developing and trying out trends. And because sustainability was part of his concept right from the start. Nevertheless, he still sees a lot of room for improvement – especially in the packaging area. It is, also important to remain flexible and keep finding new, complex solutions. When palm leaves suddenly got a bad reputation, Althaus successfully looked for a manufacturer who made its utensils from by-products and not from a monoculture. “I’m interested in how the industry can find new solutions that become widely available.” However, there’s one thing to keep in mind: “We also have to examine our own habits in order to act sustainably,” as Althaus emphasises. The services provided by companies such as Sustainable Meetings Berlin, which tackle the topic holistically, help us to do so. After all, as Althaus say, offering organic products doesn’t do much to help if you are constantly travelling by plane. In short, there is still a lot to do.
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