RBF goes zero waste for 2016

Aiming to walk the talk of sustainability, the fifth Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will offset all emissions and divert all waste from landfill.

Responsible Business Forum 2015 registration counter
Delegates line up to register at last year's Responsible Business Forum at Marina Bay Sands. Organisers aim to make this year's conference a zero-waste, zero-emissions affair. Image: Global Initiatives

Say goodbye to business cards, printed programmes, and even meat dishes at this year’s Responsible Business Forum (RBF) on Sustainable Development, whose organisers have pledged to make it the first zero-waste, zero-emissions conference in Asia. 

Tony Gourlay, chief executive of Global Initiatives, which runs the Responsible Business Forum, said his team wants to “walk the talk” as they engage the business community to do more for the sustainability agenda. 

“We also want to get everyone thinking about how much each single plastic cup, plane ride, conference badge actually impacts the earth,” he added. 

Running from November 22 to 24 at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the conference is the first United Nations Development Programme business forum in Asia to focus on the Sustainable Development Goals, and now wants to be Asia’s first event without waste or emissions.

Recyclable name card holders made of paper and banana fibre will be used again at this year’s Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development. Image: Global Initiatives

With help from MBS, no trash will be generated during the three-day event, and 100 per cent of all remaining unavoidable emissions will be offset.

Going paperless, the forum will rely on digital signage at the event and encourage attendees to use the RBF event app, which contains programme information, allows digital scanning of business cards and comes with a voting function for use during sessions. 

RBF will also avoid waste by using recyclable badge holders and lanyards, reducing the use of air conditioning and switching out paper napkins for cloth cocktail napkins at the dining table. 

Furthermore, since meat has a high carbon footprint on the environment, the MBS catering team is designing a locally sourced, completely vegetarian menu. Ingredients will be 100 per cent digestible and leftovers will be thrown into on-site food digesters to be broken down into wastewater and disposed of through the sewage system. This ensures the event will generate zero food waste. 

These waste-saving measures are expected to unburden the event of an estimated 130kg carbon dioxide. On the whole, RBF is expected to generate 320 tonnes of carbon dioxide due to the participation of over 600 delegates as compared to last year’s fewer 425. RBF 2015 produced 207 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to organisers. 

More than 90 per cent of the event’s carbon footprint comes from international flights, with the rest resulting from delegates’ transportations to and from the conference venue as well as the energy consumed for electricity, heating and air conditioning at the venue. 

We also want to get everyone thinking about how much each single plastic cup, plane ride, conference badge actually impacts the earth.

Tony Gourlay, CEO, Global Initiatives

Organisers have pledged to offset 100 per cent of emissions via the South Pole Group. The carbon credits purchased will go towards investment in a starch wastewater treatment project in Thailand to capture methane and generate sustainable energy, and a power generation plant in Suzhou, China that runs on methane from landfills. 

The Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers will audit the sustainability initiatives at the event. MBS will also prepare its own impact report for organisers.

On why reducing waste and emissions is more important now than ever, Haoliang Xu, UN assistant secretary-general and UNDP director for Asia-Pacific, said: “With 2016 as yet another hottest year on record, it is now urgent to innovate, scale up and increase efficiency to achieve the SDGs.” 

“The zero-waste, zero-emission Responsible Business Forum leads by example on how this can be accomplished,” he added.   

Eco-Business is the appointed media partner for RBF 2016. 

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