Walking the talk: how FIDI is taking sustainability seriously – and why

Magali Horbert, FIDI’s Sustainability and Strategic Communications Manager, on the organisation’s starting steps towards greater environmental friendliness – which will begin with noticeable changes to the delivery of the 2023 FIDI Conference in Bangkok

Those of you who dutifully follow FIDI on social media, read all the pages of FIDI Focus magazine, and download FIDI’s reports, will have noticed that sustainability has been a recurring topic over the past year.

As the world wakes up to the impact of the climate crisis, governments and individuals are taking action – and FIDI wants to do its share.

This is not only because it is the right thing to do: sustainability-related legislation and compliance requirements will become more stringent in the very near future, and we all need to understand and adapt to this systemic shift if we want our businesses and industry to survive and thrive.

FIDI has taken sustainability seriously for a long time, driven mainly by the FIDI 39 Club and its environmental initiatives and projects. While the broader industry initially perceived this as a nice-to-have side project, and did not consider it as a strategic focus point for our association, over the past two years we have noticed a shift in how the subject is treated by the public, governments and global mobility industry players.

There is now a general sense of urgency, and the moving industry cannot (and definitely should not) close its eyes to this. At FIDI, we believe that we can be a driving force in making our entire industry more sustainable – and that our association and our membership will come out stronger for it.

With this in mind, FIDI has decided to make sustainability, in its broadest sense, one of our association’s strategic focal points for the coming years – and has allowed me to dedicate time to this project as an integral part of my job. FIDI will actively participate in defining the Global Mobility’s sustainability roadmap as part of the Coalition for Greener Mobility (see article on p60) and ensure that the moving sector plays a central role in this initiative.

We will also continue to educate and disseminate best practices and practical guidelines to help our membership understand why, and how, to adapt their companies and processes, and how to draw benefits from ‘going sustainable’.

In addition, we will be sure to lead by example, finding ways to mitigate the impact of our association’s activities on the environment – starting with our annual conference.

Events with a smaller footprint

Our industry conferences are key highlights of our year – but, without doubt, also the source of one of the biggest direct environmental impacts of our association. While we understand having hundreds of participants fly in from the four corners of the planet to attend our event is questionable from an environmental point of view (see p66 for two different views on this), we do still believe that conferences are fundamental to creating and maintaining meaningful and prosperous business relationships.

For now, we are trying to find ways – quick and easy ones first – in which to make our FIDI Conference more environmentally friendly. Of course, we know there still is a lot of room for improvement and that certain conditions outside of our direct responsibility are limiting factors. But there are things we can implement quickly – and, sometimes, it will mean that our attendees will need to accept changes to how things were done in the past.

Walking in the right direction, one step at a time

FIDI understands that we can’t make sweeping changes in a day, and that we will stumble and make mistakes along the way. We also understand that not everybody will agree with all the decisions and actions we take, and that honest and transparent communication is key. But we also see the benefit of taking sustainability seriously – for our planet, our industry, our association and your company. This is an ongoing work in progress, and if you want to play an active role in this initiative, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Small steps lead to smaller footprints – what we are doing differently in Bangkok

For those of you attending the 2023 FIDI Conference, you will notice some differences to events from pre-COVID times. These include:

  • We will not be giving out conference bags and are limiting the giveaways to one reusable water bottle, made out of eco-friendly pressed wheat plastic. We are also encouraging our sponsors to limit the quantity of giveaways they bring, and to prioritise eco-friendly items where possible
  • Our conference badges are made of recycled and recyclable material, and we will invite all attendees to return the badges at the end of the event so that we can dispose of them correctly
  • We are not printing attendee booklets or event programmes; all the conference-related information and updates can be found on the special FIDI Conference app
  • We will not provide single-use plastic water bottles at the conference venues; all participants will be invited to use the water fountains at their disposal. The hotel also does not use plastic cups for drinks during the coffee breaks
  • We are limiting the use of print material; the conference poster, as well as all signage, will be printed on recycled and recyclable paper, where possible
  • We are working with the hotel to use, as much as possible, locally sourced food for the conference meals. 

How the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok tackles sustainability

Thailand does not offer an easy framework for being environmentally sustainable as a hotel business.

The use of recycled plastic containers for food is not allowed; there is no proper, state-run recycled waste-management system; and respecting the cold chain for food in a hot environment with poor refrigerating facilities can be complicated. This last item, for example, does not allow the hotel to donate the leftover food from their restaurants to charities, as the proper handling and refrigeration of the food cannot be guaranteed.

Nonetheless, the Shangri-La Hotel has strong sustainability awareness and does what it can to lessen the negative impact of its activities.

The key driver of this awareness is Paphun Chotigasupa, Director of Human Resources at the hotel and in charge of quality, health, safety and environmental matters. Having been with the hotel for more than 30 years, she tries to ensure that the entire hotel staff understand how their day-to-day actions can have a positive impact and a direct return on investment for the hotel.

‘I want them to do this naturally; also to bring it to their own homes,’ she said.

There are best-practice guidelines for each department and the hotel has its own measurements for sustainability efforts, which are reported yearly as part of its environmental management programme. The hotel tries to follow general environmental best practices –for example:

  • All lighting was changed to LED a few years ago, and housekeeping staff are told to switch off the lights and use natural light when cleaning the rooms
  • The hotel staff run their own internal recycling programme, and all recycled material is sold to a private company. The money collected is used for one of the many corporate social responsibility activities the hotel organises (with the involvement of staff) in its community
  • The air conditioning in the rooms is set by default to 23°C
  • For catering, the hotel works with suppliers within a maximum 100km radius of Bangkok, and always prefers local suppliers where possible
  • Leftover food is used as feedstock for local pig and fish farms.

We realise small actions, taken individually, won’t save the planet in a day – but, if we all do our part, we will shift mindsets.

So, if you are joining us in Bangkok, enjoy the gorgeous setting, friendly people and great food – and switch off the light and air con when you leave your room, be mindful of your trash, and share your thoughts on why this is important to you.

The world and our industry will be all the better for it.

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