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How venue managers can tackle food waste in the meetings industry

Following on from their zero food waste initiative that began back in 2017, ICCA Sector Venues presented the results of their Too Good to Waste initiative at their mid-year meeting on Monday 20 May at IMEX Frankfurt 2019.
ICCA Honorary Member Dirk Elzinga presents the results of the Too Good to Waste survey at IMEX Frankfurt on Monday 20 May
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The ICCA community's journey taking on the food waste question is a recent but passionate one. ICCA Sector Venue Members have in particular been at the forefront of advocating for this issue. Following on from the initial results of their zero food waste initiative, Too Good to Waste, that began back in 2017, the Sector decided in May 2018 to collaborate further on sharing knowledge and expertise about how they as venues currently tackle food waste and leftover distribution. 

The results of the subsequent report, which arose from this knowledge exchange project, were presented and discussed at the Sector's mid-year meeting on Monday 20 May at IMEX Frankfurt 2019.

This is the story of how the Too Good to Waste report, which details what ICCA Sector Venue members already do to tackle food waste and presents crowdsourced best practices, came to be. We are proud to make the full report publicly available to download. 

Download the full Too Good to Waste report

The story of Too Good to Waste: A labour of love

During our 2017 Congress in Prague, one of the participants in our Association Relations Partners programme, Mrs Silke Schlinnertz – head of operations and events of the Euroheat and Power Association in Brussels – tabled an idea: that it had become time for ICCA to pay some attention to the subject of food waste during events and try to develop initiatives to limit this waste. The subject of respectfully distributing food leftovers deserved ICCA’s attention, according to Mrs Schlinnertz.

ICCA, more particularly the leadership of ICCA’s Sector Venues, fully agreed with these ideas. After all, over the past decade Sustainability had become one of the key areas of attention in the world of meeting organisers and their service suppliers. However Food Waste and leftover food distribution is a different story; although minimum research had already revealed the enormity of this subject at this point in time, it had so far stayed under the radar.

One ICCA member reinforced the point Silke was trying to make: "In the convention centre business it is normally known is well in advance what sort of dinner guests we will host, how many guests will arrive and at what time they expect to be served. In the convention centre industry many of the variables can be controlled - something that is impossible, for instance, for the restaurant sector. There is no real reason why excess food waste should be happening in a convention centre or other meeting facility."

How the initiative came to life

After the 2017 Congress, a working group comprising of seven ICCA Sector Venue members from all continents was established, with the intention of researching if and to what extent the ICCA membership recognised food waste - namely food (over-)production, leftover redistribution and waste removal – as a serious problem, and to learn how ICCA colleagues are dealing with this subject.

The working group reported at a mid-year sector meeting in May 2018 its initial findings as a result of a series of test interviews amongst a limited number of ICCA Venue sector members. The results were encouraging and disclosed a variety of operational, logistical and food-production initiatives to limit food over-production, as well as some meaningful concepts with regard to the distribution of food leftovers. The decision was taken to interview all Venue Sector members and learn as much as possible about successful local initiatives in this regard.

With the assistance of ICCA Head Office staff this research took place in the second part of 2018, with similar research taking place simultaneously amongst the members of ICCA’s Association Relations Partners programme. In total 40 Association Partners and 39 ICCA Venue sector members participated in two different - but in some areas very comparable - surveys.

The results

This document reports on the outcomes of the 79 interviews and particularly focuses on best practises that, without too much trouble, can easily be copied – perhaps amended and improved – and be implemented by ICCA members involved in the production and serving of food for delegates of meetings, events, conventions, exhibitions, gala dinners, incentives, festivals and all other events where the consumption of food plays a significant role as part of the event.

Please download the survey and learn from the best practices included within! And please share your own suggestions with us as to how we can reduce food waste together, as an industry.

Download the full Too Good to Waste report

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this survey, and to ICCA Honorary Member Dirk Elzinga for spearheading the production of this report.

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