Hawaii Convention Center - Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

Hawaii Convention Center's Green Efforts Help 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress Achieve Coveted Sustainability Certification

The Hawaii Convention Center (HCC), an AEG Facilities venue, celebrated the announcement that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2016 World Conservation Congress received the distinguished ISO 20121 certification for sustainability, as this prestigious event was hosted in the United States for the first time at Hawaii’s premier meeting facility.

ISO 20121 is a management system standard that has been designed to help organizations in the events industry improve the sustainability of their event related activities, products and services. ISO 20121 is based on the earlier British Standard called ‘BS 8901 Specification for a Sustainability Management System for Events’ which was first developed in 2007. 

More than 8,000 delegates from around the world gathered in Hawaii, September 1-10, 2016, for the global conference, allowing HCC to showcase its world-class meeting facilities and demonstrate its capabilities for hosting an event of this magnitude, while satisfying the stringent sustainability requirements expected by the conference organizers.

“Congratulations to IUCN on achieving this important sustainability recognition, and also to the Hawaii Host Committee and the industry partners statewide who contributed to make the World Conservation Congress a success,” said Teri Orton, HCC general manager. “This was an incredible learning experience from start to finish for all of our staff to see first-hand what it takes to put on a truly green conference of this scale. IUCN proved to be the epitome of what HCC can handle.”

“This important certification bestowed upon IUCN’s 2016 World Conservation Congress is well-deserved and I add my congratulations to all who made it possible for a job well done,” said George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency and an integral supporter of the Congress. “I extend a big mahalo to Teri Orton and her team for their exceptional work in hosting this gathering and showcasing the Hawaii Convention Center as a world-class meetings destination. No other meetings facility in the U.S. can claim the privilege of hosting IUCN.”

The opportunity to host IUCN challenged HCC to go above and beyond its strong green business standards already in place by AEG Facilities, manager of the HCC, whose AEG 1EARTH initiative is recognized as an industry-leading environmental sustainability program.

“HCC already takes sustainability seriously in everything we do and showcased our commitment to conservation year-round for all meetings and events we host,” Orton added. “The IUCN events we hosted challenged HCC in the best way possible and I’m proud to say our staff, partners, and vendors came through with flying colors.”

The Challenge of Successfully Hosting IUCN
IUCN officials made it clear from the start that its rigorous conservation guidelines must be followed without compromise by HCC in its hosting of the Congress. The HCC team spent months researching the procedures and securing the appropriate materials for use by IUCN delegates at the Congress. This included researching local farms that grow food in compliance with IUCN’s guidelines to be served during the events.  

Providing food and beverage services for IUCN presented a great opportunity to educate the organizers and delegates about Hawaii’s local agriculture, its incredible bounty of locally grown products, and enabled HCC’s culinary team to work even closer with individual farmers and ranchers to help promote their products and provide a platform for them to talk about their personal challenges as food producers in our state.

“It was a lot of fun and a welcome challenge to meet the diverse needs of the group to not only serve them great food, but to provide them a story or experience of Hawaii with every bite,” said Kevin Nakata, HCC executive chef. “We sourced what we could locally to develop menus and offerings throughout the conference that really highlighted island ingredients and flavor profiles. I felt great about what we served and the feedback we received was very positive.”

Among the local food providers HCC was able to collaborate with during IUCN were J. Ludovico Farms for free range chickens, Ho Farms for tomatoes, long beans and butternut squash, Aloun Farms for peppers, melons, and onions, Tropic Fish sourced from the Honolulu Fish Auction, Paniolo Beef, Pono Pork and Armstrong Produce for a variety of other locally grown ingredients.

In addition to the food and beverage requirements of IUCN, there were other operational requirements HCC needed to deliver on, which are highlighted as follows: 

  • HCC successfully partnered in a composting pilot program to properly divert its waste back into the Earth and to animal feed.
  • ALL food and beverage disposable service ware were compostable.
  • ONLY glass bottles and aluminum cans were sold at concessions.
  • Vending machines selling plastic bottles and snacks with waste packaging were NOT available.
  • To reduce waste and encourage re-use containers, HCC installed new bottle filler dispensers at the water fountains. Five units were available on the lobby and meeting room levels.
  • For IUCN’s opening reception, the water used in containers to hold down the chef's tents were recycled for irrigation and cleaning.
  • Volunteer monitors were staged at many locations to educate guests on composting and recycling in Hawaii.
  • All materials available to Congress attendees were composted or recycled. Existing trash/recycle receptacles were re-labeled accordingly and designed for IUCN.
  • All materials used for the unique cardboard exhibits were recycled or repurposed.

Looking Ahead to New Opportunities
The experience of hosting IUCN provides Meet Hawaii, the collaborative effort of HTA, HCC and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, to build and support the Hawaiian Islands as a premier destination for business meetings, conventions and incentive programs, an advantage going forward in going after future groups who share similar values in holding meetings and events with low impacts on the environment.

“This has been an invaluable experience as the HCC team continues its momentum of finding new and innovative ways to evolve its green efforts and help Hawaii illustrate how it is emerging as a world leader in conservation,” Orton said. “HCC is committed to our state’s overall green initiatives and I’m excited about our team’s efforts currently underway to get the Hawaii Convention Center LEED certified.”