Legal Considerations: CSR for Meetings and Events
For our upcoming book on CSR for Meetings and Events, part of the Wiley Event Series, we are working on a chapter on legal considerations. Let me start this post by saying: we are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. With that out of the way, some of the issues that we plan to highlight in the chapter are:
- Contracts and Vendors: Effective contracts play a key part in ensuring that sustainability objectives are met. Not only do they clarify expectations on all sides, they also set out how to address any issues that arise. Consider this: if you’ve set objectives for waste management for an event that you are planning, do you have an agreement in place with your key venues to ensure that they are following through with the objectives? What remedies will you have in place if the commitments are not met? Related to the contracting issue above is how the actions of your vendors can have an impact on your organization’s reputation and liability.
- Gaming: Very often socially responsible groups will decide to raise money for a cause or charitable organization by holding raffles, auctions or contests. Most jurisdictions have regulations about this and some even prohibit this. Event planners need to research these in advance to ensure that they are not exposing themselves to unnecesssary risks. If in doubt: seek legal advice before proceeding.
- Donations: Many event planners would like to arrange for leftover food to be donated to charitable organizations. Once again, regulations on this issue vary according to the jurisdiction. The 1996 Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in the US helped make it easier for food donations to happen by bringing standardization on this issue in the US and providing some protection. In Canada, related regulations are provincial. As examples, Ontario has a Donation of Food Act and a similar act to the one from the US was passed in British Columbia in 1997.
- Volunteers: Some of my favourite memories from meetings that I have attended have been from community service projects. These events have sometimes involved activities with a certain degree of risk, such as hiking to remote areas, working with animals and construction work. In these cases, planners, in addition to implementing safety measures, should have volunteers sign release forms that provide not only liability protection but education to the volunteers on safety measures that they should take, such as appropriate protective clothing and footwear.
- Greenwashing: Today I learned that the term “greenwashing” was coined in 1986 by Jay Westerfeld in reference to the practice of hotels promoting a towel reuse program but then not following through with other green initiatives that were not cost-cutting. While many hotels take sustainability very seriously, greenwashing does exist in the hotel industry and in meetings and events. A class action lawsuit in California is currently underway that illustrates the importance of having third-party certification and not misleading consumers (or, in the case of meetings and events, attendees) about environmental claims.
If you have best practices, stories or sample contract clauses that you would be willing to share in our book, please let us know. We are also looking for recommendations for experts to interview on the subject.