by Sarah J.F. Braley | October 01, 2011

Oracle Paul Salinger of OracleFor the event industry, the Green Meetings Industry Council offers all the information a planner needs to get started. Currently heading up the board of directors is Paul Salinger, vice president of marketing for Oracle, the hardware and software company headquartered in Redwood City, Calif. He also leads the charge to green all events at the technology firm.

Much of the push for meetings sustainability at Oracle has come from trying to soften the environmental impact of its largest meeting, Oracle OpenWorld, which takes place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this month.

"In 2007, we realized we needed to make changes, considering the impact a 40,000-person conference has," says Salinger. The company did, and last year took some of the best practices from OpenWorld and began applying them to the more than 8,000 events Oracle produces each year, with the help of a designated global green team. The team promotes a list of 16 minimum guidelines for dealing with venues, vendors and attendees, including the use of local staff and suppliers, the elimination of bottled water and polystyrene products, and the collection of badges for reuse.

"We also now have a simple dashboard for reporting, with drop-down choices on how much the planners were able to do for each of the practices," says Salinger, who adds that Oracle has set a goal of reporting green results for half of its meetings this year. (The dashboard, a jumping-off point for evaluating events of various sizes, can be viewed at bit.ly/nuYvPG.) "We're trying to aggregate data and get a baseline that we can report against year-after-year, so we can see how much we are saving or spending."

Another resource recently made available to the company's planners is a wiki of tips on how to plan green events, engage stakeholders, and deal with venues and vendors. The procurement department is integral to the process, working with preferred suppliers and applying the 16 minimum guidelines to help understand which hotels are doing the type of reporting Oracle wants to see, so the company can start driving its events to greener properties. "Eventually, we will require 'green reporting' from all of our meeting and event vendors," predicts Salinger.

For Oracle's gold standard, OpenWorld is measured against more than 100 points, including destination, accommodation, F&B at Moscone and for ancillary events, transportation, A/V practices, exhibit hall practices and on-site operations.

"It's all a collaboration," says Salinger. "Part of the way we've been able to get to this point is to get stakeholder engagement. Moscone and the city of San Francisco help us look for opportunities to reduce an area, like signage, cutting down on F&B to reduce waste, looking at the waste diversion. If you can cut that down, you can reduce the cost of carting it away. Planners need to look for suppliers who are trying to create price points for sustainability."

Salinger notes that when Oracle started examining OpenWorld's environmental footprint four years ago, just 20 percent of the hotels the company used in San Francisco had any ability to report on eco-savings; now 77 percent have a sustainable policy in place and are using it to good advantage.