Crafting Green Policies and Contracts

Joshua L. Grimes, a Philadelphia-based hospitality attorney, offers the following suggestions for putting your green standards in writing.

• Create a written sustainability policy for your organization's daily operations, including its meetings and conventions. Elements should include recycling, energy savings, food donation, purchasing of products from recycled materials, other buying criteria and acceptable means of travel.

• Conform your sustainability policy to an established international protocol such as the United Kingdom's BS8901 (learn more here) to ensure that it's comprehensive, and facilitate compliance by your suppliers. Standards from the Convention Industry Council's APEX initiative for green meeting and events best practices are expected to be published in 2012. Go here for more information.

• Attach sustainability policies to requests for proposals for hotels and other meeting services so that bidders can respond to your requirements and confirm they will meet your goals.

• Ask prospective suppliers to provide their own sustainability policies in their RFP responses.

• Check suppliers' sustainability track records: request records of sustainability practices from other meetings, and check references from prior customers.

• Verify suppliers' memberships in "green meeting" and sustainability organizations. Don't count organizations that appear to be nothing more than marketing gimmicks.

• Verify that your insurance will cover volunteer projects, charitable food donation and other CSR efforts.

• Incorporate your sustainability needs into a strategy for contract negotiations. This is when you have the most bargaining power and the best chance to have your needs met.

• Specify your sustainability needs in meeting contracts. Attach your policy as a contract exhibit, and include a provision incorporating the policy into the contract's requirements by reference.

• Include green-friendly damages clauses in your supplier contracts, with an appropriate remedy for a supplier's failure to meet sustainability requirements. Remedies might include requiring the supplier to purchase carbon offsets, to commit to reaching your sustainability goals at a specified later meeting, to sponsor a local CSR initiative, or to donate money or time to a sustainability advocacy organization.

• During event dates, request regular written reports on progress with sustainability goals. Consider daily reporting of such, along with room pickup and master account charges.

• If a supplier is failing to meet agreed-upon sustainability goals, document your concerns in writing as soon as possible so that compliance can be achieved to the extent possible.

• Follow up on compliance with green goals as part of post-meeting report. If the supplier did not meet its sustainability commitments, assess damages and agree upon corrective actions as part of settling financial accounts.