Building bridges comes naturally to Cisco. It is rooted in its DNA as a company and its approach to business. As such, it comes as no surprise that Cisco applies this same thinking to approaching challenges in planning its corporate conventions and events sustainably.

One of the most pressing areas that emerged in this endeavor was how to account for and balance the need to conduct business, convening teams from across the globe in a major city, with Cisco’s responsibility to the planet and destination communities.

Key insights into tackling this ongoing challenge facing their events were learned through the planning and execution of Cisco IMPACT, an 18,000-plus attendee, multi-venue corporate event held annually in Las Vegas. Steps involved fundamentally examining each piece of the event and asking, “Are we measuring and accounting for this? Can we do it better, and if so, who do we need to collaborate with to achieve this?”

Cisco identified one of its closest partners, MGM Resorts International’s destination venues, where areas of mutual opportunity and synergy soon emerged. An initial step was requesting the donation of unserved event food from their events. This resulted in the first-time donation at one of MGM’s Las Vegas resorts, The Aria, in 2016. It has now grown to a permanent and ongoing program that has expanded to six MGM properties. As of September 2019, it is estimated that 880,000 pounds of food have been collected and donated from these locations and distributed to those in need in the region. This translates to 733,000 meals to those in need.

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The uptake and operationalization of this program is a powerful example of what is possible when client-driven initiatives in a supportive environment over a period of time can catalyze a lasting impact.

Phase II

A second area Cisco has begun to assess closely is how to leverage the power of procurement and sourcing choices for even greater good. In 2018, each Cisco attendee backpack was created by up-cycling 22 plastic water bottles into its fabric material. When viewed at scale, for 17,000 attendees, over 374,000 single-use plastic water bottles were saved from reaching our oceans and landfills.

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Likewise, in 2019 the eco-friendly Positive Impact t-shirt from Tentree planted ten trees for every item sold, and as a result, yielded a positive outcome for the environment long-past the lifespan of the shirt. As a result, a total of 175,000 trees will be planted in exchange for Cisco IMPACT t-shirts. The carbon sequestered from these plantings, over a 10-year period, is estimated to be equivalent to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions from 1,192,753 gallons of gasoline consumed or over 11 million pounds of coal burned.

The impacts from these sourcing impacts are far reaching and are a glimpse of what bridges to the possible can look like across the events industry.

Eric Wallinger is director of sustainability at MeetGreen, a sustainable event agency helping to integrate sustainable practices and producing events that deliver targeted business results.