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Aligning SDGs with Sustainable Event Planning

Responsible Business Forum  |  MBS Convention Centre  |  22-23 November 2017

The annual Responsible Business Forum (RBF) 2017 by Global Initiatives took place at Marina Bay Sands from November 22-23rd. The event jointly organised by Global Initiatives and UNDP saw approximately 900 delegates attend, ranging from NGOs to government organisations, and businesses of all sizes including startups. This year’s forum was focused on Accelerating the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Action.


Year on year, Global Initiatives works to surpass previous efforts in reducing the environmental impact of the forum, by setting new standards. In 2016, the forum saw the implementation of Zero-Waste, Zero-Emissions initiative. The most recent forum from 2017 saw the implementation of Zero Plastic Waste.

This case study takes a look at how Global Initiatives, along side their sustainable venue partner, Marina Bay Sands, made RBF a Zero Plastic Waste event. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are often talked about in the context of businesses, however, they are rarely mentioned in relation to the events industry. This case study will connect the dots between how sustainable event planning can address global SDG goals.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 

related to Event Planning

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Responsible Consumption and Production

“Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater for human use. “    UNDP Sustainable Development Goals


Events – SDG 12 translates into selecting food that lowers our environmental impact. This includes opting for a vegetarian selection instead of meat as meat production requires a disproportionate amount of water and feed and land use. Reducing food miles by choosing locally or regionally grown food also helps lower environmental impact of an event.

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SDG 14

Life Below Water

“Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks overexploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields.” UNDP Sustainable Development Goals


Event – SDG 14 translates into selecting sustainably produced seafood. Sustainably produced seafood can help reduce over-fishing, stabilise current populations of fish thereby preventing the collapse of fish stocks. In Singapore, Marine  Stewardship Council (MSC) & Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified fish are available through select suppliers. Both certifications support sustainable fishing practices and are strongly encouraged.

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SDG 15

Life On Land

“Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests account for 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing vital habitats for millions of species and important sources for clean air and water; as well as being crucial for combating climate change.” UNDP Sustainable Development Goals


Events – SDG 15 translates into selecting sustainably produced paper & pulp derived materials that do not destroy our forests. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper is extensively available in Singapore.  

Sustainable Venue

RBF 2017 was held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre in Singapore. Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Convention Centre has ISO 20121 Sustainable Events Management System certification and is a BCA Green Mark Platinum certified building. In addition to this, MBS also has GMIC Certification from The Green Meeting Industry & APEX/ASTM Venue Level One certification.


The convention centre focuses on energy and water conservation, waste recycling, and using products and materials containing minimum amounts of indoor polluting contaminants.


The high performance facilities of MBS is coupled with the Sands ECO360 option which allows event organisers to incorporate sustainable options into their meetings and events. Global Initiatives worked closely with the MBS team in ensuring RBF 2017 was planned and executed in a sustainable fashion.

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“Over past 3 years, we’ve had a 300% increase in our waste diversion.” – Ian Wilson, Senior VP, Hotel Operations, MBS

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Greener Name Badges

Over the past several years and this, the RBF name badges have been sourced from a social enterprise, Kumala Foundation, which uses banana fibres to make the name badges – this reduces the need for plastic. Aside from the banana fibre badges, the names of guests were printed on FSC certified paper. Name badges with Lanyards are collected back at the end of the Forum and the lanyards are re-used the following year. This a simple way to reduce lanyard waste while saving on costs. Paper from the name badges are sent for recycling.  

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No Goodie Bags OR Door Gifts

No goodie bags or door gifts were given to the delegates, thus saving on a variety of resources (plastic, canvas, cotton, polyester), as well as reducing waste.


Typically event organisers anticipate the number of guests attending ahead of time & end up over-purchasing. The leftover bags and gifts are an unnecessary waste.


Read xhebit’s research study on Goodie Bags to understand changing event-goer perceptions.

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Flowers from previous events at MBS were upcycled and placed on dinner tables as a takeaway gift option for guests.


No Plastic Bottled Water

No bottled water was given out during the entire forum. This was also practiced in RBF 2016. Global Initiatives estimates that a similar event would have used approximately 1800 of 500ml bottles. This year's forum had over 900 delegates, an indication of even greater reduction in the amount of plastic waste.

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Doing away with single use plastic by using glasses for water.


No Paper Collateral or Programme Booklets

RBF 2017 forum was approximately 900 delegates strong. Despite this, no paper brochures, flyers, or programme booklets were given out. This is a substantial area to cut back on resource use via trees (paper) and waste following the forum. As an alternative to printing programmes, an event app by Double Dutch was used to clearly convey programme details, provide real time updates, and facilitate interaction between delegates.

In order to showcase sponsors, projectors were used to display sponsor logos in place of backdrops. Name Badge lanyards also did not have any sponsor names so they can be re-used annually.  

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Sustainable Food & Beverage

MBS makes informed choices on where their supplies originate from in order to reduce Food Miles. Food Miles refer to the carbon footprint acquired from transporting food from where it is produced to the customer’s plate. The closer the source of the food, the lower the Food Miles acquired from transporting it. 


As a leading sustainable venue, the integrated resort is raising the bar by sourcing for the most sustainable ingredients in the region to minimise food miles and support Singapore’s local farmers and producers. MBS has deliberately worked with local producers who have created home-grown products in land-scarce Singapore – such as:

  • Microherbs by Farm De Light, grown indoors using LED lights, soil and organic fertilisers

  • Goat’s milk produced by Hay Dairies Goat Farm

  • Regionally-sourced products include tropical fruits and vegetables farmed in places that fall within a 100km radius of Singapore – such as Johor Bahru, Cameron Highlands and even Thailand

In addition, the menu will also featured certified items such as:

  • Coffee that is Rainforest Alliance certified

  • The world’s most sustainable rice, certified by The Sustainable Rice Platform convened by UN Environment and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

  • Organic ingredients such as butter and vegetables

Sustainable Seafood

A delectable selection of sustainable seafood was showcased jointly by MBS & WWF. In line with Marina Bay Sands’ commitment to responsible seafood, the integrated resort provided RBF delegates with seafood dishes made using responsibly sourced seafood products. For example, barramundi produced by KuhlBarra – farmed just 12 kilometres south east of Marina Bay Sands was served. The black tilapia served also comes from Trapia, an ASC- and MSC-certified farm in Malaysia known for its traceable farming practices.


In addition to sustainable food, paper napkins were replaced with cloth to minimise waste and resource use.

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“MBS aims to sustainably source 50% of all its seafood by volume by 2020.” – Ian Wilson, Senior VP, Hotel Operations, MBS

Partnership with Big Heroes - Impacto!

In order to give delegates the opportunity to create a social impact, RBF partnered with Big Heroes to organise Impacto!


Impacto! was a hands-on workshop designed by Big Heroes in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (Singapore), where participants got to produce various activity aids for patients with dementia that helps to slow down their memory deterioration and improve their cognitive skills. During the workshop, RBF delegates got to interact with the participants as well as Big Heroes’ Partner Beneficiaries such as Jalan Kukoh Resident Committee, Life Point and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME).


In line with RBF’s sustainable events goals, Big Heroes ensured materials used for the workshops were recycled or upcycled, and that activities were zero waste.

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“The awareness has been very good and the feedback that we received was very good.” - Christian Rahnsch, Co-Founder of Big Heroes

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