Most Innovative Meetings 2012: #3 Oracle OpenWorld

The computer technology corporation's long-term eco-friendly approach helped bring its largest user event closer to a carbon-neutral goal.

By Carla Warrilow July 19, 2012, 2:10 AM EDT

Photo: Shawna McKinley

One of the world’s largest information technology events, Oracle OpenWorld takes place in more than 10 venues and in 2011 drew a record 46,000 guests to San Francisco. But even as attendance grows, OpenWorld’s carbon footprint continues to shrink, thanks to six years of sustainable planning. “We want to put in place very highlevel sustainability practices that can be shared across the community and implemented throughout our event supply chain,” said Paul Salinger, vice president of corporate marketing at Oracle.

The technology provider has introduced rigorous sustainability measures. The 2011 conference focused on a few key areas, like signage, waste management, and attendee materials. “We also began the process of really understanding and measuring overall carbon impact,” Salinger said. Always mindful of preserving attendee experience, Oracle selected 44 percent of its official host hotels within walking distance, made public transit information easily available, and decreased the miles traveled by show freight. The measures reduced both costs and carbon emissions. Also, for the first time Oracle gave guests the option to offset unavoidable carbon emissions with a voluntary $10 add-on to their ticket price. Attendees opted to offset about 1 percent—or 594 metric tons—of the event’s footprint.

In addition to working with like-minded partners, part of Oracle’s success is its meticulous record-keeping, published in annual post-event sustainability reports. The numbers are impressive: Organizers reduced paper use from 112 tons in 2007 to six this year, cut carbon emissions from ground transportation by 26 metric tons since 2007, and diverted 503 metric tons of waste from landfill since 2008.

This year, Oracle will partner with GreenBuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco to share best practices.

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