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Sustainability Spotlight Series: Maritz

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From the company's rich 129-year history in jewelry manufacturing to pioneering sustainability, Rachael Riggs shares insights on the evolving role of sustainability in the events industry. Discover Maritz's commitment to people, planet, and profit, and gain valuable advice for professionals and teams looking to integrate sustainability into their business strategy.

Eliana: Can you tell us more about your role at Maritz?

Rachael: Hi everybody, I'm Rachael Riggs with Maritz, the general manager of Environmental Strategy. We're a company based out of St. Louis that has been around for 129 years. It all started by Edward Maritz, and he was a jewelry manufacturing company. When Mr. Maritz started engraving watches and doing what he did for so long, he, the crash, and the depression had to pivot and think about how the company would go forward. And then, they started selling watches and jewelry for sales incentives. After the sales incentives flourished for three decades, we expanded our businesses. We started working in travel as well as employee reward and recognition. So, the company has just evolved around sales and marketing services that design and operate employee recognition and programs. Once we started into the event side of the business, we began helping clients with registration housing, sales incentives, and events in significant events worldwide. So, it's a truly a global company. We're very proud of our heritage and look forward to the next 129 years.

Eliana: Previously, your role centered around well-being at events before taking on the position of GM of environmental strategy at Maritz. What was that transition like?

Rachael: I was the well-being leader for Maritz Global Events before this role. I worked in our design studio, designing events around five dimensions of well-being. And really looking at how events engage from a personal, social, career, financial, and environmental well-being standpoint. Right as the pandemic came or started to wind down and events were coming back, we really looked at how people would come back to live events in a safe, healthy, personal way? Because it was the first time we'd all been out of the doors in two years. And so, it was really purposeful. As we started getting that down, we were getting a lot of questions about environmental well-being, and clients were demanding more and more things from us, including EcoVadis and CDP, and with all that comes carbon accounting. And so, I started taking that on as well. We started realizing that we needed to formalize the position of environmental strategy. So then, that's when I took that job on, and I led the carbon accounting for the entire company, the EcoVadis reporting, and the CDP reporting. I also work with our clients to help them and guide them in creating sustainable business event strategies. So, it's pretty robust. I do a lot within the organization, but also with our customers.

Eliana: It must seem like a significant undertaking, but I'm sure you have what it takes to tackle that challenge.

Rachael: Yes, for sure. I'm a curious person, and I really enjoy learning; in this world, we're all still navigating what this will mean and how it will play out. And to me, the biggest thing was getting the right partner in place. When we started searching for that carbon accounting partner, I asked many people, some of our clients and industry counterparts. Then, I got introduced to Mike Wallace and Persefoni.

Eliana: Can you tell me more about how Maritz's commitment to sustainability aligns with the company's strategic pillars and overall business plan?

Rachael: We have a solid business strategy centered around people, planet, and profit. And we're really good as a company around people. We take good care of each other; we take good care of our clients. People are very, very in tune with that. And, you know, we're a profitable company, have been, we're privately held, but one of the things that the planet, we've been in tune with the planet piece for a long time. We've had a green team since 2009, but our owner and our chairman of the board have been so in tune with conservation and just all of that in his life, and that's part of who he is, and it's felt within the company. So, we really needed to formalize it more. And it was always there, but we just, you know, in today's environment, we needed to formalize it more. So, it aligns with our company's strategic pillars because, you know, we really want to take care of our employees, we really want to take care of our clients, we really want to take care of each other. And we also wanna do it in a sustainable way so that future generations can take care of each other. So, we really center our business strategy around that triple bottom line.

Eliana: It's always important to see how sustainability is integrated into the overall business plan.

Rachael: Yes, it's really embedded in who we are.

Eliana: How do you see the role of sustainability evolving in the events and meetings industry in the coming years?

Rachael: Yes, it's really interesting because we were one of the first companies to have a green team back in 2009 and to do those things. And then, a lot of things happened, and it kind of fell by the wayside. So, I see this role of sustainability really, really taking off and becoming even more and more important because of clients demanding it. And I also see that as we are traveling and we have events, and we're doing those types of things, I see, and I was at an event two weeks ago in New York, and I know a lot of the venues and the facilities are taking a much stronger stance on it. And so, it's not just going to be the event companies; it's also going to be the venues. And it's also going to be the cities and the municipalities that will start to demand more sustainability. And you're seeing that with COP26, and you're seeing that with just a lot of the initiatives and the EIC and everything that's really happening. I see it just becoming more and more embedded. And when I see my role in five years, I see that everybody is doing it and that it's how we operate. And it won't be such a big deal because it will just be the right thing to do. And, you know, one of the things I really like about working with Persefoni is that when I met Mike and the rest of the team, they just really wanted to do the right thing. And that's really important in today's business environment.

Eliana: Absolutely. It's about making sustainability the norm rather than an exception.

Rachael: Exactly.

Eliana: That's wonderful. And with your experience in the industry, what advice would you give to event professionals looking to integrate sustainability into their events?

Rachael: The first thing is to ask questions. Ask your clients, ask your stakeholders, ask your employees. What do they value? What's important to them? Because I think that the more you know about what's important to the people that are gonna be attending your event, the better you're gonna be able to design that event. And it's important to find the right partners because we can't do this alone. This is something other than just what Maritz is going to do or what this event is going to do. It's something that we all have to do together. And so finding the right partners that are aligned with your values and what you're trying to achieve is really important. And then I also think it's really important to measure and report. We started our EcoVadis reporting this year, and it's really been eye-opening because we had been doing things for a long time, but we just didn't have it all formalized. And, you know, I think it's really important to measure and report and then celebrate your successes. When you do something good, tell the world. You know, because the more you tell the world, the more people are going to come and work with you, and the more people are going to think about those things. And then, I also think it's really important to keep pushing the envelope because what worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow. And so, I think it's really important to always be pushing the envelope and always be thinking about what's next.

Eliana: That's fantastic advice. It's about collaboration, measurement, and continuous improvement. And finally, do you have any exciting projects or initiatives on the horizon at Maritz that you'd like to share with us?

Rachael: Yes, we are working on a lot of things. We are working on getting our EcoVadis and our CDP done. And, you know, that's a big initiative. But we're also working on some of the things that are just internal that we're doing that, you know, our green team is working on. We're working on reducing single-use plastics. We're working on composting. We're working on some really cool things to offset some of our travel. We're also working on a big initiative on wellness. We've just hired a director of well-being for Maritz, which is a first for us. We have always believed in it, but we've never had a person dedicated to it. And so, we're really looking at how we align well-being and sustainability so that it's really holistic and really good for our employees, but also for the planet. And so, we're working on a lot of initiatives there. And then, we're also working on a lot of new things for clients. We're working on a lot of new ways that we can engage with clients in the sustainability space and really get them to think about things maybe a little differently than they have in the past. And then, we're working on a lot of ways that we can measure, report, and share the good stories and the good success stories. And then, you know, there's a lot of really cool things that are happening that, you know, I can't really share too much about right now, but I'd love to come back and share them when we're ready.

Eliana: We would love to have you back and hear about those exciting initiatives. It sounds like there's a lot of great work happening at Maritz, and we look forward to learning more in the future. Rachael, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rachael: Thank you so much, Eliana, and thanks for the opportunity.

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