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Keeping Sustainability and Legacy at the Heart of Singapore’s Largest-Ever Medical Convention

How the 25th World Congress of Dermatology raised the bar in sustainable event planning. 

Corporate events are big business, but the huge amount of waste generated at MICE events has not gone unnoticed from event organizers, venues and attendees alike. A substantial average of 1,204 metric tonnes of waste was generated per venue in 2017, as revealed by ‘The Exhibition Industry and UN SDGs’ 2019 report, jointly produced by UFI and Greenview.

Recognizing the need for the MICE industry to prioritize and enhance sustainability practices, the 25th World Congress of Dermatology (WCD) – hosted by the Dermatological Society of Singapore under the auspices of International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS) – set out to make a difference in their green initiatives when it picked Singapore to host its 2023 conference.

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Lim Yen Loo, Secretary General of WCD2023, shared that Singapore's sustainability initiatives, such as the Green Plan and MICE Sustainability Roadmap, aligned with the Congress' goal to create a more sustainable event. Photo Credit: M&C Asia

With its comprehensive Singapore Green Plan 2030, addressing vital areas such as climate action and green economy, Singapore has already embraced sustainability as a core principle. For the MICE industry, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has launched the MICE Sustainability Roadmap with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS), providing a guiding framework for organizing sustainable events.

WCD2023, which took place from July 3-8, shines as a stellar example of a sustainable MICE event held in Singapore. Often referred to as the ‘Olympics of Dermatology’, WCD2023 was Singapore’s largest-ever medical convention, attracting more than 12,000 delegates and exhibitors from 150 countries/regions.

Setting a sustainable example in event planning

Hosting an event in Singapore would enable WCD to seamlessly align and integrate its green event policies, said Lim Yen Loo, Secretary General of WCD2023. Beyond sustainability, Singapore's world-class infrastructure, state-of-the-art venues, excellent connectivity, diverse attractions, and welcoming environment offer event planners a remarkable platform to create inspiring and impactful events.

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EZ Link card collection point at WCD2023 to encourage eco-friendly transportation. Photo Credit: WCD2023

WCD2023 drew inspiration from the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a comprehensive roadmap for the nation's sustainable development goals when planning for the congress. The organizers developed a tailored Green Policy that integrated key principles like waste reduction, recycling, and responsible resource utilization that aligned with Singapore's commitment to sustainability. By doing so, WCD2023 aimed to minimize its environmental impact and create a greener, more responsible event.

STB’s assistance from the onset played a key role in facilitating the planning of a greener WCD2023, according to Lim. One of the valuable contributions from STB was the support around EZ-Link cards – each pre-loaded with S$30 value – for all delegates to conveniently travel around during their stay in Singapore. By promoting the use of these smart cards for their transportation needs, delegates were encouraged to opt for eco-friendly modes of travel, leading to lower carbon emissions and contributing to the overall sustainability goals of the event.

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Maria Criscuolo, Chairwoman & Founder of Triumph Group International said that WCD2023 tailored green policies aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Photo Credit: M&C Asia

Maria Criscuolo, Chairwoman & Founder of Triumph Group International, the appointed PCO, highlights the influence of the Green Policy's comprehensive guidelines for all stakeholders. Only hotels with a green policy and within walking distance of the conference venue are selected as partners, and WCD has established an agreement with Singapore Airlines to provide for offsetting programs for emissions caused by travel.

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WCD2023's plenary session. Photo Credit: WCD2023

Delegates were actively encouraged to contribute to sustainability efforts during the congress. WCD2023 introduced “25 Green Nudges”, a set of actionable steps that attendees could take to minimize their environmental impact. Delegates were encouraged to embrace digital platforms, such as the Congress mobile application, as a means to reduce paper wastage; bring their own bottles to refill water at dispensers; and opt for walking or public transportation, such as trains or buses, whenever feasible. 

In collaboration with Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, one of the congress venues, the organizers took great care in crafting a sustainable menu for delegates that embraced eco-friendly packaging. To minimize food wastage, any leftover food and beverage items were repurposed to generate renewable energy or donated to local charities.

Eco-friendly allies unite for sustainability

The running of WCD2023 was rooted in its commitment to green principles, and the deliberate choice of Gardens by the Bay for the event’s social evening showcased this dedication.

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Adrian Kong, Senior Assistant Director (Events Venue Sales) at Gardens by the Bay, emphasizes that the venue not only serves as a space rooted in sustainability for events but also as an attraction in the downtown area, making it an ideal choice for business event planners from around the world. Photo Credit: M&C Asia

Moreover, Gardens by the Bay stands as an outstanding model of sustainable design and operations. Adrian Kong, Senior Assistant Director (Events Venue Sales) at Gardens by the Bay highlights that the majority of the 18 Supertrees are equipped with solar panels, illuminating their captivating light displays at night. Additionally, a biomass boiler efficiently converts horticultural waste into fuel, ensuring the domes provide visitors with comfortable temperatures.

“We are a living example of a City in Nature concept that allows delegates to enjoy not just the venue’s facilities, but also the beauty of the gardens itself,” says Kong.

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Nature-inspired performances were part of the captivating program line-up during WCD2023’s Social Evening at Gardens by the Bay. Photo Credit: WCD2023

The WCD Social Evening, held at Flower Field Hall within Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome, was specially curated to minimise environmental impact while offering delegates an enjoyable experience. Food stalls were set up around the space, showcasing an array of dishes served with eco-friendly cutlery.

After the dinner, delegates were invited to venture into the outdoor setting of Gardens by the Bay. The Supertree Grove, an iconic feature of the Gardens, served as the backdrop for a mesmerizing light show complete with solar-powered drones that mapped out the story of WCD and the impact the congress has on the world.

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The spectacular drone show at The Supertree Grove unfolded with drones forming pictures in the night sky, narrating the WCD story, and honoring Singapore as the host destination. Photo Credit: M&C Asia

“The solar powered drone show at Gardens by the Bay is a sustainable choice. The entire show requires nothing for setup, using only music and colors of the trees to tell a powerful story that lingers,” says Criscuolo.

Lasting impact beyond the event

But sustainability doesn’t end with the conclusion of an event. To ensure positive impact and meaningful outcomes beyond the event itself, WCD2023 supported Singapore’s OneMillionTrees movement – an initiative that aims to plant a million trees nationwide over the next decade, in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030’s City in Nature vision. WCD2023 initiated a fundraising campaign with the Garden City Fund to offset the event's environmental impact and leave a positive legacy.

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Corporate entities can actively participate in Singapore's OneMillionTrees movement by joining the Plant-A-Tree program, a fundraising initiative under the Garden City Fund. Photo Credit: NParks

During the congress, WCD partnered with L'Oréal and the International League of Dermatological Societies to present the fourth edition of the International Award for Social Responsibility in Dermatology to recognize individuals or organizations dedicated to enhancing skin health in under-resourced areas. Five laureates received a €20,000 award for each project to support further funding. Additionally, scholarships were also provided to delegates from resource-constrained countries, enabling their attendance at the global meeting and facilitating their knowledge enhancement. 

“We will leave a legacy to the city as a way of managing a successful sustainable event with public-private collaboration,” adds Criscuolo.

Forging a sustainable future together

The 25th World Congress of Dermatology in Singapore, exemplifies how a large-scale congress can successfully incorporate green initiatives. 

Collaboration and careful selection of partners are key to hosting successful sustainable events. 

Discover more about hosting sustainable events in Singapore here.

 This article is sponsored by Singapore Tourism Board

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