Comment: Embrace the rewards of giving something back

We want genuine social responsibility to be engrained in our culture at the EICC, says Dallas. Picture: Jane Barlow.
We want genuine social responsibility to be engrained in our culture at the EICC, says Dallas. Picture: Jane Barlow.
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As the UK’s most highly rated conference venue outside London, it is imperative that the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) evolves to keep in touch with the competition around the world – against other centres in cities like Barcelona, Dubai, Singapore and Sydney. At the same time, we also feel a great responsibility towards our local community in Edinburgh. The capital provides the majority of our workforce and we have a multitude of local partners that add considerably to our own offering, so we always try to give something back.

As we move into the festive season, we had our annual Christmas movie showing for elderly people from local care homes. We screened It’s a Wonderful Life in one of our theatres, with popcorn and refreshments laid on, and members of our team on hand to make sure our special guests felt completely at home. It would be true to say that we think we get as much out of the event as our invitees.

In the same week that Social Bite organised its latest edition of Sleep in the Park in their ongoing mission to eradicate homelessness in Scotland, we have been trying to do our own bit to help some of the people who are marginalised most in society. Food poverty is another societal scourge and we recently installed food banks on site in partnership with the Edinburgh Food Project, and were honoured to have First Minister Nicola Sturgeon support the official launch.

We are conscious that no business leader can ignore social enterprise or simply pay it lip service, which is why an initiative we introduced a couple of years back has proved to be greatly rewarding for our whole team. Every twelve months, each member of our team at the EICC is obliged to spend a day supporting a charity of their choice. We want genuine social responsibility to be engrained in our culture, we think it’s that important.

As part of our drive to become one of the most sustainable conference centres on the planet, we now have an electric car that can be used by any of our staff. Many of the industry associations and corporates who decide to bring their business to our venue demand a demonstrable track record of sustainable activity and we are always looking for ways to raise our game.

Looking back at 2018, the team and I can reflect on another great year at the EICC. Hosting Michelle Obama in July was a real highlight, just over a year on from her husband, former US president Barack Obama. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and Brexit remains a niggling factor for us, like many, but we approach 2019 with a reasonable degree of optimism.

Meaningful collaboration is one of our core values at the EICC and the spirit of this value was crystallised when news broke over the summer that TED had chosen Edinburgh and the EICC for its next summit. Along with contributing around £5 million to the local economy, the TEDSummit, which takes places every few years, brings together some of the world’s greatest thinkers and change-makers – something which aligns perfectly with our own overall mission: “to create an environment which inspires ideas that change the world”.

Scotland’s Year of Young People is nearing an end, but we continue to invest in the next generation, including through our masters degree in business events, developed in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University, that is now in its second year. The MSc is something we’re immensely passionate about, as we think it’s hugely important to develop new talent for an events industry which is a fast-growing sector of the nation’s economy.

Of course, our principle focus remains our core business and we are on track to report increased revenues and record operating profits for 2018, while contributing more economic value to Edinburgh and Scotland than ever before.

- Marshall Dallas, chief executive of the EICC