Mountains of paper waste, frigid air-conditioned conference rooms, endless supplies of plastic water bottles and not a recycling bin in sight. Just a handful of years ago, when I was working in the events industry, this was the norm. Wastefulness, if it was given any thought at all, was merely considered a byproduct of holding events. But fortunately, many businesses and event planners are starting to evolve.
They need a roadmap to start making changes, and to provide a means to measure the impact of their efforts at conducting for sustainable events. And, as I learned through a chat with Thatcher Young, Sustainability Director, and Simon Isaacs, VP of Cause Marketing and Sustainability Practices, for ignition, an event marketing firm that specializes in events and “experiential” interactive gatherings, that a number of sustainable event standards are beginning to emerge.
Britian is leading the pack, having established the British Standard 8901, which is a sustainability benchmark system for events. It provides a framework that is similar in many ways to the ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management) standards, in that it calls out management principles and specifies ways to educate and train events staff on following a strict set of sustainability policies, etc. It is designed to speak to every aspect of event management, from travel to supplies to energy consumption.
And the International Standards Organization (ISO) is now also developing its own standard for sustainable event management. In fact, Young explained that the candidate standard is being fast-tracked in hopes that it will be ratified in time for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Meanwhile, standards are also emerging on the national and regional levels, with the PA-based ASTM International developing what it calls the New Guide for Standard Practice for the Evaluation and Selection of Destinations for Meetings, Events, Trade Show and Conferences. The first draft of that standard could be out this fall, they said.
And ignition has also developed its own set of guidelines, called the Event Management System (EvMS). “This is not a standard,” clarified Young, “it’s a management system and it’s based on the British standard.” The idea behind the EvMS is to give ignition and its clients—which have included AT&T, BP (no comment), Honda, Intel and many other biggies—a means for setting and measuring goals for the events and promotions that ignitions develops.“You need something to give managers of events to identify impacts,” explained Isaacs, “because they are not environmental experts. Also, you need something that is tangible” to work against.