APEX green meetings and events standards: the Debut

Next week, in sunny Vancouver, BC,  Meeting Professionals International will present the 2010  World Education Congress.  There, the Green Meetings Industry Council will present for the first time ever an introduction to the APEX/ASTM Green Meetings and Events standard.  A day long training session will provide attendees an understanding of how these standards are organized and provide insight to how they can be implemented in support of the organization of more sustainable businesses and events.

Never heard of APEX/ASTM? You will.  By some accounts, the APEX standards are the answer meeting planners wanted before wandering down the path of BS8901. With its prescriptive, ‘checklist’ approach to defining what makes a green meeting, it aligns nicely with how many industry professionals work and measure performance.  Recently, Marlene Goldman of Meetings Media, posed a few questions for

a just released article The Green Standard? In the responses below, I provide some perspective on what APEX is all about.

The debut of the APEX standards is the highlight of the season!  Please attend the event in Vancouver, and make a point to participate in the APEX session.  Then come back and share some feedback regarding the experience.

As promised, the question and answer section of the program:

At what stage is the rollout of the APEX Standards for green/sustainable meetings?

After 2 years of planning, discussions, workgroup, region meetings and review by more than 200 industry volunteers and professional standards writers, the APEX standard is scheduled for release in the summer of 2010.

APEX standards for green/sustainable meetings, are in effect 9 standards covering 9 areas unique to the meetings industry

  • Accommodations
  • Audio/Visual and Production
  • Communications & Marketing
  • Destinations
  • Exhibits
  • Food & Beverage
  • Meeting Venue
  • On-Site Offices
  • Transportation

Because each of the 9 areas have been subject to a separate committee of professionals and have different degrees of complexity, each section has taken a different amount of time to complete.  This highly complex process produced different formats which had to be unified and reviewed by technical writers for consistency before review by ASTM, the American Standards body.

How will the standards change and shape the green meetings industry?

Because the standards were written by a cross-disciplinary group of buyers and suppliers, and because they spell out specific actions/specific steps (as opposed to strategic philosophy), environmentally responsible actions become accessible.  APEX has the potential to activate players in the market who are not yet engaged.  Among the sparks which have led to the inception of the standards was a stated need by the EPA for a way to determine what travel-and-event-related products were environmentally responsible.  If there becomes a requirement for hotels, venues, caterers, etc to meet a minimum standard for green practices to win government contracts, it could have profound influence on the market.

How are they different/similar to the British standards and other green standards from other countries?

There are similarities amongst all the standards but APEX and BS8901 are markedly different in how they are formatted and what they require for compliance.  In simple terms, BS8901 is a way of working or a defined ‘process’. APEX is a specific checklist of tactics and expectations which define ‘what to do’.  In addition to the CSMP, the BS8901 presentation at this link explores the way the two standards are similar and different: http://www.slideshare.net/michaelluehrs

Are planners still eager for the standards? How about suppliers?

A select group of planners are very eager for the standards and for a clear way to identify suppliers who will support their agenda for creating sustainable events.  A larger, less engaged group of planners are not even aware that the standards are about to be released.  There remains a large gap between the industry players who are working to better integrate sustainability and those that perhaps are not interested in changing the way they currently do business.  Like television, which eventually offered buyers no option but color, APEX may have the effect of encouraging suppliers to adopt sustainable practices to the degree that, eventually, even without asking, planners will be organizing events which are by current thinking, ‘green’.

Will the added work that goes into creating an APEX standard meeting be a deterrent to planners?

For some, without question, yes.  For the resisters mentioned above and perhaps others, the time to get educated about the standards and the time to ensure compliance with the standard will likely be reason to defer their compliance.  The hope is that the market will reward those suppliers and planners who adopt the standard.  In time, the laggards will comply even though a time investment may be necessary.

How will the standards change how MCI produces a sustainable event?

The APEX standards, as well as BS8901/ISO 20121 and the Global Reporting Initiative meetings sector supplement, are all influencing how we evolve as a company on our quest for quality, of which sustainability is a cornerstone.  We currently use the standards to inform the Standard Operating Procedures for our project teams, and for the reports we issue our clients.  With guidance from the standards, and ongoing innovation, we will continue the pursuit of sustainable event management for each MCI project.

Simplify messages for sustainable event momentum

A review of any poll on the topic will reveal that meeting planners, suppliers and destinations like very much the idea of sustainable events as a practice and philosophy.  Dig a little deeper and many are challenged where to start.  People understand the ‘why’ of sustainable events, but so often express confusion–or frustration– on the ‘how’.

Meetings industry response to the interest in sustainability has been a rodeo of disconnected initiatives and convoluted standards.  The ‘how’, so often, is coded in dense ‘whitepapers’ or a wearying array of nuance related to carbon responsibility (VERs, CERs, CDM, etc).

With the possible exception of the emerging APEX standards , these documents are often a tangle of stilted language and complex processes.  During the resulting training sessions about these standards, the response so often is more “What what that again’” rather than “I can hardly wait to put these standards to use!”

During an enlightening conversation with Joe Oliver he touched on something rather important.  “Make the information accessible for the user”.  What a concept.  Can it be that part of the meetings industry challenge to act on BS89o1 is because we’ve not made it accessible?

There are many examples of new, complex concepts which have not been saddled with the same barriers to acceptance sustainability standards have faced.  How about automobiles?  The makers of the car didn’t start with showing potential drivers the electrical system and combustion theory.  The user was, instead, inspired by the thought of speed, status, efficiency.  Sure, they had to learn to drive, but this was a minor inconvenience. Sustainability for the meetings industry, if it is to become mainstream, needs different messaging.  Sustainability made simple? Consider this brilliant example from RealEyes:

We’ll be hard at work to make messages more accessible, more relevant for users with the hope of accelerating needed change.  Help us get there with your ideas and communication innovations!

Sustainable events: Examples & Strategy

When it comes to sustainable events, most professional meetings planners understand the ’why’ but not the ’how’. An intrepid few invest time and effort to piece together different tactics in support of a more responsible event, but rarely does the approach have any strategic plan. Rarer still are the events which produce a thoughtful report which transparently communicates to stakeholders the environmental and/or social impacts incurred as a result of the event itself.  CSR reporting experts like Elaine Cohen have taken note (see post)

A number of imminent, important happenings may help bring order and support to meetings industry professionals seeking to improve their commitment to the organization of sustainable events. First, the release of a report on the organization of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen (COP15) offers among the most recent examples of a sustainable event report. Exhaustive in detail and revealing of both planner failings and successes, the report will provide concrete examples of specific actions planners (and communities) can, and should, take to improve chances for a more responsible event. COP15, the first United Nations event to successfully seek compliance with the BS8901 sustainable event management standard , becomes the first to submit an event assessment report to feature Global Reporting Initiative compliance.

A corollary document to the COP15 report will also be released next week. Titled the “Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol” (CSMP), the whitepaper seeks to provide a framework for planners to integrate existing local and international certifications and standards for sustainable event management. Placing a special focus on BS8901, the APEX green meetings standards and the Global Reporting initiative for events, the CSMP gives clear guidance for developing strategy and for stakeholder engagement, which was a special hallmark of the COP15 event planning process. MCI Sustainability Services is proud to have authored the documents and to have participated in the watershed event and vibrant discussions which informed them. Information about the release of the documents can be found here next week. Here, too. For more sustainable events, stay tuned!

Looking for Sustainable Meeting Standards

Further to an early presentation given at Green Meetings Germany, the attached document provides a short and sweet summary about  developing Sustainable Meetings standards.

Driven by industry professionals seeking clear, uniform definitions of absi-logo sustainable event or green meeting, two separate and unique voluntary processes are available to meeting planners, organizers and industry suppliers: BS8901 sustainable event management standard and the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Green Meeting and Events Voluntary Standards.

Please see the attached pdf for more information that should help to reduce the confusion.

In addition , GRI – the Global Reporting Initiative has just launched a project to create guidelines for the sustainability reporting of events. Read more about this sector supplement.

Thanks to Anne and to Amy from Bs8901 and the Apex team for their help with this document.

Green Event Standards: weigh in!

The US-based initiative to create new voluntary standards for sustainable events will,  once finalized and accepted, drive real change in markets beyond US borders.  If you have any interest, business or personal with  sustainable practices within the meetings industry (and if you’re reading this, you do!), you have a vested interest in the outcome of these far reaching standards.  The APEX standards initiative is at a critical review stage and welcomes your input.

The initiative addresses 9 unique areas related to the meetings industry (Hotels, venues, transportation, audio/visual services, food and beverage, communication, event planner actions and the destination itself) and each of these areas now have a draft standard.  The APEX web site (link above) provides access to the standards, by area, and blog format to offer your comments.green_meeting

Important note: these standards, which offer specific expectations for tactical actions in support of sustainable practices,  are designed to work in tandem with the BS8901 standard, which is the best and most recognized management system from which sustainable events can emerge (think of BS8901 as the closet with shelves and the APEX standards as, well, all your stuff).

The APEX standards will dramatically influence the meetings industry as we know it.  Be heard.  Weigh in.


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