Everybody talks about environmental sustainability in meetings, but until now few have agreed on what it is or how to get there. Now a big step toward consistency – and greener meetings – has been taken with the development of the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards.
Designed for both meeting planners and suppliers, the standards lay out specific sustainability guidelines in nine areas, ranging from accommodations to transportation.
They are the result of a partnership between the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and the American Society for Testing and Materials Internationals (ASTM).
One of more than 300 industry members who participated in developing the standards is meeting planner Amy Spatrisano, a principal with Meet Green in Portland. Travel Market Report spoke with Spatrisano to learn more about the standards and their implications for meeting planners.
What was the impetus behind the sustainability standards?
Spatrisano: People in the industry were aware of green meetings and wanted to plan them. They would ask: ‘What’s a green meeting?’ I could give you my definition, but what’s yours?
Many claimed they were greening their meetings or being sustainable – but there was nothing to benchmark that against.
What’s the meeting planner’s role in these standards?
Spatrisano: Both supplier and planner are accountable for meeting the standards. Suppliers can do their part, but if planners don’t perform at the same level, then neither group can say they’ve planned an environmentally sustainable event.
Why is it important that both planner and supplier meet the standards?
Spatrisano: We felt we’d get better buy-in if it wasn’t just up to suppliers. Sustainability is about everybody working together. It’s difficult to put together a sustainable event as it is, but especially if everybody isn’t on the same page.
How might a meeting planner use the standards?
Spatrisano: Take the destinations standards. The planner can ask: Is there recycling available for commercial properties? Do they have good public transportation? Is the convention center within walking distance of major hotels?
It’s easier on the planner. They don’t have to think about what they might ask the hotel or other vendor. Before, planners had to make up guidelines based on their expertise and knowledge. Now that standards are in place, they don’t have to do that.
Why should a planner bother to go along with the standards?
Spatrisano: Many organizations and corporations are now involved in corporate social responsibility and many have made public statements that they will reduce carbon output. Planners must make sure their meetings are ‘walking the walk’ of their companies or organizations. It’s about reputation.
What’s the role of attendees?
Spatrisano: Again, it’s a matter of reputation. There will be more buy-in from attendees who are aware of these issues. Some organizations get feedback if there’s no recycling or if a venue is still using bottled water.
Will it be costly to implement the standards?
Spatrisano: The standards are being framed as smart business strategy. Most of the items in the first of the four levels are about cost savings – so that should be a no brainer.
What will determine the success of the standards?
Spatrisano: The success will depend on whether people engage in them.
It would be tragic for the volunteers who spent so much time and energy on this if they weren’t executed. Also, the government will be looking to see if the industry can do this on its own – or, at some point, they may have to step in.
For more information about the standards and information on purchasing them, go to http://www.conventionindustry.org/StandardsPractices/APEXASTM.aspx.