Having kept a low profile for a bit, the Green Meeting Industry Council is striding back to life with new resources behind it and a new ability to spread its message and its impact across the meetings and events industry.

In a member webinar February 25, Roger Simons, CMP, president of GMIC and regional sustainability director for MCI Group, and Jeff Chase, president-elect of GMIC and vice president, sustainability, for The Freeman Co., explained that GMIC is ceasing operation as a standalone association, and will now be an internal council of the Convention Industry Council—“the United Nations of our industry,” as Simons put it. The CIC is an umbrella organization for 33 meeting, event, exhibition, and trade show organizations.

Relying on CIC for operations, governance, and staff, Chase said, the new GMIC will settle into the roles of “content provider, think tank, and collaborator.”

What it Means for Members
​GMIC members will transition to “supporters,” while chapters become “networks.” Karen Kotowski, CEO of CIC, who also participated in the webinar, used the analogy of supporting PBS or the World Wildlife Federation—“you’re not supporting a brick-and-mortar association, but rather a worthy cause.”

Current members will continue to receive benefits until their memberships expire, at which time “we will explain the new model of involvement with GMIC,” she said.

The 2016 Sustainable Meetings Conference
Simons announced that this year’s Sustainable Meetings Conference will be held September 15–16 in Baltimore, in conjunction with the CMP Conclave, planned for September 16–18 at the Hilton Baltimore. More details about the conference will be forthcoming.

Another priority for GMIC in 2016 is a “reinvigoration and relaunch” of the Sustainable Events Professional Certificate.

Collaborating Instead of Competing
Instead of GMIC potentially competing for membership, education, or sponsorship with the CIC’s member organizations, it will now collaborate on delivering tools, best practices, and greater clarity around the APEX/ASTM sustainability standards. Becoming a resource for those 33 organizations—not to mention more than 10,000 certified meeting professionals—gives GMIC a broader, deeper reach across the industry.

As Kotowski noted, “We cross-market all our programs. This will be a natural, easy process to always be thinking about how to include GMIC/sustainability in everything we do.”

GMIC Structure
As a council of CIC, GMIC will have a a specific mandate like the APEX Initiative and the CMP Commission. There will be nine to 15 council members, chosen through an application process, who will focus on content, research, and education. Volunteer task forces and subcommittees will be formed as well.

Kotowski will have overall responsibility for strategy, budget, and governance; Mariela McIlwraith, has been named director, sustainability, content development; and the position of CIC director, programs and services, has yet to be filled.

Kotowski noted that CIC’s marketing and administrative staff, and the staff of its association management company, Talley Management, “are all behind this, supporting GMIC to get its programs and services up and running.”

The immediate priority, Simons said, will be to create the leadership council and recruit “passionate volunteers” for the subcommittees. A strategic plan will be developed and an evaluation of GMIC’s current programs will be undertaken to ensure they meet the needs of the industry.

Guiding all the work, he said, is the mission “to promote the new GMIC to the industry and attract supporters to advance the sustainability cause and the need for responsible events.”

Green History
​GMIC was founded in 2004 by Amy Spatrisano, CMP, former principal of MeetGreen, and Nancy Zavada, CMP, president of MeetGreen, both of whom also participated in the webinar, saying that they are excited to see GMIC become a core program within CIC. “None of the industry organizations have integrated sustainability enough yet,” Spatrisano said, so there is a need for GMIC’s continued efforts “to educate and advocate for transforming the meetings industry through sustainability. I’m grateful for all the members throughout the years who have helped to get GMIC to this pivotal point.”

For many years, people weren’t ready to listen to messages about protecting the environment and making a positive impact with events, Zavada added. “Now, they are.”

Kotowski pointed out that CIC and GMIC have worked together since 2004, when GMIC contributed to a white paper on green meetings, “the first green resource for our industry.” In 2008, the two organizations began work on what became the APEX/ASTM Standards for sustainable events

Rolling Out Content
​GMIC is in the midst of a research project, being led by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, to analyze well-known corporate brands’ real-world actions in the sustainability realm. Planners at Fortune 500 companies as well as venues are being interviewed, and a global survey will be conducted this spring. Results are expected in July. “This will be a proof point for the industry of GMIC as leading source of sustainability research,” Simons said.

More immediately, a white paper on best practices in F&B sustainability will be released in 30 days, along with an accompanying webinar. Simons said GMIC also will focus on sharing sustainability stories from around the world.

“What this means for our organization is a return to our roots,” he concluded. “GMIC is stronger than ever, with more resources than ever, with greater economies of scale.” Most important, the meetings industry of today seems keen to hear, and to act on, GMIC’s messages.