Approximately 200 meeting sustainability gurus gathered in Montréal this week for the 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference, organized by the Green Meeting Industry Council. The association used the conference to roll out its plans to organize and fund new educational programming for meeting professionals on how to define, measure, and report the performance of a sustainable event.

Earlier this year, the Convention Industry Council and ASTM International released the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings Standards, an initiative that involved hundreds of meeting industry volunteers over a period of four years. Eight of the nine standards were published in February and are available for purchase, and the final standard is expected to be published in May. These take a “prescriptive” approach to planning more sustainable meetings, focused on measuring elements such as use of water and energy at an event.

Amy Spatrisano, principal of MeetGreen, a meeting industry sustainability consultancy; co-founder of GMIC; and chairwoman of the panel that developed the standards, says that users of the standards can help tweak the next version by commenting on them through a “feedback loop” on the CIC Web site.

All of the standards are available as a specially priced, electronic-only ASTM compilation that includes eight of the published standards and which will be updated to include the ninth standard when it is published, at no additional cost. The ASTM compilation is available for $149 through the ASTM book store.

GMIC already offers workshops on how to use the standards and is setting up an education framework that will also offer training on ISO 20121, an international standard that the International Olympics Committee has embraced. ISO 20121 establishes a process for planning sustainable events; it is expected to be finalized and released to the meetings industry more broadly in June.

Andrew Walker, managing director of 
E3 Strategy 
and a GMIC director, recommended that attendees use both the APEX/ASTM and ISO standards in tandem.

A third reporting mechanism, the Event Organizers Sector Supplement, developed by the Global Reporting Initiative, another international measurement tool, was also released this year.

GMIC Executive Director Tamara Kennedy-Hill, CMP, said GMIC has put an education road map into place that covers the menu of emerging standards. “The industry needs a single, one-stop resource to help planners and decision-makers understand the standards, decide which ones to use for different purposes, and get on with the job. GMIC is the only meetings association devoted full-time to sustainability, so it’s our job to put that training in place.”

To help fund the education, GMIC Foundation Chair Mitchell Beer, CMM, president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, announced a new fundraising campaign, which will underwrite many of GMIC’s new training programs. The foundation hopes to raise roughly a half million dollars a year to sustain the programming.

Also announced at the conference was an update to the Sustainable Event Management Tool, created in partnership with the Evolution Platform, which enables planners and suppliers to measure and report the environmental impact of their events through automated measurement tools. It is free to members of Meeting Professionals International and GMIC, according to Roger Simons, manager, CSR and sustainable events, in MPI’s Luxembourg office, and will be free to suppliers for the next six months or so.