A tidal wave of sustainable meeting training is on its way, with the word that the Green Meeting Industry Council will launch a wide-ranging training and education program to support the new APEX/ASTM sustainable event standards.

And none too soon. Anyone with a stake in a strong, economically resilient meetings industry should be cheering GMIC on, and stepping up to participate or help out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Because the closer the Council comes to fully implementing its new education roadmap, the better the entire industry will be.

Regular readers know that I’ve been active in GMIC for several years (full disclosure—I was an author of the media release for the roadmap), so it should be no surprise I’m bullish about the plan. But this goes beyond institutional loyalty: The more I learn about the roadmap, the more I see it as the embodiment of everything I joined GMIC to support.

  • It puts substance and detail behind the spin built into too many sustainable meetings programs—not usually because organizations are deliberately greenwashing, but because they don’t yet clearly understand what sustainability entails.
  • The roadmap is a first step in building sustainability programs that cut costs, rather than adding new ones, by boosting the operating efficiency of the companies and associations that adopt them.

But even GMIC loyalists should be pleasantly surprised—and just a bit overwhelmed—that the organization has committed to such an ambitious effort. The roadmap calls for the development of nearly two-dozen learning modules by July 2014, with the first wave due to be complete by the middle of this year. The new education will be focused in three key content areas: sustainability and industry standards, operations and examples, and innovations and next practices. It spans three levels of expertise, from ”explorer” to “leader,” so that everyone in the industry can benefit.

The program also builds on three sustainability education modules that GMIC has already introduced: a certificate course on the foundations of sustainable meeting planning, a seven-step program on integrating the APEX/ASTM sustainable event standards into meeting operations, and a training for trainers, which prepared a dozen participants to deliver sustainable meetings education based on the APEX/ASTM standards.

It makes sense that the industry’s only association devoted full-time to sustainable meetings would take the lead on the training that will make the hopes and principles behind the standards a practical reality. But to get this done, GMIC will have to punch above its weight: It’s less than a decade old and still one of the smallest associations in the industry. Even with a dedicated team of staff and volunteers and the nimbleness of a smaller organization, the training program is an enormous undertaking.

To make the task a bit more manageable, the first thing you can do is make your own commitment to the APEX/ASTM standards as if your meetings program depends on it—because on some level, it does. At a time when everyone in the industry wants to work smarter, save money, and deliver better results, sustainability training is one part of the solution, and GMIC is the right organization to bring the standards to life.

Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, one of the world’s leading specialists in capturing and repurposing conference content, and founding chair of the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation. Beer blogs at http://theconferencepublishers.com/blog and tweets as @mitchellbeer.