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Improved Sustainability and Social-Impact Standards Released for Events

The Events Industry Council has bolstered the industry-wide program it took over in 2019.

In late June, the Events Industry Council’s Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact rolled out an enhanced version of its Sustainable Event Standards, a set of eight benchmarks designed to assess organizations’ environmental and social responsibility with their events. The standards also apply to industry suppliers such as venues and product/service providers, who have a direct impact on many event elements.

First developed in 2019 to replace the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, the Sustainable Event Standards provide guidance and metrics for all stages of the event journey. The most recent changes include:

• Better-defined roles: The standards now clearly indicate the specific responsibilities for the event organizer and those for their suppliers in meeting the standard's criteria for a given event.

• A new “Foundations Level” that replaces the “Industry-Wide Criteria” section, offering a greater emphasis on education, tools, and resources to support adoption of the standards.

Criteria, assessment, and guidance have all been updated for greater flexibility for regional adaptation, and have been expanded in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility, and climate action. Point values that go towards qualifying venues and suppliers for certification were also adjusted to account for any financial investments made for new equipment or materials that support sustainability.

• A new “integrated property standard” was introduced to incorporate elements of guest accommodations, meeting venue, and food & beverage standards for properties that offer all three services under one roof.

A new certification model for industry suppliers that includes a comprehensive audit in the first and fourth years and surveillance audits and a smaller number of criteria for the second and third years. A streamlined process for events that use the same suppliers repeatedly was also added.

Mariela McIlwraith,
CMP Fellow, CMM, chief sustainability officer for EIC Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact, and senior vice president of industry advancement for Events Industry Council, recently answered a few questions from MeetingsNet about the revised standards.

MeetingsNet: How did the latest changes to the standards come about?
Mariela McIlwraith: Following a consultation process involving over 300 individuals from more than 20 countries, the standards have been designed to act as a framework for collaboration and provide [all parties] with the most comprehensive and relevant guidance. There was participation from the EIC Sustainability and Social Impact Committee, past contributors in the development of the standards, EIC members, organizations that had previously certified to the standards, subject-matter experts, and a survey to the broader EIC database of stakeholders.

Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council, recently noted that many industry professionals are just beginning this journey, and [they need] the ability to set specific targets for achievement and continuous improvement, while measuring and celebrating their achievements along the way.

MeetingsNet: Some of the revisions are focused on venues and other suppliers. What was the impetus for that? 
McIlwraith: As part of the consultation process, we introduced a new category for integrated properties that provide accommodation, meeting venues, and food & beverage services [under one roof]. It was important that we indicate which actions would be the responsibility of specific supplier partners, thus making it easier for event organizers to communicate clear expectations and promote accountability. But overall, we also provide specific guidance for all types of event partners such as [hotels, convention centers, special-event venues, audiovisual and production firms, exhibition-services firms, food & beverage providers, transportation companies, convention & visitor bureaus, and destination management organizations]. 

MeetingsNet: How do the standards for event organizers differ from those aimed at venues and other suppliers?
McIlwraith: In developing the standards specific to event organizers, we very much had the user experience in mind. We focused on three distinct areas of need for organizers: how can they better assess prospective suppliers for their sustainability practices; how do they communicate their needs to those partners; and what metrics and programs should they implement to improve their sustainability performance. The standards provide an independent assessment to make their supplier selections more transparent.

MeetingsNet: On the event-organizer side, is the EIC sustainability certification only applicable for individual meetings or for entire meeting portfolios? 
McIlwraith: Sustainable Event Standards certification can be granted for individual events, that demonstrate they meet the criteria. In order to be certified, applicants must demonstrate their achievement of the criteria, which include organizational management; marketing, communication and engagement; climate action; water management; supply-chain management; materials and circularity; diversity, equity and inclusion; accessibility; and social impact.  

Third-party auditing is also available for the standards. This helps to promote transparency and increase confidence within our events industry eco-system. 

MeetingsNet: What is the approximate cost for event organizers or venues to get a sustainability analysis of an event from EIC? 
McIlwraith: Fees are based on the complexity of the auditing requirements and size of the organization or event.  

MeetingsNet: Is there anything else you would like to point out or emphasize to planners and suppliers about the program?  
McIlwraith: The Sustainable Event Standards are part of EIC’s sustainability learning journey, which includes the Sustainable Events Professional Certificate (SEPC) aimed at event organizers. We offer it as an online course to ensure as many as possible can access the program. The certificate is granted to individuals who successfully complete the 16 modules that include understanding the business value of sustainability, improving environmental performance of meetings and events, and effective methods for achieving social impact goals. 

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