Operational Integration

Advanced practitioners integrate, rather than attach sustainable development principles into their existing event management organisation and system. The event management system refers to the system that ties together the strategy, operational plans and processes which deliver successful meetings.

Education

One of the important tasks in producing events sustainably is to develop sustainability expertise and capacity within the organisation, and through the supply chain. Sustainability teams can build skills by reading books, attending event industry seminars, participating in social media dialogue, including blogs written by sustainable event experts and reviewing event sustainability reports. Sustainability is a relatively new concept in the events industry. Practitioners will increase learning by participating in networks such as the UN Global Compact and The Natural Step. The Green Meeting Industry Council is the only industry association dedicated to sustainability and provides excellent support for sustainability champions.

The event management system owner needs to ensure that project teams are provided training and support in sustainable event management. At the very least event staff must have the basic tools, templates, processes and guidance to complete their tasks in a sustainable fashion. It is recommended that the staff performance review and evaluation process integrate sustainable event competency and that reward systems are in place to recognise innovation and contributions to system improvement.

Communication

Gathering and managing the collective sustainability knowledge of the organisation is a critical task. Effective and uniform information management systems are assets most event planners appreciate but few take the time to create. With the relatively recent arrival of sustainable event management as an industry practice, and the current lack of the competencies required within most organisations, it is important for organisations to implement a simple and effective system enabling knowledge to be shared. Examples of low cost systems are blogs, intranets, internet groups and wikis, all of which allow multiple users to disseminate information on a common platform. One person in the organisation should have responsibility for the maintenance of sustainability knowledge. Regular updates via email, webinars and meetings will help organisations to assimilate knowledge and for event planners to access information quickly.

Standard Operating Procedures

Most event’s have as their creator and engine an assembly of people, each charged with different responsibilities to ensure its success. Sales teams, procurement staff and operations groups all collaborate to deliver the vision of the event owner. For each work group, standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be adapted or developed to include sustainability criteria as part of normal day-to-day tasks. In the SOPs, language should be created to ensure that work groups consider the event’s unique sustainability goals. With these goals in mind, work groups performing meeting management functions should write contracts for suppliers to influence the event sustainable performance outcome.

These SOPs should be upgraded to become a event management system. Different elements of an event management system might include goal setting, the identification of stakeholders, the identification of potential risks, plans for a management review of the event planning system and procedures to improve to the system based on the principles of innovation and discovery.

Once in place and documented, the event management system becomes the foundation for all event planning efforts. Training manuals, guidelines, staff meetings and newsletters will all share a common reference to, and basis in, the documented event management system. Targets are communicated, results are measured and improvements are made all within the event mangement system. This cycle of plan-do-check-act ensures that the product of the event management system, in this instance the event itself, is more responsible for its cost effectiveness and ability to deliver on the shared goals of the organisational stakeholders.

Using Standards and Guidelines: To inform the creation or modification of the event SOPs event professionals should become familiar with existing sustainable event guidelines, resources and standards. In the development of SOPs it is important that event professionals use existing information rather than going to the expense and effort to recreate it. Associations such as the Green Meeting Industry Council and MPI, and organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI), have many resources for review.

The CSMP highlights the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) green meeting standards. These practical guidelines provide specific, measurable and performance-based criteria for both planners and suppliers. The guidelines cover nine areas of event management and nine subcatagories. The standard takes a checklists approach and is reinforced by providing four levels of performance.

More information is available on the Convention Industry Council (CIC) website: APEX/ASTM – Environmentally Sustainable Meetings Standards

Documentation

The event planner should maintain clear documentation of the event management system. This should include:

  1. Event policy.
  2. Strategy: Issues, priorities, objectives, KPIs and performance against objectives.
  3. Project Plan.
  4. List of key stakeholders and their issues and expectations.
  5. Stakeholder Registry: Including dates of communication with stakeholders.
  6. Budgets: Highlighting cost of and savings from sustainability program.

Tools

An organisations sustainability champion should have a focus on developing a good toolkit of useful instruments to facilitate operational integration. Examples include checklists, reference books, contract language, supplier and client questionnaires, and measurement spreadsheets. On line platforms such as MeetGreen provide out of the box solutions, and online calculators and benchmarking platforms.