Sustainable Event Management (SEM) is the process of designing and organising an event following sustainable development principles in order to achieve strategic goals which serve the economic, environmental and social interests of organisers, delegates and host communities. Sustainable events bring positive results for the local and global society through diversity and inclusivity, promoting healthy, creative and effective meetings.
SEM is more than eliminating bottled water or offsetting the event-related carbon emissions. SEM is a strategic way to lead and operate events and meetings. It includes strategies, policies, processes, systems and actions that intertwine to support and manage events more efficiently, effectively and professionally. Unlike the concept of greening, sustainability is not something which can be just plugged into the event management function. Sustainability is a management competence which leads the integration of responsible business practices with a culture of values and principles that guide the organisation and its talent.
International Sustainable Event Standards
Driven by industry professionals seeking a clear, uniform description that best defines a sustainable event and its necessary components, four separate and unique voluntary standards and related initiatives are now available, or are in-development, for the meetings industry. Each standard will support the sustainable event process for meeting planners, organisers and industry suppliers. These formal standards are being developed based on a consensus of stakeholder opinion, which meets the requirements of an independent standards organisation. They are:
• BS8901: The British Standards Institute (BSI) released in 2007, and updated in 2009, the BS8901 specification and guidance for creating and implementing a sustainable event management system.
• ISO20121: Developed from BS8901 and integrating elements of ISO26000 standard for social responsibility, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is facilitating a process to create an internationally recognised standard for the design and imple men tation of a sustainable event management system. This is due for release in 2012.
• APEX Environmental Sustainability Meeting standards: The Convention Industry Council, working with the US EPA, Green Meeting Industry Council, the ASTM International standards body and more than 200 contributing professionals from the meetings industry, have created a performance standard with guidance and a specification of best practices and measurable, performance based criteria. This is due for release in the summer of 2010.
• Global Reporting Initiative Event Supplement: The GRI G3 guidelines are the dominant international standard for organisational sustainability reporting. GRI, with wide spread meetings industry support, is creating a supplement to the G3 guidelines for the event sector. The supplement will provide guidance and performance indicators that will help organisers report the impacts of an event in a transparent and comparable fashion.
The Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol explains how to use the three standards together to deliver optimum results.