Tradeshow sustainability Initiatives: A great first step; now get certified

By Glenn Hansen, President & CEO, BPA Worldwide

In today's ultra-competitive events marketplace, venues, organizations and suppliers focusing on sustainability initiatives definitely have a competitive edge.

While claiming a venue or organization is sustainable is great, it's only the first step. I would argue that sustainability certification may be the extra advantage needed to tip the scales during your next RFP process. I have noted that venues and visitors bureaus around the world are taking the lead in getting certified. The next step is to bring onboard key suppliers so the venue/destination can pitch a complete sustainability package to show organizers.

On the corporate side, sustainability is being pushed down the supply chain by procurement and marketers who realize sustainability can serve as another arrow in their quiver to better attract events and shows. Certification to a global standard lends further credence to your marketing message.

And of course, don't lose sight of perhaps the most important factor – adopting and getting certified to a global industry standard elevates your own internal sustainability practices. It sends a strong message to your staff and external audiences that sustainability and social responsibility are important and your company have made a serious, visible commitment.

If you have not done so, I suggest you investigate two standards and determine which best fits your organization's needs. The Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) developed standards published through ASTM International. GMIC defines nine elements of the supply chain, including destination/visitor's bureau, venue, food & beverage, transportation, accommodation, A/V company, staging and booth construct, communications & marketing and the on-site sales office. The GMIC standard defines the considerations for selection in the event supply chain by environmentally conscious event planners.

A second suggestion is the International Standards Organization (ISO) and its standard “20121” – Event Sustainability Management System. The ISO standard addresses the management of improved sustainability across the full event management cycle. An excellent tool for planners is the Sustainable Meeting Planning Program. It is an online system that fosters compliance with both the ISO and GMIC's ASTM standards.

As I noted above, adopting sustainability practices are a best industry practice and can earn some attention in the marketplace. However, it's independent certification to a defined global standard that will more readily position your organization apart from the clutter. After all, anyone can claim their organization follows sustainable practices, but just because they say so, doesn't make it true.