Meeting Mentor Magazine

August 2021

Cover Story

Venues and Suppliers Jump at Certification
For ASTM Sustainability Standards

A lot of industry people invested time and energy formulating the ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows, and Conferences Standards. So what’s in them for you? If sustainability is a core value of your meetings and events, your suppliers (and ultimately your event) can be certified “sustainable” by an independent third party.

This series of nine standards, developed by ASTM International in collaboration with the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX), provides specifications and performance criteria for producing events in a more sustainable manner. Compliance, however, is voluntary.

Into the breach to verify that event suppliers are meeting these standards comes iCompli, a non-profit division of BPA Worldwide, a company with a long history of audit verification. Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), which was instrumental in the standards development process, is an endorsing organization.

“Standards go nowhere unless there is independent third-party certification,” said Karl Pfalzgraf, vice president of sustainability assurance, iCompli. Certifying the supply chain, is “step one in ensuring more sustainable events,” added Tamara Kennedy-Hill, CMP, cxecutive director of GMIC. For her, the standards with the “most measurable and controllable impact” for meetings and venues are waste reduction, sustainable procurement, and energy and water usage.

The first destination, venue, and audiovisual company to be certified to level one of their respective standards are Visit Denver, the Colorado Convention Center (LEED and ISO certified), and Denver-based Image Audiovisuals. In certification review are Choose Chicago and McCormick Place (should be completed by mid-April), and Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Beginning the process is Travel Portland.

iCompli has completed certification protocols (evidence required to verify compliance) and submission forms for eight standards, and is awaiting release of the ninth and final standard, for accommodations. Until now “there was no way for meeting planners to compare self-proclaimed sustainable destinations on an even playing field,” said Tiffany Hoambrecker, associate director, convention services, Visit Denver.

“What I like about the ASTM standards is that they really engage meeting planners and their suppliers,” said Lindsay Arell, LEED AP O+M, sustainable programs manager, Colorado Convention Center. “They are created by our industry for our industry to push us toward sustainability. Everyone is accountable and has a stake in the game.”

By necessity, supplier certification had to come first in the process (since it is a component of event standards). iCompli is in the process of formulating the matrix of protocols necessary to certify events. Meanwhile, the Colorado Convention Center is looking towards “event standards” certification by enlisting its catering supplier, Centerplace, as the first food-and-beverage operation to apply.

Costs. Applicants for certification must show documentation that they purchased the standards from ASTM; hardcopy prices range from $46 to $52 per standard, download prices from $41 to $47 per standard. Costs per standard submission for level-one certification range from $2,500 (audiovisual) to $5,000 (venue).

Clarifying the Standards. By their very definition, standards are never finished. And the standards as written do contain ambiguities that will require interpretation for “reasonability, level of rigor, and affordability,” noted Pfalzgraf. Some wording was “intentional,” added Lawrence Leonard, CMP, CIC’s chief operating officer — providing a target to reach, but not prescriptive of how to get there.

So GMIC has formed a stakeholder panel of seven industry professionals, led by Arell, with whom iCompli will consult. The panel will develop a review process that will be “rigorously aligned with GMIC and CIC,” she noted. This should result in “a concentration of market feedback to collect and bring back into the ASTM process,” said Leonard. He foresees revision activity for some of the standards taking place within 18 to 24 months, with focus on the standards receiving the most questions of interpretation. — Maxine Golding

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