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Green Meeting Industry Council
700 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

Introduction to Sustainable Event Standards
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Introduction to Sustainable Event Standards

Driven by industry professionals seeking clear, uniform definitions of a sustainable event, no fewer than four separate and unique voluntary standards-related initiatives are now available or are in-development.   This information is provided to facilitate industry’s familiarity with each standard and to explain their similarities and differences.  The current international standards applicable to sustainable events are: 
  • BS 8901:2007 specification for a sustainable event management system (revised in 2010)
  • ISO20121: Sustainability in event management (expected release in 2012)
  • APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Events Standards (published February 2012)
  • GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) Sector Supplement for Events (published January 2012)

Complement and not compete.
It is important for all users to understand that the three standards are different in their approach to defining a sustainable event standard and can, therefore be used in conjunction with one another for optimum sustainable event organization and result.
  • The BS 8901 and ISO20121 standard are management systems written to inform the process of organizing an event. 
  • The APEX ASTM standard provides definitions of specific measured and operational actions that comprise a sustainable event.  
  • The GRI guidelines inform how to report on the impacts of an event and provide common Key Performance Indicators. 

The standards work well independently or in collaboration as frameworks for sustainable events and sustainable meetings industry businesses.  

APEX/ASTM, ISO and GRI have been in communication during the development of the standards. The Green Meeting Industry Council supports and is highly involved in all processes.  For more details on the specific nature of each of the standards, how to access them and GMIC workshop and resources please see below:

[Graphic]International Standard Organization (ISO) 20121

Beginning in 2009 and continuing until 2012, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is developing an internationally recognized sustainability standard called ISO20121. The ISO20121 sustainability in event management standard will take a management systems approach to event planning.  ISO20121 builds on BS8901 and integrates key elements of the ISO26000 Social Responsibility guidance standard. Thereby it will provide enhanced management system specification and guidance on environmental, social and economic sustainability.  

To be deemed compliant with the standard, an event management system requires the identification of specific goals, key sustainability issues, policy clarification, supply chain management, effective oversight and management review of the event planning system and effective stakeholder engagement protocols. 


APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards

Published in February 2012*, The APEX/ASTM standards are specific, measurable, performance based criteria designed for suppliers and planners. They use a checklist and scoring level to gauge performance. These standards cover nine sector areas, eight measurement areas and outline four levels of event and meetings performance. Each sector can operate as a standalone standard, or be combined with the others to address the full event spectrum. 

*Eight of the nine sectors have been published. The final sector, accommodations, is scheduled to be released spring 2012.


Take me to the GMIC APEX/ASTM information page.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international NGO and collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Program that has, over the last 10 years, developed the world’s most widely used framework for voluntary sustainability reporting used by 78% of the largest 250 companies in the world (G250).

The Event Organizers Sector Supplement provides reporting guidance that is suitable for all types and sizes of events. The guidance covers the complete project life cycle of an event, from bid to planning, execution and, finally, post-event – including the issue of event legacy. The Supplement can be used to report before or after an event has taken place.  

The Supplement was developed according to a multi-stakeholder process. Volunteers from events companies, governments, labor and civil society organizations were brought together in a Working Group to develop the guidance.

To Access a copy of the GRI EOSS visit here:

What is a Standard?
A formal standard is based on the consensus of stakeholder opinion, meeting the requirements of an independent standards organization.  A standard can be described as an industry-established norm or requirement. It is usually a formal document that sets uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices.

Each country has a standards body, the majority of which are members of the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. ASTM is also an international standards body that is based in the United States.

What is a Management System?
Sustainable management systems refer to the management of an organization’s environmental, social and economic programs in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented manner. It includes the organizational structure, planning and resources for developing, implementing and maintaining policy for sustainability. The objectives and targets are set by the organization itself and should lead to a continual improvement year by year. Conformity with a management system can be demonstrated in one of three ways: 
  • First party: self-determination and self-declaration by the organization seeking compliance
  • Second party: confirmation of conformance by parties having an interest in the organization, such as clients, or by other persons on their behalf
  • Third party assurance by an independent certification body