Saturday, 10 July 2010

Find the time to have your say!

Funny how it seems everything happens at once. Last month ASTM wrapped up balloting on the latest round of Green Meeting standards. This summer national working groups are reviewing the latest Committee Draft of the proposed ISO 20121 Standard Sustainability in Event Management, working hard to get their feedback included in advance of the next international working group meeting in September 2010. In addition the public consultation for the Event Sector Supplement of the Global Reporting Initiative wraps up August 3.

I really should have posted about this all at least two months ago. These three initiatives are long overdue and have huge implications for sustainable event management and destinations. Before beating myself up too badly though, I have to acknowledge that the reason I'm tardy is that I've been buried in projects. Only now am I digging myself out from working my events to tap back into my blog, and updating it to reflect what is going on in the area of policy development for event sustainability.

My situation leads me to a fundamental question: How sustainable are standards for sustainable events?

I support the need for standards in event sustainability. Consistency, transparency and a universal rule-book are sorely needed. But as I look at myself and my colleagues I have to ask: can we expect people to actually do what is required of standards? I don't mean can we go paperless, or can we recycle, or do away with bottles. Of course we can. The checklist and action is really the easy part. I mean can we and our project budgets afford the time and human resources to research, document, audit and report to the degree required to live up to these various policies? Some would say we have to, we can't afford not to. I might be inclined to agree as I look at the endless list of environmental and social issues that scroll through the newswire everyday. But it is a valid question, with significant implications for all event professionals.

This will be a key thought in my mind as I review and participate in each of these processes. I urge you all to do the same, and carefully consider what is required when you read through each and every aspect. Also ask: how does all this fit together to influence and improve what I do? How will it shift responsibility in my organization? How will it change procurement, contracting, decision-making and post-event follow-up?

Standards are needed. And in reviewing them we have a responsibility to not be careless. We need to ensure they are meaningful, credible and strong while also thinking about the practicalities of what living up to them requires.

So take the time to participate. Read. Talk to your colleagues. Comment. We need everyone to provide input if we are to move forward in achieving the fundamental intent: a sustainable event.

And for those of you who are a little cynical about the whole green meetings standards process just remember what my Dad used to say about getting out to vote: Giving your input now gives you the right to pat yourself on the back or complain later!


Michael Luehrs said...

Thank you, Shawna.
You've posted this with plenty of time for people to have their voice heard. The standard makes for great summer reading! :)

This is a 'be careful what you wish for' situation. The ISO 20121 is shaping up to be ask users to delve into a rigorous process. With its high expectations for stakeholder engagement, identification of issues, performance metrics and risk assessments, it adds up to a daunting-to-implement event management system most professional event organizers and suppliers will be hesitant to tackle.
The standard will drive a number of important changes, but will it have the transformative effect we want if it's too cumbersome for most users?
It's important that people understand what the standard is asking and recognize that this standard represents holistic business philosophy and approach.
With that in mind I, too, encourage users to review the standard and give thought to providing feedback. It's needed.

Will planners find a way to adjust time budgets to accommodate the expectations of ISO 20121? Not at first. But maybe that's ok... For now.
My hope is that once the standard is published, businesses will integrate the aspects of the standard that make sense for their unique organization. The identification of stakeholders, as example. This will encourage them to build on the process to create better event management systems and better businesses.
And that was the hope all along.

With thanks for you being an inspired leader with this stuff,

Michael Luehrs

Shawna McKinley said...

Well said Michael. I think we'll all need to take a deep breath as we get hit by all of these initiatives at once, and decide which pieces to bite off to move our businesses and events forward. The process is never-ending! And that's not a bad thing, either.

Those taking some time to research and comment on the standards should check out Michael's FAQ on APEX, just posted here: