by Sarah J.F. Braley | July 01, 2010

Planners who find themselves struggling to green their events soon will have concrete standards to apply. The Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) is poised to publish voluntary standards for green meetings and events, possibly as early as next month.

Internationally, representatives from more than 30 countries now are collaborating through the Interna­tional Organization for Standardization to create the global ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management guidelines.

With assistance from ASTM International, a voluntary standards development organization, the ambitious APEX project has taken nearly three years to date. The standards address nine key areas: accommodations, audiovisual and production, communications and marketing, destinations, exhibits, F&B, meeting venues, on-site offices, and transportation.

Six of the nine standards could be published next month, with the final three -- accommodations, F&B and meeting venues -- becoming available in September.

"When I took on this project, I thought it would be so much simpler than the actual experience," said Amy Spatrisano, principal of Portland, Ore.-based MeetGreen, a founder of the Green Meetings Industry Council and head of the APEX sustainability committee. "Once the standards are launched in the marketplace, adapted and implemented by our industry, maybe then we'll be able to see a glimpse of the significance of our work."

Spatrisano also is working on ISO 20121, along with Sue Tinnish, an industry consultant who serves as chair of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Tinnish also fills the role of  CIC APEX/ASTM standards liaison, so she knows both documents inside and out. "The APEX standards will help planners make a single meeting more sustainable," she said. "The ISO document aims for culture change -- it's a management system."

The U.S. TAG received the most recent iteration of ISO 20121, which has mandatory and voluntary elements, on June 4; the group must submit its comments to ISO by Aug. 1 in an effort to complete the standards in time for the 2012 Olympics, said Tinnish.

The U.S. TAG is made up of representatives from many groups, including the GMIC, Meeting Professionals International and the Inter­national Special Events Soci­ety, as well as some meeting planners. The standards will apply to events of all sizes, from street fairs and small meetings to the Olympics.