As the sustainability of economic development and industry development is becoming a hot topic of conversation all over the world, eco-friendly concepts are gradually becoming universal through innovative management and marketing strategies. In the convention industry, where it has been quite some time since the concept of sustainability has been introduced, sustainable practices primarily show up in the form of eco-friendly event operations.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defined green events based on the principles that were developed at ICLE’s 2009 Greening Events Symposium in Barcelona, Spain. UNEP defined a green event as one that is designed, organized and implemented in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts and leaves a positive legacy for the host community. In addition to minimizing the negative impact on the environment in the name of sustainability, green events also encompass a focus on health and social concern.
Not only do green events cut costs by reducing waste and energy consumption, they also are able to secure a positive and favorable reputation, pursue environmental innovations, build event awareness, create social benefits and values, encourage industry professionals to engage in eco-friendly practices, and implement green practices within the operations of their own organizations.
As worldwide interest in green events have increased, a number of organizations are creating standardized guidelines and manuals for executing green events. In 2007, the British Standard Institution (BSI) established the Standard for a Sustainable Management System for Events – the BS 8901 – with the goal of making the London 2012 Summer Olympics more sustainable. The BS 8901 was revised and reissued in 2009, and it is now used by international events like the UN Climate Change Conference, small-scale meetings, and other diverse events of all different sizes in between.
For four years from 2009 to 2012, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed its standard for sustainable events – the ISO 20121 – based on the BS 8901. The ISO 20121 presents the framework for a management system that will help event-related organizations to improve their environmental, social, and financial sustainability.
In the case of the United States, as the issue of needing to develop the same environmentally sustainable event standards for the entire convention industry came up, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) worked together to develop and present the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards in 2012. The standards divide the categories of event management into 9 sectors and rate an event’s sustainability based on 4 degrees of performance or ‘levels’ that can be achieved by the organization. A diverse group of companies and associations such as McDonald’s applies the APEX/ASTM standards to the management of their green events.
Every other year, McDonald’s holds the McDonald’s Worldwide Convention for three days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The convention is a huge event that is attended by 16,000 people consisting of the fast food chain’s branch managers, subcontractors, managers, and staff members from all over the world. In 2012, McDonald’s applied portions of the APEX/ASTM standards to their convention and held a green event. They recycled 60,000 square feet of signboards and donated them to a local art school. They also donated and recycled 80% of the carpeting that was used in the venue. Furthermore, 17% of the food ingredients that were used during the convention were locally sourced, and the 80,000 pounds of food trash that was generated was used as compost. Using food waste as compost during the event in 2012 marked a first for the Orange County Convention Center, and it was an undertaking that was carried out by a waste management company and an in-house management team from McDonald’s.
While the interest and efforts put into holding green events are growing globally, there does not seem to be much of an interest in Korea in regards to holding environmentally sustainable events. International events in the environmental category have yet to present guidelines for the management of green events, and there are no substantial discussions being had in Korea on the topic.
In order for the domestic convention industry to experience continued growth and development, the industry needs to take an active interest in environmentally sustainable event management. First, in order for events to implement green practices, a reputable organization needs to establish standards for environmentally sustainable events and a detailed guideline and manual that can actually be applied. The most urgent task the industry is faced with is to take the standards, guidelines, and examples that have been set by North America, Europe, and ISO, and for related research organizations and industries to work together to develop a manual and guidelines that can be applied in Korea.