Once you take the decision to put your venue, staff or destination up for accreditation, where should you turn? With a proliferation of standards and certification procedures and boards, Vikki Carley attempts to make sense of the best accreditation for your product to benchmark itself.
The global meetings industry is inundated with standards, certification procedures and boards for accreditation, yet choosing the right accreditation for your product can be difficult.
Accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status, accreditation provides public notification that a venue, product or individual meets the standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency. As a process, accreditation reflects the fact that in achieving recognition by the accrediting agency, the venue, product or individual is committed to meeting standards and to seeking ways to enhance the quality of product, service or venue provided.
Although gaining accreditation does not guarantee business, it reflects the quality by which the product conducts its business and it speaks to a sense of public trust as well as professional quality.
Cedric Calhoun, Chief Executive and Founder of RecertTrack, an online recertification tracking company, is passionate about seeing more certification in the meetings industry.
Speaking to CMW he says: “There is much to be gained through pushing certification in our industry. Individuals working in this field want to be seen as more than ‘party planners’. They want to be seen as professionals and that is only going to happen through certification.
“I would like to see more career pathing in the meetings and events industry, like you see in medicine, nursing, law and engineering.
These professions require university/college level and an advanced degree followed by an exam to practise as a professional. And you are required to maintain your competency through continuing education.”
The International Association of Congress Centres’ (AIPC) President Edgar Hirt tells CMW the meetings industry needs to recognise those areas where accreditation will directly contribute to more efficient and effective delivery and an optimal delegate experience and ensure these are properly addressed.
“There is an issue around integration,” he says. “Because while there are a number of qualifications aimed at specific parts of the equation (organisation, sustainability etc.) these must all work together in an integrated form if they are to avoid conflicting with each other. We’ve found that many centres feel they have to ‘borrow and adapt’ standards from other industries because there are few directly applicable to the unique requirements for centres, and a lot can get lost in the translation.”
Hirt says he would like to see some kind of framework to manage all the diverse standards and expectations.
“Our AIPC Quality Standards are not so much prescriptive, but rather a means of putting all the diverse requirements in context and ensuring nothing remains unaddressed. In our view, the overall object should be to create consistency where this is positive and beneficial and to make sure that creativity, flexibility and the delivery of a unique experience does not get lost in the process.”
Whether its sustainability, or personal development here’s some of the standards available in our industry:
Emma Fawcett-Jones, UK Business Manager for Certification International, a UKAS accredited organisation with more than 5,000 clients in 26 countries, says: “Whatever people define certification as, achieving standards for the events industry is becoming increasingly important in order to meet the demands of new and changing regulations. A certification mark is valuable and distinctive and there are few organisations that don’t recognise the importance of maintaining and improving quality.”
Certification International provides assessment, analysis and certification services to companies of all sizes, including those in the meetings and events sector, across a wide range of standards.
There are various standards, which are relevant within the event industry, but of particular interest to the events industry, according to Fawcett-Jones, is ISO 20121- the event sustainability management system standard. ISO 20121 is based on BS 8901, the British Standard for sustainable events management, but for international consumption, with participation in over 30 countries from numerous event industry organisations.
The standard is suitable for all members of the supply chain and for ensuring that events, ranging from local celebrations to ‘mega events’ such as the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, leave behind a positive sustainable legacy.
While conferences, sporting events, exhibitions and festivals can offer a wide range of public, local community and economic benefits, staging an event can also generate negative economic, environmental and social impacts. These can include things such as material waste, energy consumption and strains on local communities.
ISO 20121, its sponsors claim, provides the framework for identifying the potentially negative social, economic and environmental impacts of events by removing or reducing them, and capitalising on more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.
The Head of Sustainability at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG)
David Stubbs, claims London 2012 was the catalyst for ISO 20121.
The new standard takes the management systems approach familiar to thousands of organisations worldwide through the success of standards such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management).
Sustainable Events’s Fiona Pelham chaired the ISO team of experts who developed the standard. “The development process has been led by members of the event industry from around the world who have experience of event management and sustainability leadership,” she says.
“It makes sense to take an organised, processed approach to managing economic, environmental and social impacts.
In addition, what gets monitored and measured gets reduced, so there are likely to be lower overheads. Using a recognised international framework will enable leaders in sustainability to demonstrate their actions in a credible and transparent way,” Pelham adds.
For convention centres, having accreditation can mean the difference between winning and losing a large congress bid.
“For convention centre owners, many of whom are governments with little experience in the
industry, accreditation provides an independent measure of how a centre compares with others.
It creates some ‘comfort’ that their investment is being well managed,” says AIPC’s Hirt.
“For the centres themselves, it can be a form of benchmarking, which is often a challenge given
the wide variety of conditions and circumstances centres operate under,” adds Hirt. “This can be particularly demanding when there are few direct comparisons. For example when there is only one major venue in any particular location, which makes direct comparisons with counterparts more difficult, unlike the situation with, for example, hotels where there are usually many to compare with within a single city.”
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and BREEAM certification are perhaps the two most popular forms of certification available to venues within our industry.
BREEAM sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation and has become one of the most comprehensive and widely
recognised measures of a building’s environmental performance.
Over 200,000 buildings are certified with BREEAM assessment ratings and around 1m were registered for assessment since it was first launched in 1990.
LEED certification, developed by the US Green Building Council, is a consensus-based, market-driven programme that provides third-party verification of green buildings. LEED projects have been successfully established in 135 countries. International projects, those outside the United States, make up more than 50 per cent of the total LEED registered square footage.
The Pasadena Convention Centre in the US received Gold status certification from LEED.
The certification process highlighted a number of elements that helped secure the venue’s award, including more efficient lighting and equipment; an energy-efficient central plant and water-conserving fixtures that reduce consumption by 37 per cent.
“It is enticing to our clients, knowing they are hosting events in a facility that is actively protecting our precious resources,” said Pasadena Centre Operating Company CEO, Michael Ross.
Luxury hotel chain, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, has introduced a new Sustainable Design Policy for all of its worldwide properties.
The policy will be in place across its properties worldwide and in addition to LEED guidelines, a number of other green rating systems and programmes will influence Fairmont’s activity in this area including the BREEAM programme in Europe, Estidama Pearls in Abu Dhabi, and China’s Three Star programme.
“Instituting formalised design and construction guidelines for our robust pipeline of new hotel projects and on-going capital agenda adds a new dimension to our environmental mandate,” says Fairmont President, Chris Cahill.
“Environmental stewardship is part of Fairmont’s DNA and we want to ensure it’s evident in all phases of our business.”
Fairmont’s Sustainable Design Policy also includes new environmental criteria and checklists for renovation projects and property retrofits, environmental consultation during the design brief and construction process, and the creation of a green build best practices repository for use
by its hotels, engineers, developers, project leads and architecture.
Personal & professional
The three most common standards Certification International reports seeing in the meetings industry are for companies looking to achieve quality (ISO 9001), environmental impact (ISO 14001) and health and safety (OHSAS 18001).
“Their compatibility with one another not only helps the events industry meet health and safety obligations in an efficient manner but allows them to integrate quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems throughout everything they do to create exciting, high quality events that are safe and great for the environment,” says Fawcett-Jones.
IT and AV rental company DB Systems recently achieved ISO9001 accreditation following an audit by independent certification body, ISOQAR.
DB’s Operations Director, Mark Danvers, says: “The accreditation has helped our business because it is recognised as a mark of quality.
“Clients are impressed when they find out we have the accreditation and it has played a part in winning new contracts as it gives us a competitive edge when pitching for work against suppliers that don’t have it.
“Not only does the accreditation separate us from the competition, it also gives clients the confidence that they are working with a supplier that is committed to providing a quality service and willing to work towards improving efficiency.”
Association Meeting Professionals International (MPI) supports meeting professionals by way of certification and offers a CMM educational programme, which is an intensive learning opportunity designed for experienced and highly accomplished members of the association who are seeking personal career advancement and professional recognition.
The five-day programme enhances the strategic decision-making ability of these leaders, enabling delivery of ‘exceptional’ meetings and events that drive organisational success.
Julie Lehnis, Director of Account Operations for MillerCoors at Maritz Travel Company, says: “The CMM certification gave me what I needed to take my career to the next level. I left Dallas with a new skillset and mindframe from which to approach my job. I know this will have a lasting effect on my career because I was able to implement changes immediately and my boss and piers took notice and fell in line.”
In 1999 Infotel Solutions went through the ISO accreditation process, at the time there was no specific ISO certification set up for hotel booking and venue finding agencies and no other agencies had been ISO accredited.
During Infotel’s accreditation process, ISO 9001 was introduced and Infotel became the first hotel booking/venue finding agency to attain the certification.
The accreditation has gone on to assist the organisation streamlining processes and introducing policies to maximise on its potential, while also increasing the quality of service provided.
“When acquiring new business, tender documents predominantly require the Findmeahoteloom and Findmeaconference brands to specify the ISO accreditations of the company, and have assisted the organisation in securing hotel and conferencing business for a number of major brands such as Everest and Enterprise,” says Infotel Solutions’ Marketing Manager, Martin Thorley.
“ISO accreditation has also been a standard prerequisite for achieving preferred supplier status for a number of local authorities.
“The ISO 9000 family of accreditations offers a useful standard quality management system across all areas and multiple industries, but whether our industry would benefit from a specific accreditation is difficult to answer, Infotel Solutions, for example, offers additional services such as website marketing and memberships, which may not appeal to other standard venue finding or hotel booking agencies,” adds Thorley.
The world is a big place and CMW has only scratched the surface to report on some of the more well-known accreditations available to the global events industry.
What was clear from our conversations with the industry on the topic of accrediation is that it is a minefield and confusing for companies wishing to certify their staff or product. Yet those that do find the right accreditation are reaping the benefits.
This was first published in the Issue 70 of CMW. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org