How CL24 Earned EIC Silver Sustainable Event Standard Certification

PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 achieved Silver certification for its sustainability efforts. Now it’s time to explore what considerations and steps are necessary to raise the bar in 2025.

Author: Michelle Russell       

entrance with CL24 signage

PCMA Convening Leaders 2024, held in January in San Diego, earned the Silver certification of the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) Sustainable Event Standard.

In April, PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 was awarded the Silver certification of the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) Sustainable Event Standard. The standard includes criteria in seven areas: organizational management; marketing, communication, and engagement; climate action; water management; materials and circularity; supply chain management; and social impact. For silver level, PCMA was able to demonstrate that Convening Leaders achieved 65 percent of the criteria, based on percentage of completion and on the maximum number of points for each specific sector.

Carolina Goradesky

Carolina Goradesky

“The EIC Certification process was for us twofold: It provided us with a framework to measure our event impact while guiding us to rethink how we plan and produce our work collectively,” said Carolina Goradesky, PCMA’s head of global sustainability. “Together with our partners, we defined and mapped all the sustainability initiatives, focusing to reduce resources, material use, and optimize waste management. Now we have a framework for improvement and aiming at Gold for CL25.”

For an inside look at how CL24 achieved silver, Convene asked Goradesky to walk us through highlights of the event’s “Sustainable Event Management Report,” prepared by sustainable solutions company Honeycomb Strategies. Honeycomb collaborated with PCMA to work with key vendor partners to collect sustainability metrics and qualitative information on impacts for CL24 Jan. 7-10, which attracted 4,136 in-person participants to the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC), and 949 professionals online.


Educational programming played a significant role in the sustainability approach PCMA took for the event. The content priority was to incorporate sustainability across a wide range of sessions, even when sustainability wasn’t the main content topic, according to Goradesky. “The goal was to elevate the dialogue, stimulate debates, and demonstrate that sustainability isn’t just a business choice, but an integral part of how the business events industry can operate,” she said.

Event Design — High Marks and Room for Improvement

Many of the environmental impacts of CL24 were outside the control of PCMA; the San Diego Convention Center, food service company Sodexo, trade-show service company Heritage, sponsors, and other vendors all contributed to data collection for CL24. Some highlights: half of energy for the SDCC comes from renewable sources; all serviceware at SDCC during CL was compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable. SDCC places an emphasis on local procurement, and sources local fresh foods, and contributes kitchen oil to New Leaf Biofuel in San Diego. In addition, kitchen waste is donated to a regional farm for animal feed.

Goradesky said that the data in this area “can be transformed into information to guide the new cycle. These items point out sections controlled by the venue but especially what we control and can commit to improve” — in particular, waste management. CL’s diversion rate of 44 percent is lower than SDCC’s average annual rate — and lower than CL23, which was 51 percent.

In terms of next steps, Goradesky said that in order “to better understand how to reduce waste, we need to see what the waste is and then build guidelines and best practices to reduce and/or prohibit those materials.”

Signage and Décor — Positive Trend

The total amount of vinyl banner printed in 2024 was nearly 4,000 square feet less than at CL23, and polyfoam/foamcore was eliminated. All décor was rented and props were stored for reuse.

For CL25, Goradesky said plans are to evaluate single-use substrates and ask if the signs are really needed. If so, she said, “We should ask about other material options, and working with partners to collaborate and optimize production.”

Flooring — Good/Bad

While aisle carpeting was removed from the District, CL’s activation space for sponsors, having different shape “booth” sizes on the District floor unfortunately required sponsors to order custom-cut flooring rather than reusable options.

Next steps, Goradesky said, include working with Heritage to inform sponsors on the end-of-use plan for each flooring option. The sponsor kit can provide a useful icon to describe “better” and “best” options in terms of environmental impact.

The Elephant in the Room

CL24 travel emissions increased significantly over previous years, which affected the total carbon footprint of the event, despite notable decreases in onsite emissions.

“We don’t hold the solution for the air travel emissions,” Gordesky said, “but we can strategize on how to select our locations, what are the criteria and priorities. A destination might be only reachable by air, so we need to investigate what other sustainability areas we can focus on during that edition and what kind of legacy we can leave once the event is over. That’s why redesigning RFPs is key for sustainability development, but we must consider it a live document that will be assessed regularly to maximize possibilities globally.”

Moving Forward

“Collecting datasets on a regular basis is so important to visualize progress,” Goradesky said. “It can serve as comparison, it can be analyzed to take decisions when hiring services, and ultimately, it can be part of the KPIs of the event and organization. Changing venues will always challenge us as some datasets planners don’t control. However, they will indicate the areas of improvement and collaboration so we can advance the industry sustainability take-up and investments.”

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

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