Sustainability Feature: Net Zero Emission Certified Events

This month Matthew Robinette CMP, Vice President of Visitor Experience, Richmond Region Tourism shares information about a sustainability program he launched in Richmond.

In August 2021 I was working from home, like many of you, stressing over two words….Mass gathering. I have been in the business of mass gathering for nearly 20 years and to continually hear that bringing large groups of people together was not just unsafe but deadly was making my brain hurt. I was
contemplating the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and what that looked like for the leisure traveler, business traveler, meeting planner, and association executives. At that moment I stumbled upon a NY Times article about a CEO’s thoughts on the future of business travel titled This business trip could have been a Zoom call: Companies rethink travel. OMG…Mass gathering = danger and a CEO is advocating for less business travel?! I was rethinking my entire career! Then I read the article and the Net Zero Emission Certified Event came to me.

The hospitality industry was and is adjusting to the changing landscape across all sectors of travel including business travel. How can destinations shift to accommodate the new needs of the business traveler? The article states that “Commercial air travel is responsible for about 3 to 4 per cent of total US
greenhouse gas emissions.” Millennials and Gen Z business travelers will demand that their business travel have little to no effect on the environment. The Net Zero Emission Certified event is a cheap and easy way for service professionals to deliver value to our stakeholders – DMO leadership, association leadership, meeting planners, and participants.

The following information is a summary of the Net Zero Emission Certification Richmond Region Tourism offers some of our clients. Please contact Matthew Robinette, CMP with any questions. The event service professional who is considering association needs (member benefits to attract the next generation) will be able to deliver meaningful services. Services that benefit the association, the planner, the participant, and your community.

Richmond Region Tourism presents: Net-Zero Emission Conference Certification

Why Net-Zero Emission events are important?

Carbon Offsetting is important because it allows people to make a positive contribution to the environment when their emissions can’t be avoided. In addition, the increased funding these causes receive can change lives, bringing economic, social and health improvements to whole communities.
Carbon offsets help the environment in a multitude of ways. First and foremost, they help in the fight against climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn lessens the greenhouse effect that traps heat and warms Earth’s surface temperature. Offsetting carbon is an important part of slowing this warming trend and giving ourselves a chance to reduce emissions at the source to avoid the worst of what climate change would potentially bring.

What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is an action intended to compensate for the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because of industrial or other human activity, especially when quantified and traded as part of a commercial program.

Who does Richmond Region Tourism partner with to ensure carbon calculations are accurate and carbon offsets purchased are real?
We partner with The Virginia Green Travel Alliance which is the state’s voluntary partnership program to encourage green practices in tourism. The program was created in 2007 by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Virginia Restaurant and Lodging

Finding the right partner for you
Virginia Green was created by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in partnership with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to assist hospitality and tourism businesses with navigating conservation and green policy, procedure, and best practices. Finding a reputable partner to help you maneuver a new effort like a Net-Zero certification is critical to the success of the program because a reputable third party brings gravitas to the effort. Begin by contacting your state-run environmental quality department, they have the connections and resources to assist your search for a quality partner you can trust. You may find that the state office can be that third party and/or connect you to a green travel partner they have a relationship with.

What is the process?
The event RFP contains all the information needed to calculate how many carbon offsets are needed to earn a Net-Zero Emission Conference Certification.
– How your participants are traveling (air, car, train)
– How many participants are using the various methods of travel (%)
– How many and what kind of meals is the event providing to participants
– Shuttle operations
– Meeting room square feet utilized
– Hotel/Convention Center ‘green’ practices
Using this information Virginia Green calculates the total CO2 emissions generated by the event in tonnage, as in this example:

  • Emissions
    • Travel – 28,660 lbs CO2e
    • Commute -55,116 lbs CO2e
    • Venue – 2,205 lbs CO2e
    • Water – 2,205 lbs CO2e
    • Meals – 6,614 lbs CO2e
  • Total Carbon Footprint -94,799 lbs of CO2e (equivalent to planting 1,103 urban trees)
  • Offset by Purchase of 43 metric tons of Carbon Offsets on October 22, 2021

Virginia Green then purchases carbon offsets to counter the CO2 emissions the event produces creating a Net-Zero Certified Conference.

Who does this program benefit?


– Conferences and events are member benefits, this program removes a potential barrier to entry to participants considering attending your event.
– This program positions you as an innovative leader to your members and your industry by implementing this program to positively impact the environment.
– Companies are beginning to consider the environmental impact of travel by their employees.
– New asset to sell to a sponsor and a positive activation for a sponsor.

Matthew Robinette CMP// Vice President of Visitor Experience
Richmond Region Tourism

Find him on LinkedIn

ESPA’s New Certification Sets Standard For Profession

New Industry Mark Raises Education Expectations for Event Servicing

The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) announced today it has unveiled a certification process that creates a new standard to elevate the profession.

The new Event Service Professional Certification (ESPC) is unique because it focuses on the profession of event servicing at convention centers, hotels, CVBs, and other event venues.

“ESPC is the first industry certification made for our profession, which is a frontline role with events that generates return business at locales by helping meeting planners execute exceptional in-person events,” said ESPA President Paola Bowman, who is director of Client Services & Events at the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau in Arlington, Texas. “As event servicing professionals, we are accustomed to being part of the solution, which is why our association decided to invest in the profession when it needs us most. Our ESPC sets a new standard that elevates the profession, which is
needed today more than ever.”

In a post-pandemic events setting, experienced event service professionals are more valuable to meeting planners, who face new audiences in different places through hybrid technology, attendance building challenges, expanded safety needs and city-wide labor shortages.

Industry-First Certification Process
Candidates for ESPC have two options: 1) Take the Event Service Professional Foundational Training Program or 2) Obtain a waiver to bypass the training. Candidates can be “waived” if they can demonstrate at least 10 years of professional event service experience and comprehension of event  servicing in convention centers, hotels and CVBs. In addition, 20 hours of continuing education, which focuses on event servicing topics, is required over three years.

To earn the ESPC, candidates must complete a capstone project, which includes submitting a “Challenge Area” topic, such as connecting events to the local economy, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, customer service and emerging trends in events to name a few.

Once the “Challenge Area” topic has been reviewed and approved by a Review Board, candidates must provide a minimum of a 1,000-word response with five cited sources. The solution must include hotel, facility/venue and DMO-related elements as well as describe the outcome. Candidates should consider
the following when writing the response:

  • Show evidence of the impact of the Event Service Professional in the outcome of the challenge.
  • Demonstrate collaboration across all segments.
  • Describe resources or relationships involved to achieve the outcome.
  • Describe measurable outcomes or achievements.

The ESPC will be awarded for a five-year period at which time a recertification is required. A list of candidates will be maintained on a list on ESPA’s website.

ESPA’s mission is to prepare event and convention services professionals for pivotal roles in innovative and successful event execution. As a forum for CSMs and an educational and networking resource, ESPA
advocates for the role and impact that event service professionals have on the success of events and destinations, hotels and convention centers.

For more information on ESPA, visit

ESPA’s New Training Supports Changing Industry

Foundational Event Services Course Offers CE Credits for New, Returning Professionals

The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) announced today that it has launched a ground-breaking training program for the event services field.

The curriculum provides foundational training for individuals new to event/convention services—and experienced professionals at convention centers, hotels and CVBs looking to broaden their understanding of event service across segments.

Videos are available on-demand, enabling event service professionals to go through the training on their own schedule. A certificate of completion and CMP continuing education credits can be earned by demonstrating participation through a post-training evaluation.

“This new training comes at the right time in our industry when change is the only constant,” said ESPA President Paola Bowman, who is director of Client Services & Events at the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau in Arlington, Texas. “As event service professionals, we are accustomed to being part of the solution, which is why our association decided to invest in the profession when it needs us most. Our new comprehensive foundational training program helps prepare new individuals to the profession, as well as experienced event service professionals as they return to work.”

Nearly four million hospitality jobs were lost during the pandemic in 2020, according to a report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The industry is not expected to regain pre-pandemic job levels until 2023.

To create the training material, ESPA leveraged the deep expertise of three event service professionals to serve as instructors for the 13-lesson program.

  • Amy Cabe worked for more than 20 years at Visit Spokane, most recently as director of Destination Services.
  • Lindsay Clapp has served in management roles in event servicing and audio-visual services, including as event manager at the Raleigh Convention Center.
  • Denise Reid is event planning manager at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter and has more than 20 years of hotel event services experience.

The lessons, which take about three hours to review, include:

Lesson 1: Welcome & Introduction to Event Services
Lesson 2: The Roles We Play
Lesson 3: Ready to Launch – Getting Started with Clients
Lesson 4: Collaboration
Lesson 5: Services: The Spice of Life!
Lesson 6: Common Job Functions
Lesson 7: Emerging Trends
Lesson 8: Staying on Track
Lesson 9: Serving Unique Markets
Lesson 10: ESP Conduct – Tips & Guidance from the Pros
Lesson 11: Performance Measures for ESPs
Lesson 12: Wrapping It Up
Lesson 13: Growth, Training & Resources

The introductory rate to access the training is $229 for ESPA members and $329 for non-members. To learn more and register, visit the ESPA Training portal.

ESPA’s mission is to prepare event and convention services professionals for pivotal roles in innovative and successful event execution. As a forum for CSMs and an educational and networking resource, ESPA advocates for the role and impact that event service professionals have on the success of events and destinations, hotels and convention centers.

For more information on ESPA, visit

Dennis Edwards Honored by ESPA

The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) announced that an executive at the Greater Raleigh CVB was recognized with a prestigious national award along with other industry professionals at its annual conference.

Dennis Edwards, who is president and CEO at Greater Raleigh CVB/Visit Raleigh, was honored with the Executive Excellence Award at ESPA’s annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri, which was held January 21-23. The event incorporated carefully planned safety measures, including a mask mandate and an attendee requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Read More at Exhibit City News.

Event Service Professionals Association Takes “Big Step” with Annual Conference

Taking what organizational officials called “a big step forward,” the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) held its annual conference January 21-23 at Westin Kansas City at Crown Center.

The 162 in attendance represented roughly half of what event typically attracts, with ESPA getting back to business by electing Paola Bowman, CMP, CMM, Destination Services Manager, Arlington (Texas) CVB as President. Dennis Edwards, President & CEO, Greater Raleigh CVB was bestowed the Executive Excellence Award.

Read More at USAe.

What Keeps Attendees Safe in a Pandemic and What Doesn’t

There is no magic elixir to absolutely protect attendees from fast-spreading novel coronaviruses. But strategic measures executed professionally are a lot more effective than some of the most common solutions being promoted right now. That is the real talk delivered by Robert Bronstein and John Harris, partners behind Prevent, a Lynchburg, Virginia, risk mitigation company created to help meeting professionals cross the unknown to return to meeting responsibly. What does work, they say, is layering safety measures based on the time, place and type of group. What doesn’t work might surprise you.=

Read More at Smart Meetings.

Learn COVID-19 Protocol Best Practices Gleaned from ESPA’s Annual Conference

When it comes to executing a robust COVID-19 health and safety protocol regimen for an in-person meeting, what better group model than the annual meeting for the association that represents convention and event service professionals?

ESPA, the Event Service Professionals Association, held its 2022 Annual Conference January 21-23 in Kansas City, Missouri, after a two-year pandemic hiatus, and organizers knew that even though the gathering was relatively small, the fact that its members were on the front lines of communication and facilitation between meeting and event planners and facilities meant that the conference would be a protocol laboratory of sorts as the industry awakens.

Read More at Meetings Today.

Need a Meeting Planning Stress-Buster? Tap Into an Event Service Prof

Tina Lynn Mercardo knows how to reduce stress on the job.

As a meeting planner for NAFA Fleet Management Association, she makes sure to leverage the expertise of an event service professional, or CSM (convention service manager), from the planning stages all the way to the event.

“I was less stressed every step of the way,” said Mercardo, about teaming up with a few event service professionals for a recent national conference in late August.

Event service professionals, who work at a hotel venue, convention center or CVB/DMO, may work quietly behind the scenes, but they can dramatically impact the outcome of an event. This has created a symbiotic relationship between meeting planners and service professionals.

Read More at Meetings Today.

You Need Event Service Profs More Than Ever. Here’s Why

We put out fires, adjust on the fly and juggle multiple items at a time. We are trusted partners with meeting planners, who rely on us from event conception to site selection visits to “game day.”

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed things. It has reinforced and underscored our mission to elevate the event experience from CVBs and conference centers to hotels and resorts. It has also driven up the value that we bring to the table.

Here is the updated value proposition we deliver to meeting planners, with an emphasis on how event service professionals will play a key role in the return to in-person meetings

Read more at Meetings Today.

7 Ways CSMs Can Help Planners as the Meetings Industry Reboots

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that change is the only constant.

Ask a meeting planner.

In a little more than a year, events and conferences have gone from in-person affairs to “You’re on mute!” virtual attempts. As the industry transitions back, things will look different—some temporary, some forever.

Hybrid events will take center stage to align with safety precautions and a desire for something that rhymes with normal. From a meeting planner’s perspective, the new-norm hybrids mean two events that happen at the same time but appear to be one integrated event, without extra support staff.

Read more