IMEX Does Its Part to Support a More Sustainable Trade Show Industry

June 6, 2017

The IMEX Group has been ramping up its efforts to create a greener, cleaner and less wasteful trade show industry.

As evidenced by the results of the IMEX America 2016 Sustainability Survey, conducted by the IMEX Group and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) prior to last year’s IMEX America, many event organizers are also doing their part to lessen the environmental impact of their meetings and events.

According to the survey, released June 2 to tie-in with World Environment Day on June 5, 72 percent of event planners have increased their environmental efforts within the last five years, including 21 percent who claim to have made significant changes.

Designed to provide insights into the event industry’s attitudes and actions about sustainability, the survey also asked planners which environmental measures they believe make the largest impact when planning and running events.

The results were decisive, with 48 and 33 percent selecting “reducing waste” and “recycling or donating unwanted or waste materials,” respectively, as their top actions.

Meanwhile, the IMEX team has been busy implementing more and more sustainable initiatives at its annual hosted-buyer events, IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America.

New to IMEX in Frankfurt is Waste Watcher, a waste re-distribution program that provides opportunities for event participants – primarily exhibitors – to re-use and recycle leftover food, furniture, stand graphics, flowers and stationary that would otherwise end up in landfill.

IMEX America already has a waste re-distribution program in place through a joint initiative with Sands Expo and MeetGreen.

Run in partnership with local community group ShoutOutLoud, Waste Watcher made its debut at last month’s IMEX in Frankfurt, held May 16-18 at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany.

“It’s taken us many years and a lot of effort to find a local organization with the same values and mindset as IMEX, as well as the network and willingness to work with us,” explained Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group.

She continued, “It’s also been important to understand changing legislation, especially around food-handling, for instance. So, it was just great that so many visitors and especially our exhibitors were interested in and supportive of our new Waste Watcher program. We learned – and they helped – a lot this year. It was a great start but we already have bigger ambitions for 2018.”

By organizing onsite programs that make sustainable behavior more visible and accessible on the show floor, IMEX aims to make the greening of big meetings and events more acceptable, Bauer added.

Other environmental steps in Frankfurt included swapping out printed show catalogs for digital, which helped save 2.7 tons of paper; printing show badges on paper rather than card stock, and using hydroelectricity across the whole show.

Sustainability education was also a hot topic at the event, with sessions led by green experts including Guy Bigwood, group sustainability director of MCI Group, who shared findings from the first ever Global Destination Sustainability Index Whitepaper, “Sustainable Destination Management Trends and Insights: A Path to a Brighter Future,” which was launched at the show.

Also introduced at IMEX in Frankfurt was the IMEX-GMIC Green Award – the Innovation in Sustainability Award – that recognizes individual event professionals and businesses working to drive sustainability momentum and change behavior across the meetings and events supply chain.

The inaugural winner was the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which was presented with a trophy at the event’s Gala Dinner in recognition of its Blu Planet water conservation project.

In an effort to take its events in an increasingly greener direction, IMEX Group works closely with sustainability partners including GMIC, Messe Frankfurt, MeetGreen, The Venetian | The Palazzo and the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, and produces a comprehensive Sustainable Exhibiting Guide tailored to each show that encourages IMEX exhibitors to make small, earth-friendly changes.

“If every exhibitor and attendee at both IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America took just one more practical step to help reduce waste or operate more sustainably at our shows, then the entire industry’s contribution to greater sustainability, its legacy, would increase immensely,” Bauer said.

She added, “If they don’t know how, they can just ask. We’re here to help and cheer them on.”

Helping to promote sustainability across the events industry is another important initiative for the IMEX Group, as evidenced by its sponsorship of the Positive Impact campaign, a non-profit working in support of the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Through telling the story of the power of events, the campaign is a call to action aimed at bringing the world’s event professionals together to ensure a more sustainable future for the global events industry.

Adopted Dec. 4, 2016, the UN resolution recognizes the important role international sustainable tourism can play in fighting global poverty and increasing economic prosperity; promoting social inclusion, peace and understanding, and fostering cultural and environmental preservation. 

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