New research by IMEX Group highlights rise of positive action within the meetings and events industry

2nd Jun, 2017

Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of meeting planners have increased their efforts in the last five years to put sustainability best practice into action, including 21 per cent who declare they have ‘significantly increased’ their efforts. This positive news comes on the eve of World Environment Day (5 June) from research carried out in advance of IMEX America by the IMEX Group and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). The survey also asked, when planning and running meetings, which sustainability measures make the biggest positive impact. The result was decisive. Almost half (48 per cent) said ‘reducing waste’ and a further third (33 per cent) selected ‘recycling or donating unwanted or waste materials’.


These findings are in line with practice and experience at the recent IMEX in Frankfurt. There the IMEX team introduced a new initiative - Waste Watcher - in partnership with local community group ShoutOutLoud. The IMEX team aimed to reduce waste by providing opportunities for everyone at the show (but chiefly exhibitors) to re-use and recycle leftover food, furniture, stand graphics, flowers and stationery that would usually go to waste.


Speaking about partners ShoutOutLoud, Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group said: “It’s taken us many years and a lot of effort to find a local organisation with the same values and mindset as IMEX, as well as the network and willingness to work with us. 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 programme. We learned – and they helped – a lot this year. It was a great start but we already have bigger ambitions for 2018.


By organising projects such as this, which make waste reduction more visible and accessible on the show floor, we aim to make the greening of big meetings and events more acceptable,” Bauer said. “And behind the scenes, we also produce a comprehensive Sustainable Exhibiting Guide for all our exhibitors, which offers great tips on how to make small changes that make a big difference.”


Saving paper – and trees – and making a different energy choice

This year IMEX in Frankfurt added several more sustainability initiatives. 2.7 tons of paper were saved by no longer printing a show catalogue, badges were printed on paper rather than card and hydroelectricity was used across the whole show. Sustainability education was also a hot topic, with sessions from experts such as Guy Bigwood of MCI who shared findings from the first ever Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index white paper.  


IMEX in Frankfurt also introduced a new IMEX-GMIC Green Award - the Innovation in Sustainability Award - to highlight the role that individual event professionals or whole businesses can play in changing behaviour across the meetings and events supply chain. The new award recognises the need to drive sustainability forwards through innovation, collaboration and idea sharing. The inaugural winner, presented with the trophy at the IMEX in Frankfurt Gala Dinner, was Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in recognition of its Blu Planet water conservation project.


At IMEX America 2016, the show’s APEX/ASTM score increased for the 5th consecutive year and now stands at 90 per cent of level 1 standards. Energy use per participant was down by 13 per cent and there was an 18 per cent decrease in total carbon emissions. Meanwhile at the IMEX Group’s UK offices recycling saved the equivalent of 34 trees and 5,790kg of CO2 in 2016. IMEX Group is also sponsoring Positive Impact's campaign to tell the story of the power of events during the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism 2017.


‘Analogue moments in a digital world’

CEO Carina Bauer adds: “As a global show powered by a passionate global community we identify closely with the sentiment of World Environment Day, particularly as its theme this year is ‘Connecting people with nature’ while our new Group strapline is ‘We are all connected.’

In her Purposeful Meetings research keynote, Janet Sperstad pointed out that, ‘Nature is a tonic for humans. Even a picture of nature revives a tired mind. The experience of nature doesn’t have to be real for it to have a calming, relaxing effect on us.’ She talked very passionately about meeting planners needing to encourage and allow their attendees to connect with elements of nature, describing them as ‘analogue moments in a digital world’.”


Take just one step

Bauer continues: “If every exhibitor and every 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. If they don’t know how, just ask. We’re here to help and cheer them on.” The IMEX Group works closely with partners including GMIC, Messe Frankfurt, Meet Green and The Venetian®| The Palazzo® and the Sands Expo® in Las Vegas.

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