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The Vital Role of Sustainability: How Venues are Working to Build a Greener Industry

Following this week’s release of the UN’s Climate Change Report, IAEE YP Committee Member Alexandra Serrano explores the bold actions being taken by Exhibition Place to meet sustainability goals.

By Alexandra Serrano, Marketing and Communications Manager, Exhibition Place

Sustainability has long been crucial to best practices in the events and exhibitions industry. Following the release of the United Nation’s Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report, the need for urgent action to reduce environmental impact is top of mind, especially for the exhibitions and events industry. Although our industry delivers social and economic benefits, there is much work to be done by stakeholders across the board: from event organizers to exhibitors, suppliers, and venues.

The 2022 report, Finding the Future Together: Towards a more sustainable B2B trade show industry in the U.S. and Canada, was overseen by a task force made up of representatives from 14 leading trade show industry organizations. It identifies six areas of greatest ‘Material Impact’ by quantifying each impact, highlighting the progress already made to reduce that impact and looking towards ways of further reducing the impact in the future. At 13% of the total estimated carbon footprint measured in this project, venue energy usage is the second largest source of emissions for our industry.

“The energy use at exhibition venues is arguably one of the most immediately addressable environmental impacts as much of it is under the direct control of events industry participants,” noted the study.

Additionally, sustainability is increasingly important to attracting event attendees and attracting organizers to venues. According to CVENT’S 7 Event Venue Trends for 2023, it is a growing focus. Citing findings from IMEX Group, “When organizers were first surveyed in January 2020, 90% agreed that an increasing focus on sustainability was important for the events industry. When asked the same question again in May 2020, 95% said their organizations were committed to developing more sustainable practices.”

One venue taking bold action in the industry is Toronto’s Exhibition Place, which has a long track record of leadership in sustainability. In addition to more short-term measures like energy management plans or recycling, leading-edge initiatives undertaken by this venue include:

  • Targeting Energy Self-Sufficiency through on site solar, wind and geothermal energy production
  • Implementing a sustainability stewardship initiative, titled ‘GREENSmart,’ that outlines and promotes sustainable operations across the site.
  • Maintaining globally recognized certifications to remain accountable, including LEED Platinum and Silver certifications for two of its on site venues.
  • Committing to improving the sustainability performance of its business between now and 2030 in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by signing the Sustainable Tourism 2030 Pledge.

For Laura Purdy, General Manager of Exhibition Place, these initiatives are a key part of a thorough and longstanding plan. “At Exhibition Place, we have long understood the importance of sustainability and our GREENSmart initiatives span almost two decades of progress in this realm,” Purdy said. “Today, we remain dedicated to reducing our impact on the planet by going beyond conventional industry practices and supporting the efforts of likeminded event organizers.”

Click on the video below to learn more about how Exhibition Place is addressing sustainability.

As stakeholders in our industry increasingly prioritize sustainability, it’s clear that collaboration is a critical factor in building a sustainable future. Venues like Exhibition Place are finding success in partnership and attracting likeminded event organizers with similar goals. One such client is the One of a Kind Show, an iconic Toronto event for over 40 years and a pillar of the city’s annual calendar.

“As a part of Informa, One Of A Kind has aligned it efforts to contribute to our company’s commitment in building a sustainable business. Through the FasterForward program, our aim is to become a positive impact business by embedding sustainability into everything we do, and seizing opportunities to help our customers and communities to do the same,” said One of A Kind’s Show Director Janice Leung. “We greatly value having a venue partner like Exhibition Place who boasts a longstanding dedication to sustainable practices. These practices support our own ambitions of becoming zero waste and net zero carbon by 2030 while creating annual events that meet the high standards of our customers.”

This example shows that venues are in a unique position to lead the way by implementing sustainable practices and supporting organizers in achieving their own goals. It also shows us what’s possible when stakeholders collaborate to put on not just socially and economically valuable events, but environmentally sustainable ones as well. We have a responsibility to build a sustainable future for all; together, we have the opportunity to achieve this goal.

About the Author

Alexandra Serrano is a Toronto-based Marketing professional with 10+ years of experience working in the Entertainment, Hospitality, and Fashion industries. She is currently working in the Events & Exhibitions industry as the Marketing and Communications Manager at Exhibition Place. To connect, reach out at:

Click here to learn more about how IAEE is raising awareness and working toward improved sustainability in exhibitions and events.

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