Sustainability Initiative

As an industry, we have an opportunity to improve our efficiency, reputation, legacy and environmental impact through sustainable practices.

IAEE is partnering with the Events Industry Council to raise awareness and promote more sustainable exhibitions and reduce the carbon footprint of our industry.

Creating Sustainable Exhibitions

IAEE, in collaboration with the Green Meeting Industry Council, an initiative of the Events Industry Council, recommends the following guiding principles for sustainable exhibitions:

Minimize carbon emissions with a sustainable freight, shipping and transportation strategy.
With a significant amount of an exhibition’s carbon footprint coming from transportation, this is an important focus. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to do this. In North America, select SmartWay partners and affiliates. These companies have partnered with the US EPA to reduce their carbon emissions. Other best practices include shipping show-to-show, minimizing empty space in trucks, opting for vehicles that use renewable energy and adopting no-idling policies.

Focus on materials resource management.
Materials resource management is a comprehensive approach that goes beyond landfill diversion. It begins with using less, making the best choices of materials and life-cycle planning. From there, it moves to reusing, donating and upcyling, and finally to recycling and composting. For more information on each of these steps, see this waste management how-to-guide from GMIC.

Select suppliers and partners with sustainable practices, policies and infrastructure.
By far the easiest way to make your exhibition more sustainable is to work with partners with existing infrastructure (such as renewable energy sources, recycling, donation and composting practices, energy efficient lighting and equipment, etc.) and a commitment to sustainability.

Develop policies for your exhibitors and vendors.
Exhibitors and vendors (such as concession operators), play an important part in helping an exhibition to achieve sustainability goals. Developing policies and verifying compliance during the show will amplify your impact. Policies may include materials that are to be used (such as electronic promotional materials, and recyclable or reusable signage), materials to be avoided (such as styrofoam), or participation in post-show donation programs.

Ensure that your exhibition is accessible.
Selecting accessible venues and ensuring that the show floor is barrier-free will help you to not only meet legal requirements, it will improve your reputation and increase your potential audience.

Adopt a sustainable food & beverage policy.
Confirm that food choices and service ware available for your exhibitors and attendees will meet a wide range of dietary needs and meet environmental objectives. For specific guidance, see this white paper on sustainable food & beverage practices for events from GMIC.

Measure, report and share your story.
To successfully innovate, our industry needs ideas and best practices to be shared. We encourage you to measure your results, and share your successes and future opportunities with your stakeholders and our industry community

Helpful Resources

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Case Studies

  • Walking the Talk: Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition at the Anaheim Convention Center
    IAEE’s 2016 Expo! Expo! takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center (ACC) from December 6-8, 2016. Just in time to celebrate its golden anniversary in 2017, the Anaheim Convention Center has been awarded the prestigious 2016 LEED Gold® certification for its high achievement in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality and environmentally friendly practices. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the preeminent program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of high-performance green buildings.
  • Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco conference tradeshow case study (credit: Oracle/MeetGreen)
    Successful event sustainability programs use management systems to achieve objectives and improve performance. Oracle OpenWorld follows a process based on ISO 20121: 2012 Event Sustainability Management Systems to annually improve the event.
  • National Association of Music Merchants Show 2016 (credit: NAMM/Freeman)
    For more than 30 years, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and Freeman have collaborated on The NAMM Show, the annual event that attracts more than 99,000 attendees and 1,620 exhibitors. In recent years, the community has become increasingly interested in ways to reduce the event’s environmental impact.
  • IMEX America tradeshow case study (credit: IMEX/MeetGreen)
    Sustainability is a priority throughout the planning process of IMEX America, a trade show that welcomes 3,100 exhibitors and over 10,000 participants annually. Each area of the event is addressed through a collaborative focus and effort. This attention on pre-event onsite, and post-event phases works not only improve internal operations, but helps to engage each vendor in a way that promotes long term change.
  • Greenbuild 2014 International Conference & Expo, U.S. Green Building Council and Informa Exhibitions US (credit: USGBC/IMEX)
    The IMEX-GMIC Green Meetings Award judges a specific event based on a planner’s efforts to prevent and reduce environmental impact. The winner in 2016 was Greenbuild 2014 International Conference & Expo, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.