Sustainability Initiative

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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.

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Creating Sustainable Exhibitions

IAEE, in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact, 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 Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact.

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, read Easy Ways to Shrink Your Event’s Food Waste Footprint from Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact.

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

Did you know?

Helpful Resources

Principles for Sustainable Events

This handout provides the four principles of event sustainability.

Credit: Events Industry Council

White papers, how-to-guides and videos from the Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact

An initiative of the Events Industry Council This page offers simple how-to guides on a variety of sustainable exhibition topics, short videos and comprehensive white papers.

Steps to Green Exhibitions

This page offers easy steps for getting started with making your trade show or exhibition more sustainable.

Credit: MeetGreen

Sustainable Graphics Info Sheet

Here is a chart that will help you make sustainable choices for signage. The chart is an excerpt from the book “Meet Better – 167 Ways to Make Your Events More Environmentally and Socially Responsible”

Credit: Meet Better

Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Watch this short piece on how events can create peace, justice and strong institutions.

Credit: Positive Impact

Positive Impact Sustainable Development Goals

Review all 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by Positive Impact Events.

Credit: Positive Impact

Finding the Future, Together

Towards a more sustainable B2B trade show industry in the U.S. and Canada

The global exhibitions industry delivers enormous social and economic benefits. It’s an essential engine for connection, trade, learning, and employment creating millions of jobs and billions in economic activity worldwide.

Like all industries, we are working towards being a more sustainable, low-carbon industry – but we recognize we need to do more, faster, and we wanted to understand in more detail where the real areas for focus should be.

Leading businesses and stakeholders from across the industry have sponsored a three-year independent research project to gather authoritative baseline data on, and analysis of, the current environmental impact of the US and Canadian B2B trade show industry.

This report – produced by independent researchers Little Blue Research and A Bird’s Eye View and overseen by a task force made up of representatives from more than a dozen of the leading businesses and associations in the sector – summarizes the research’s insights. The report identifies six areas of greatest ‘Material Impact,’ quantifying each impact, highlighting the progress already made to reduce that impact and looking towards ways of further reducing the impact in the future.

  • Carbon emissions from participant travel
  • Carbon emissions from venues
  • Carbon emissions from logistics
  • Material waste from venues
  • Waste from GSC warehouses
  • Booth materials

The report highlights the many good sustainability practices already in use by many of the industry’s key players – associations, venues, organizers, and service providers, such as:

  • Venues and organizers working together to encourage exhibitors to create highly reusable ‘pipe and drape’ booths and to construct custom booths from reusable and easily recycled materials, as well as to specify use of recyclable and reusable materials throughout venues for e.g. carpeting and signage.
  • Organizers and venues agreeing energy management plans to optimize the use of lighting, heating, and cooling before during and after the event is taking place; venues installing solar power arrays to provide a source of renewable energy.
  • Innovating to enable, complex booth structures to be made from reusable and 100% recyclable materials which are also lighter and so produce lower carbon emissions from their transportation.
  • Recommending more sustainable travel options to event participants, and offering high-quality carbon offsets to attendees as part of the registration process.

The report also sets out a high-level roadmap for change covering 30 ‘quick wins’ and longer-term actions the industry can take to move towards a more sustainable future.

But the report – and the research it summarizes – is primarily designed to provide the data and analytical bases on which the industry can confidently establish priorities for action and develop sustainability policies.

The report’s sponsors look forward to every industry organization joining them to help set actionable plans toward common sustainability goals through initiatives such as Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative and the EIC’s Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact.