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Better Stands Program Aims to Provide More Sustainable Trade Show Displays

Marlene Goldman, Senior Editor
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CHICAGO — The era of tearing down an exhibition booth at the end of a trade show and leaving most of the materials to be sent to landfill or be incinerated is coming to an end. With sustainability and the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative top of mind, 11 key partners in the events industry are involved in the rollout of the Better Stands program, which is being implemented to help steer exhibitors away from using disposable, single-use booths at events in favor of reusable and recyclable structures to usher in an era of more sustainable trade show displays.

The key partners involved in the roll-out are Informa, Clarion Events, IMEX, Amp Events, Faversham House, Hyve, Montgomery Group, Raccoon Media Group, Reset Connect, ReThink HK and Terrapin. The pilot is currently supported by isla, an event sustainability body. 

Disposable stands are used only once and are often constructed from poor-quality materials, creating environmental, health and safety issues on site, according to the program’s founders. The stands generate substantial amounts of waste and employ higher-risk construction practices. In some regions, disposable stands can make up more than 80% of the event’s total waste.

“The concept of Better Stands was fostered within Informa and so we’ve seen the benefits of it firsthand at a number of shows in our portfolio,” Ben Wielgus, Head of Sustainability, Informa, said in a statement. “We’re firm believers that broader implementation has the potential to fundamentally change the way the events industry approaches stand construction and supports the circular economy. Along with the participants of the Better Stands pilot rollout, we can show that Better Stands are better in many ways — safer, faster to put up, can look great, and can often be more cost-effective, and of course, they can cut the waste from exhibitions by up to 80 percent.”

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Event organizers with each of the 11 partners have identified one or more events in their portfolio to implement Better Stands during the pilot program, which ends in March. The long-term goal is to identify ways in which Better Stands can be easily adopted across different organizations and to be able to scale implementation by handing the program over to the global Net Zero Carbon Events initiative. 

“Our ongoing measurement shows that reusable stands — from the structure and furniture to the signage and graphics — are vital to reducing carbon impact and improving the ease, safety and sustainability of the event experience,” Roger Lehner, Senior Operations & Sustainability Executive, IMEX, stated. “We’re confident the Better Stands initiative will provide us, our exhibitors and stand builders with a clear framework to further reduce emissions on the path to net zero.”

Better Stands provides a framework to measure the sustainability of event stands, setting classification criteria according to how much of a stand/booth is reused or recycled. Booths that reuse some of their elements can achieve Bronze, Silver, or Gold Better Stands status. There are also plans for a toolkit based on 10 different organizers’ experiences and needs as far as resources to help exhibition and trade show organizers implement the program. The aim is for the toolkit to include data collection templates, pre and post-event comms support, and training tools for onsite observations, among other elements.

Other benefits to exhibitors include a smoother breakdown experience, cost savings with contractors with less likelihood of them requiring early access or working late hours, lowering costs of construction as well as waste bills, and being able to promote the brand in a positive light for its sustainability efforts.

Reach Ben Wielgus at


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