This Just In

Five Key Takeaways from UFI’s Sustainability Development Forum


ORLANDO—UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, hosted its first U.S. event, the Educational Forum on Sustainable Development, Aug. 6-7 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando. The event, which was timed immediately before the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Leadership Conference, drew 39 attendees from 11 countries, according to UFI’s Research Manager and Secretary of the Sustainable Development Committee Christian Druart.

The event kicked off Aug. 6 with a tour of the OCCC, which is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold certified in its North and South buildings. OCCC also conforms to the ISO 14001 standards for environmental management. Hector Clemente, OCCC’s Assistant Manager for Building Systems, provided an update on the venue’s top sustainability initiatives.

Attendees toured the indoor vertical gardens that produce fresh vegetables and herbs from the Westwood Lobby. OCCC has worked with clients and contractors to reduce event waste by 53% since 2004, Clemente said. Recycling and waste bins on campus were made from used plastic milk jugs and 100% solar energy.

That evening, UFI hosted a welcome dinner at Itta Bena, a restaurant located at the Pointe, an outdoor shopping center within walking distance of the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The next day offered a packed schedule of education, with eight sessions focused on exhibition industry sustainability efforts around the globe. Trade Show Executive has identified these five key takeaways:

  1. Sustainability is evolving. Informa’s Head of Sustainability, Ben Wielgus, discussed the evolution of sustainability for the recently merged company that produces 500+ events annually and employs about 11,000. He talked about Informa’s four sustainability pillars: environment, community, colleagues and content.“Sustainability used to be about corporate social responsibility and compliance programs, but now it’s purpose-led and focused on meeting the needs of tomorrow today,” he said.
  2. Preserve the people, planet and profits. Amsterdam RAI’s Stephanie Mathas discussed how the venue is focused on the three Ps: people, planet and profit. She said RAI’s goal is “to create meaningful encounters between people from around the world; meetings that stimulate the sustainable growth and development of people markets and society as a whole.”
  3. Collaborate with vendors and venues. Nalan Emre who was  named Chief Operating Officer of IMEX in August, presented a case study on the show’s sustainability collaboration with Pranav Jampani, Director of Sustainability for the Venetian/Sands, and David Saef, Executive Vice President, MarketWorks & Strategy at GES. Among IMEX’s sustainability highlights: 87% of total event waste was diverted from a landfill, more than 3,200 pounds of food was donated and only 2% of show graphics were sent to a landfill. “We included sustainability goals in vendor contracts,” Emre said.
  4. Consider a waste concierge. At the 2017 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Boston, student volunteers monitored waste sorting stations, said Kim Heavner, Director, Conferences & Events for U.S. Green Building Council. Heavner presented a case study on the event with two of the show’s vendors, Melinda Kendall, Senior Vice-President of Sustainability at Freeman, and Joel Dashnaw, Territory Manager for Save That Stuff. “One of the most powerful things you can do is have a waste concierge interact with attendees,” Dashnaw said.
  5. Nudge your customers to increase adoption. “If you want to drive change, you have to make it cheaper, easier or the default for customers,” Kendall said. “It has to be opt out, not opt in. This is our approach at Freeman.” The company is using cardboard meter boards instead of polyfoam, and paper aisle signs instead of vinyl banners unless clients ask otherwise. Freeman is working on innovative ways to recycle plastics, such as reusing the material in pallets and other supplies.


Reach Christian Druart at +33 1 46 39 75 00 or