This Just In

Earth Day: Carbon Offsetting Embraced by Both Trade Show Organizers and Venues

image of the globe, with the countries filled in with trees, representing sustainability

CHICAGO—A growing strategy among sustainability-focused trade show organizers, event venues and industry suppliers is carbon offsetting—the practice of purchasing offset credits that are used to convey a net climate benefit from one entity to another. 

There are many reputable carbon offsetters; however, the trade show industry was recently challenged by a report in the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, revealing that rainforest carbon credits approved by the world’s leading provider, Verra, and purchased by major corporations to offset their environmental impact, were “90% worthless.” In other words: Buyer Beware. 

An increasing number of hotels, venues, Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) and event organizers are embracing offsetting as one strategy to help reduce the impact of trade show travel on the environment. Leading the way on the event side is IMEX, which, among literally dozens of other sustainability initiatives, asks all participants to carbon-offset their travel. Sustainability was a key vetting criterion for choosing its transportation supplier in Frankfurt, Hanse Modial GmbH, which planted 1,000 trees through the Travel & Tree Program. On the trade show floor, exhibitors followed suit, with Hilton International planting 1,400 trees at the Hessen Forest, one for each appointment. In recognition of the organization’s efforts, IMEX won the TSE Gold 100 Show with the Most Commendable Green Initiatives Grand Award at last year’s Gold 100 Awards & Summit. 

In addition to their various operational carbon reduction initiatives, some hotel companies are promoting booking platforms that allow guests to offset their hotel stays. One such platform, Alight, allows attendees to offset their stays at several brands of participating hotels, including IHG and Fairmont, right at checkout.  

Related. IMEX Frankfurt Achieves Visionary Status for Sustainability 

CVBs are also in the offsetting game. One example is Visit Denver, which has the Eco Friendly Travel CO2e Emissions Calculator that allows individuals and event organizers to estimate their carbon footprint including air travel, ground transportation, hotel stays, and offers the option to purchase carbon offsets. 

A unique and new type of offsetting combines social and environmental causes. Known as SocialOffset, it allows event organizers to purchase offsets when holding their events in states that have passed laws—including environmental ones—with which they disagree, hopefully serving as a deterrent to an attendee boycott. Visit Salt Lake, Visit Austin and Visit Seattle are among its partners. Among the events that have purchased offsets from its two environmental organizations (Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Wildlands Network) are Plant Health 23 and the Global Security Exchange. 

“Selecting any of our six causes, including Environmental Sustainability, allows the sponsoring event host to communicate with their attendees and exhibitors that these causes matter,” Elena Gerstmann, PhD, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO of SocialOffset, said. “We know that travel has a negative impact on our climate and the local environment, so SocialOffset works with events to collect donations, then donates 100% of the money to the selected charities.” 

While carbon offsets can be a valuable tool, an event organizer’s work does not end there. “In far too many cases, offsets can sometimes give a false sense of security or even distract teams from true reduction strategies, which is our ultimate goal,” Eric Wallinger, Director of Sustainability, MeetGreen, said. 

He encourages organizers to include emissions impact projections as key criteria in selecting and booking destinations. “Given the significant role travel plays in our event footprints, often comprising more than 90% to 95% of our footprint totals, achieving reduction here frequently cuts to the heart of site selection and requires us to more thoughtfully consider where our event is being held in relation to the bulk of its attendees.” 

Reach Eric Wallinger at; Elena Gerstmann at 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TSE Data Center