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Task Force Report Details Sustainability Framework for Trade Show Industry

Vincent Alonzo, Contributing Editor
Task Force Report Details Sustainability Framework for Trade Show Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a cross-industry task force released a report detailing which areas the B2B trade show industry in North America can focus on to transition toward a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

Finding the future, together: Towards a more sustainable B2B trade show industry in the U.S. and Canada, is the result of a two-year study produced by independent researchers Little Blue Research and A Bird’s Eye View, and overseen by a task force made up of representatives from 14 of the leading trade show industry businesses and associations. The report consolidates and simplifies a series of internal research reports into the environmental impacts of the U.S. and Canadian B2B trade show industry.

“The B2B trade show industry delivers enormous social and economic benefits,” said Heather Farley, Chair, SISO Sustainability Committee and COO at Access Intelligence, “and is an essential engine for connection, knowledge transfer, trade, education, and employment. Like all industries, we know that our impact extends to the environment as well, and that, through working and partnering in a collaborative way, we can keep progressing towards a more sustainable, lower-carbon future. To support and inform these efforts, it was important to conduct authoritative independent research to evaluate the most material environmental impacts of the U.S. and Canadian B2B trade show industry.”

The findings of the sustainability study were supplemented by industry studies from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. “The work by this task force on ‘Finding the Future Together’ is unprecedented. The exhibitions industry is committed to creating a sustainable future and wisely using the social and economic power of exhibitions and events as a platform to raise awareness and enact change,” says Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM, CEO of CEIR.

According to the trade show sustainability report, the areas that produce the greatest ‘Material Impact’ toward achieving sustainability are: carbon emissions from participant travel, event venue and logistics; material waste from venues and GSC warehouses; and trade show booth materials. “The data this project has generated provides very valuable insights into the state of play on sustainability in the exhibitions industry in the U.S. and Canada. Most importantly, we can use these results to align the metrics and measurements with global practices, in our global work within the UFI Sustainable Development Working Group as well as with the Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative,” says Kai Hattendorf, CEO, UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

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The report and the research it summarizes is primarily designed to provide the data and analytical bases on which the exhibition industry can confidently establish priorities for action and develop sustainability policies. The report sets out a high-level roadmap for change covering 30 “quick wins” and longer-term actions the trade show industry can take to move toward a more sustainable future. The timetable is divided into initiatives to be accomplished in the next 12 to 24 months, followed by proposals for goals to be achieved in the next two to five years. Some of the key areas of focus for improvement are: participant and logistics transportation, venue energy sources and waste management, food and depot waste, and booth materials.

“Sustainability should be standard and there is a lot of hard work ahead. The impact we can have together as an industry and by acting on what the report shows is imperative to the longevity of exhibitions and events. Actions speak louder than words, and this gives us the roadmap toward a more sustainable future,” said Bob Priest-Heck, CEO, Freeman.

Organizations that made up the task force overseeing the research project included SISO, Emerald, IMEX, Informa Markets, RX, Freeman, GES, MGM Resorts International, Sands, Shepard, CEIR, UFI, EIC and the Events Industry Council.

Reach Heather Farley at
Reach Cathy Breden at
Reach Bob Priest-Heck at

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