The environmental record of IMEX, the worldwide exhibition for the incentive travel, meetings, and events industry, was recognized by the Association of Event Organizers (AEO) in London on Friday (June 19) when it was highly commended by the trade body during its annual awards gala. IMEX was one of eight companies to make it onto the shortlist for the prestigious 2009 Sustainable Initiative of the Year Award, which is one of 19 annual excellence awards made by the trade organization that represents companies in the trade exhibitions and consumer events sector.
The AEO Sustainable Initiative Award focuses on a single successful project and examines how it has reduced environmental impact across an event or company over a period of 12 months. The applicants have to demonstrate that their environmental project has made a measurable difference in terms of sustainability, as well as detailing its impact on business performance and its commercial value. Since IMEX was launched in 2002, the trade show has taken a strong position on environmental impact. It went on to develop highly-successful partnerships with a raft of environmentally-minded suppliers, as well as association partners such as the Green Meeting Industry Council.
In 2008, the trade show’s organizers set out to reduce its carbon footprint (per delegate), as well as significantly cut waste output while improving its energy usage and management. Organizers first conducted a benchmarking exercise and commissioned independent consultancy, The Carbon Consultancy, to carry out a company-wide environmental audit, which included an extensive review of all its product and service suppliers. This required detailed consultation with stand builders, freight, logistics and airline companies, printers and cleaning contractors, in addition to Messe Frankfurt’s management team.
Having benchmarked total consumption following IMEX 2007, the organizing team then launched a systematic program to reduce energy consumption and waste output in advance of and throughout IMEX 2008. Several new initiatives and successes resulted. These included the design and development of an “industry-first” visitor badge made out of recycled paper, which is also fully compostable in water. The badges are coated in a corn-starch laminate and now enable IMEX to avoid using and also posting out 20,000 plastic badge holders. Totally biodegradable plant silk lanyards – a waste product of grain crops – were also introduced the following year. The project resulted in a 20 percent reduction in waste output (equivalent to 34 tons) despite a 7 percent rise in delegate (visitor and exhibitor) numbers and a 6.3 percent reduction in carbon emissions per visitor. In addition, 87 percent of waste was recycled including 40 tons of paper and 32 tons of cardboard. Ninety-five percenet of the carpet used at IMEX is also fully recyclable. IMEX’s supplier also has facilities to store and manufacture it into badge holders and other polypropylene products.
IMEX also introduced bio-diesel fuels on 20 percent of its courtesy buses together with an anti-idling policy and has become the first guest exhibition at Messe Frankfurt to use hydroelectric power. A concerted effort to encourage and incentivise hosted buyers to travel by train resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the number of flights booked by German-hosted buyers and a subsequent 30 percent rise in the number of European buyers traveling to Frankfurt by train.
Talking about IMEX being shortlisted for the award, Ray Bloom said: “I am delighted that our efforts have been recognized in this way. I know we do not stand alone in taking the issue of environmental impact within the exhibitions industry extremely seriously, and I am pleased to tell you that this year, more than ever, and despite global economic pressures, our visitors and exhibitors responded extremely positively to our green initiatives. It may take some time, but I fully expect that some years into the future, none of us will need to highlight the issue of carbon reduction as it will be second-nature to businesses all over the globe.”
IMEX is a previous winner of the AEO Trade Show of the Year Award and AEO Best Visitor Experience – Trade Show Award. The trade show also runs its own series of green awards every year, which are presented during IMEX. These include the Green Meetings Award, Green Supplier, and Green Exhibitor Awards, together with a Commitment to the Community Award, which honors successful corporate social responsibility programs.