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Lessons learned

Lessons learned

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, tells Conference News about the organisation’s Green Squad and its sustainability impact.

During our 20 years of climate-friendly practice, and I say practice because we are always learning, we have experimented, challenged ourselves and learned important lessons.

We have achieved zero waste to landfill at IMEX in Frankfurt and 93% compliance with the APEX standards at IMEX America. But there’s always more to do, particularly as the UK’s carbon neutral target of 2050 edges ever closer.

Creating a Green Squad

Setting up an internal Green Squad has been a game-changer in terms of the speed with which we have built and then evolved a solid sustainability programme. This team comprises staff from across the organisation who have chosen, in addition to their day jobs, to work on our sustainability performance.

The Green Squad was set up in 2017 as a way of gathering the sustainability champions within the business to share IMEX’s existing initiatives with the rest of the company.

The scope of the team then grew, with members sharing their own ideas, both within the business and across our two shows, IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America. For example, it was the Green Squad who championed our water-wise menus and a much wider choice of food for vegans and vegetarians at our shows.

The Green Squad now encompasses nine staff from across all departments who contribute a broad range of skills and approaches. What they have in common is this: they are all caring, passionate and knowledgeable, with their fingers on the pulse of issues such as climate change, food waste and materials science.

I would encourage all planners and corporations to consider creating their own Green Squad and invite staff to play an active role in addressing sustainability challenges. For those who are truly serious, ensure that at least one person in the organisation is dedicated to sustainability – for at least a portion of their time.

Although there are myriad certifications and courses available, interest and passion are invaluable. Our experience shows that just one green champion in a business can have a huge and positive ripple effect throughout the culture and the supply chain.

Future goals

In our sustainability efforts, we always keep the main goal in sight. As a signatory of the Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, we are aiming to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 on the way to net zero emissions by 2050, if not sooner. We are lucky that our former operations director, Nalan Emre, is now leading this effort for us as an independent consultant.

Our ultimate aim is to create a truly circular trade show. It’s no longer enough to simply prevent resources from being used up and thrown away, we all have to find ways to refresh them and to invest new life where we can.

We believe the circular economy will help rebuild a resilient and regenerative global events industry. We also believe that, particularly on the consumer event side, attendees will start to demand higher green standards. Time will tell.