Exhibition World Issue 5 – 2021 - Page 38

Sustainability
approach to sustainability ”. Exhibition participants reportedly rated the industry ’ s performance on sustainability as “ average ”.
But pressure is increasingly coming onto companies in the industry from a range of stakeholders including the investment community , which is increasingly focused on demands that their portfolios are ‘ green ’. And this means that investment with events companies continues to be focused on sustainability initiatives . The UFI report noted that investments from the exhibition industry for programmes related to sustainability had not been as affected as others . In June 2020 , it said , while 85 % of companies had stopped or decreased their overall level of investments , that was the case for ‘ only ’ 54 % of companies for investments in programmes related to sustainability , and there was ‘ no ’ or ‘ limited impact ’ for activities related to sustainability for 51 % of them .
Mathas is pretty direct about the importance of this . “ We don ’ t have the luxury to slow down . We should not work on more sustainable , something is sustainable or not . And our industry is not yet this ,” she says .
Fiona Pelham of Positive Impact is a specialist focused on sustainability and events for many years . She has also been working on an initiative
targeting zero carbon commitments for some time and says that over 50 events sector suppliers have made commitments in the last month alone . She also has strong views on the importance of focusing on this issue as the industry recovers . “ Having focused on sustainability for over 15 years I am so biased that when I hear people say ‘ we need our business to be back on its feet before we can think about sustainability ’ I can ’ t understand their rationale . There is no getting back on feet for businesses that are not considering sustainability . That time has gone ”.
Will the heightened focus on achieving net zero bring with it more regulation ? Pelham comments : “ The world is likely to see increased regulation on anything which causes carbon emissions . If the work you are doing causes carbon emissions it makes sense to expect regulation ”. Giving a specific example , she notes that Glasgow City Council recently announced that anyone ‘ booking ’ an event during COP26 in Glasgow would have to have a net zero carbon commitment as part of the Race to Zero . “ The Road to COP26 Event Sector Transformation is part of the Race to Zero and there is an opportunity to raise the profile of the events sector supply chain if trade bodies , media and spokespeople take
Above : Paul Woodward
action ,” Pelham says .
RAI Amsterdam ’ s Mathas agrees on regulation : “ We are already seeing that happening ,” she says . But , she notes , “ the climate , like Covid , does not take national borders and regional differences into account . Rules or not , the report shows the urgency that every company must critically examine its own form of entrepreneurship and adapt it to the social challenges ”.
Pelham has an ambitious vision of how things could evolve . “ Imagine if events could be delivered by a net zero supply chain and the carbon footprint of every event was transparently shared . For this future to be possible another medium term change we are likely to see is a change of business models and a change in the people implementing and leading those business models . For there to be a future for any sector , sustainability has to be the sector leadership ’ s priority ”.
And that sort of leadership is clearly what the industry associations are hoping to provide in the lead up to the COP26 meeting and beyond . As I write this , there is an array of top global players including Freeman , Informa , RX , the Italian Exhibition Group , Javits Center , Koelnmesse , MCI and a number of others already registered as participants , and it looks set to have a significant impact .
There is much to be done and it is to be hoped that the various initiatives which have been launched to help lead the events industry toward achieving serious net zero commitments can collaborate in as productive a manner as possible . This is too important an issue and time too pressing to allow for prolonged debate on who should be leading . Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction here .
See EW ’ s report on the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative , p39 .
36 Issue 5 2021 www . exhibitionworld . co . uk