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AEO Sustainable Initiative Award

IMEX shortlisted for the AEO sustainable initiative of the Year Award 2009

The environmental record of IMEX, the worldwide exhibition for the incentive travel, meetings and events industry, was recognised by the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) in London on Friday (19th June) 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 organisation 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 organisers set out to reduce its carbon footprint (per delegate) as well as significantly cutting waste output whilst improving its energy usage and management.

Organisers 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 organising team then launched a systematic programme 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% reduction in waste output (equivalent to 34 tons) despite a 7% rise in delegate (visitor and exhibitor) numbers and a 6.3% reduction in carbon emissions per visitor.  In addition 87% of waste was recycled including 40 tonnes of paper and 32 tonnes of cardboard.  95% 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% 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% reduction in the number of flights booked by German hosted buyers, and a subsequent 30% rise in the number of European buyers travelling to Frankfurt by train.

Talking about IMEX being shortlisted for the award, Ray Bloom said, "I am delighted that our efforts have been recognised 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 honours successful corporate social responsibility programmes.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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