The International Exhibition Logistics Association (IELA) has identified sustainability as a major criterion for the future - and selected it as its primary focus topic for 2019.
In trade fair logistics, the concept of sustainability has various dimensions. They relate to transportation planning, freight movement, materials management responsible purchasing, buildings as well as energy and vehicle efficiency. This opens the door to a wide array of new services and applications that serve to implement environmentally-friendly strategies along the exhibition value chain. The aim is to jointly integrate environmental, social and economic practices within operations and planning. “Achieving environmental success can have different approaches,” points out Elizabeth Niehaus, executive officer at IELA. “Be it by optimising logistics processes, reducing the carbon footprint or simply collaborating to innovate.” Hence, she sees service reliability, quality standards and performance at the heart of logistics. “IELA members always work with a view to providing care and safety to both exhibitors and exhibits,” says Niehaus. Furthermore, green practices are often indispensable.
Some venue operators and organisers already require sustainable equipment at the venue and have put respective guidelines into practice. Sustainability and environmental factors play a major role in the appointment of official freight forwarders. They are even a unique selling point for some forwarding companies. Among the IELA members there are prominent examples where sustainable efforts are used as a sales proposition. “Eco-sustainable logistics is firmly anchored in our company vision,” says Sharon Robinson. “We strongly believe in awareness training to increase responsibility within the working culture,” argues the managing director of Ceva Showfreight (UK). “This raises the value of training standards and training programmes relating to environmental issues,” she lists waste management, road safety, energy saving, safe and fuel-efficient driving techniques as examples. “We have successfully achieved an increase of 16 per cent in terms of capacity,” says Robinson. “With yearly savings of carbon emissions.” This is achieved by operating longer trailers on roads allowing fewer journeys for the same volume of goods.
Ceva has strengthened its environmental management with ISO certifications. Other IELA members have also taken action in this field, including Clamageran Expositions. Since 2015, the French logistics firm has been operating a sustainability management system that complies with ISO standard 20121:2012. “We decided to be certified to improve the well-being of our staff,” says Lucien Lawson. Other reasons include being better able to control costs and environmental impacts, as well as strengthening relations with organisers. “The key priorities are a responsible purchasing approach, optimised waste management and a reduced carbon footprint,” says the director of Clamageran Expositions. “We have developed an action plan for implementation.” This plan includes the further development of services and the enhancement of employees' eco-driving skills. “Forklifts emitting fine particles will also be gradually replaced,” Lawson cites an example.
For one part, IELA wants to rethink proven business activities. For the other, it seeks to develop foresight. The Swiss trade fair expert Sempex has invented Smartlog, a software that digitally maps all event-related logistics processes. At the same time, the logistics tool helps all partners involved execute their respective tasks more efficiently. “Cost pressure, rising customer demands, industry digitisation as well as rising awareness for environmental issues force companies to respond to these customer demands,” observes Sempex’ managing director Christoph Fritsch. “Transparency and improved information availability lead to better planning and a more efficient use of personnel and equipment,” he explains. “Consequently, this contributes to protecting the environment.” Vehicle management, one of several modules of the software, contains a slot booking system. All transport to and from the event must be registered in advance. This reduces waiting times and ensures an optimum allocation of resources. “In the end, this reduces carbon emissions,” points out Christoph Fritsch. “Particularly in times of climate change, which could influence our society more than any other event, all parties need to evaluate their contribution to a solution.”
And IELA is committed to leading by example and putting sustainable efforts into its annual events. This includes the selection of the conference venue, food, waste management and promotional materials. Its theme is “reduce, reuse, recycle” and sets standards wherever possible, e.g. by using recycled materials or collecting delegate badges. Collaboration with all stakeholders in the industry is supported. Together with organisers, exhibitors, venue operators, associations and partners, IELA wants to find the best solutions and processes. The core topic of sustainability will be discussed at IELA’s new flagship event “IELA Connect” in Marrakech on 14 October. The new IELA Sustainability Guidelines will also be presented there (www.iela.org).
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