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UFI Releases Report on Status of Sustainability

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has released a new report on the status of sustainability in the exhibition industry, including results from surveys conducted by UFI research partner Explori.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has severely hit the economy, the fundamentals remain, and sustainability is a strong priority for exhibitions and their participants.

For 86 percent of exhibitors and 87 percent of visitors, traveling to an exhibition helps save time, while for 84 percent of exhibitors and 83 percent of visitors it helps save money. For 67 percent of exhibitors and 64 percent of visitors, traveling to an exhibition, where they can do multiple things under one roof and avoid separate flights to other locations, helps to reduce their carbon footprint.

In parallel, the majority consider the environmental impact of the tradeshow sector to be important to them, and they believe that improving this environmental impact will become increasingly more important to the sector’s long-term success.

Across all segments (organizers, venues and service providers) there is a feeling that the rate of transition towards sustainability is around halfway between “only starting the transition” and “very advanced,” and, in general, exhibition participants also rate the efforts of the industry as “average,” in this regard.

UFI kai hattendorf“This report is unprecedented in its analysis of the views of the industry and its clients as to the key issue of sustainability in our industry. We will use these findings in many of our current projects aiming to further improve the performance of exhibitions as sustainable ways of doing business,” says Kai Hattendorf (pictured left), UFI Managing Director and CEO.

Key findings detailed in the report:

Before COVID-19, what were the expectations from exhibition participants?

  • 73 percent of exhibitors and visitors either agreed or strongly agreed that it is important for a tradeshow to display a strong commitment to sustainability.
  • 34 percent of exhibitors and 36 percent of visitors said they would not attend a tradeshow that does not have a responsible approach to sustainability.

And what is the perception of the efforts to date?

  • 73 percent of exhibitors say that their company is taking steps towards improving sustainability.
  • On average, all segments (organizers, venues and service providers) of the industry believe the rate of transition towards sustainability to be halfway between “only starting the transition” and “very advanced.”
  • Exhibition participants rate the efforts of the industry as “average,” generally speaking; 24 percent of exhibitors and 16 percent of visitors consider them to be “very poor” or “poor,” while 26 percent of exhibitors and 30 percent of visitors see them as “good” or “excellent.”

How is COVID-19 affecting the situation?

  • Investments from the exhibition industry for programs related to sustainability haven’t been as affected as others. In June 2020, while 85 percent of companies had stopped or decreased their overall level of investments, that was the case for “only” 54 percent of companies for investments for programs related to sustainability, and there was “no” or “limited impact” for activities related to sustainability for 51 percent of them.
  • 89 percent of companies from the exhibition industry believe public investments to be necessary (43% “for a significant share” and 46% “as essential and necessary for most of the investments”).
  • Most importantly, “fundamentals remain” for exhibition participants. In 2021, 86 percent of exhibitors and 87 percent of visitors say that traveling to an exhibition helps them save time, while 84 percent of exhibitors and 83 percent of visitors say it helps save money. Meanwhile, 67 percent of exhibitors and 64 percent of visitors believe that traveling to an exhibition, where they can do multiple things under one roof and avoid separate flights to other places, helps them reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Having said that, lower proportions of participants, although still a majority, believe that the tradeshow sector’s environmental impact remains important to them (51% of exhibitors and 52% of visitors) while 58 percent of both exhibitors and visitors consider that improving this environmental impact will become increasingly more important to the sector’s long-term success.

In terms of environmental impact, what are the priorities and how can they be achieved?

  • Significant differences can be seen when comparing the views of participants and of the industry (and the type of activity within the industry) when it comes to identifying the key areas of material impact: plastic and food come first for participants, while travel and booths come first for the industry.
  • Exhibition participants prioritize three domains of action to make the tradeshow industry environmentally sustainable: “reduce the costs of sustainable materials/products/services available for use”, “develop new technologies or processes for problems such as waste, carbon emissions, etc.” and “develop education about sustainable events at all levels of the value chain (including visitors and exhibitors)”.
  • 77 percent of exhibitors and 65 percent of visitors believe that “organizations that organize and set-up events” are responsible for helping the tradeshow industry improve its environmental impact. This responsibility also relies on exhibiting companies for 53 percent of exhibitors and 54 percent of visitors.

In line with UFI’s objective to provide vital data and best practices to the entire exhibition industry, the full report can be downloaded at www.ufi.org/research

The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry: UFI is the global trade association of the world’s tradeshow organizers and exhibition centre operators, as well as the major national and international exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry. UFI’s main goal is to represent, promote and support the business interests of its members and the exhibition industry. UFI directly represents more than 50,000 exhibition industry employees globally, and also works closely with its 60 national and regional association members. More than 800 member organizations in 88 countries around the world are presently signed up as members. Around 1,000 international trade fairs proudly bear the UFI approved label, a quality guarantee for visitors and exhibitors alike. UFI members continue to provide the international business community with a unique marketing media aimed at developing outstanding face-to-face business opportunities. For more info, visit www.ufi.org or call +33 (0)1 46 39 75 00.

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