IMEX Group and partners extend waste-reduction efforts

Legacy was the theme of IMEX America 2018, fitting for an event that carries an impressive history of sustainability and CSR initiatives. Since 2012, 416.8 tons of event material were recycled, 526.8 tons of combined material were diverted, 8,790 badge lanyards have been collected and donated, 161,418 pounds of organics were composted and 6.5 tons of food have been donated.

In 2018 alone, 93 percent—IMEX America’s highest waste-diversion rate ever—of waste was diverted from landfill and into recycling, compost and donation channels. Some 1.17 miles of single-use PET plastic straws were saved; 25,328 pounds of show materials and more than 4,969 pounds of food were given to the community; and 2,566 badge-back lanyards were donated to Shade Tree Shelter in Las Vegas.

IMEX America 2018 shined an impressive light on corporate social responsibility, too. For example, attendees donated 180 books and $345 to Spread the Word Nevada, volunteers assembled 600 hygiene kits for Clean the World and donors gave a total of $2,000 to Shade the Tree in support of homeless and abused women and children, as well as $1,000 to Opportunity Village in support of people with intellectual disabilities.

Leading the Way

But it should come as no surprise, since the IMEX group has always been a leader in sustainability and CSR initiatives. “Sustainability is at the forefront of our minds,” says Nalan Emre, chief operating officer at IMEX Group. “For everything we do, we look at ways we could do it more sustainably, benchmarking our performance against industry standards such as APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards at IMEX America, helped by our sustainability consultants, Meet Green.”

Moreover, IMEX Group shares its knowledge with others through educational programs on sustainability at IMEX events and by encouraging exhibitors and buyers to reduce their environmental impact.

“When we started looking into sustainability 17 years ago, [that] was ahead of the curve,” Emre says. “People didn’t really think business meetings and sustainability could coexist…we led by example. We encourage buyers to include sustainable questions into their RFPs, we encourage our general services contractors to offer sustainable materials to all of their other clients and we encourage our exhibitors to have water stations at their booths.”

And IMEX Group continues to educate suppliers, attendees, exhibitors and partners. In addition to talks and presentations at IMEX events, the Giving Back Booth offers ideas and activities for getting involved with CSR and sustainability initiatives, and it gives out guidelines to exhibitors on how to take action. Attendees can learn more about sustainability at IMEX America 2019 during EduMonday, the free preshow day of education for IMEX attendees, and at the show’s Inspiration Hub.

Collaboration is Key

Of course, it takes passion, dedication, hard work and—perhaps most importantly—team effort to pull off such a task and increase buy-in from participants. Each year, IMEX collaborates closely with its suppliers to help improve material choices and sustainability practices.

“The key is to take the suppliers on this journey,” Emre says, noting that IMEX’s key partners, Sands Expo and GES, have been very supportive. The Sands sorts event waste at the back of the house, ensuring the 93 percent diversion from landfill mentioned at the top of this section; and GES has sourced a 100 percent sustainable aisle carpet, along with recyclable banner material. GES also supplies exhibitors with paper recycling bins to help with sorting paper from other waste at exhibitor booths.

What to Expect This Year

“The refill movement is significant, and it helps to reduce single-use plastic,” Emre says. In addition to refill stations at exhibitor booths, IMEX Group is encouraging delegates to bring reusable water bottles. “On our You are Here boards, we mark the locations of water stations and promote those exhibitors who use refill stations, Emre says.

“Bring your own coffee cup” is another important initiative, she adds: “All coffee shops at the Sands Expo will fill participants own coffee mugs instead of using a plastic-coated, throw-away cup.”

IMEX Group plans to continue to collaborate with Sands Food and Beverage for locally sourced food and beverage, and refine exhibitor messaging and communication to help reduce waste. Attendees can expect all food packaging to be either compostable or recyclable. Look forward to an expanded menu of water-wise food choices.

Expect extended recycling and composting programs. “Even the pizza boxes at the Sands Expo are fully recyclable, even when they are contaminated,” Emre says. “The water cups on all the water stations at the Sands Expo look like they are plastic, but they are all made from 100 percent compostable material.”