Piers Kelly, Operations Director, Reed Exhibitions UK, is one of the presenters at the UFI Focus Meeting on Sustainable Development in Bangkok. Piers had some interesting comments on my four questions.
Barry: Sustainability has been an area of focus for the past decade. Why do you think it has taken so long for the industry to adopt more green technologies?
Piers: I’m not sure that’s true. There is a lot that the industry already does that is quite sustainable but it’s not seen as such because it was done for financial rather than environmental reasons. On example is the shell scheme systems that we use. There is a steady migration of one use timber built stands to more reusable stands and methods of construction. Not everything has been done under the ‘sustainable’ banner but that doesn’t mean it’s not sustainable. Michael is right though, we still have a lot to work on in areas like the use of paper at shows!
However, like any industry we focus on those areas where we have regulatory obligations and what are customers are asking us for. The pressure from those external stakeholders to be more sustainable hasn’t been that strong until recently (and personally I think is still not as strong now as I thought it would be by now). Increased regulation, rising taxes/prices for carbon intensive products along with pressure from those customers who want us to be more sustainable will drive the change.
Barry: Do you see an increase or decrease in interest in green technologies?
Piers: Definitely an increase. Some venues are trying to be more sustainable and so they win certain shows or in some cases because their costs (power, waste mgmt) are going up. They are putting pressure on organizers to help manage those costs and as organizers become more aware their contractors take action as they see it as a new part to their sales pitch to the organizer. This doesn’t make sense please rewrite
Barry: What affect did the recession have on the industry’s ability to embrace green?
Piers: I think it was mixed. It certainly dropped down the priority list for some companies but others also invested as they either saw it as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition and win more business or appreciated that there would be long term savings. Look at the UK contractors’ electrical systems as an example – there has been no slow down on the production of new ‘plug and play’ wiring systems and new low energy lighting for shell scheme here from multiple contractors.
I also echo the point Michael made about the carpet. While we don’t do that specifically, some of the most radical thinking on our BS 8901 shows came during the recession. The double-whammy of the teams having to reduce cost and be more sustainable actually made some of them completely drop what they had done for years and do something completely new instead.
Barry: Are green initiatives something the industry should adopt for altruistic reasons (it’s the right thing to do) or is there a business case?
Piers: Practically, there has to be a business case otherwise we’re not going to get anywhere.