What will the trade fair of the future look like? International, networked crowds, connected devices, and all the convenience and comfort that the coolest tools can deliver: the future is definitely high-tech, high speed and high consumption. So when Kortrijk Xpo asked Experientia to help them become Belgium’s most environmentally sustainable trade fair and congress complex by 2020, and one of the top five players in Europe, one of the challenges was to conceive what sustainability will look like in 5, 10 and 20 years’ time – and how to rethink an industry that thrives on international air travel and energy-hungry events.
The Event project was partially funded by Flanders In Shape (FIS), a Flemish design promotion agency, with Kortrijk Xpo itself funding the remainder. Together with Futureproofed, a Belgian consultancy specialised in sophisticated carbon footprint analysis and solution development, Experientia created a people-centred roadmap for the expo centre to become more sustainable, addressing both infrastructural systems and people’s behaviours. It outlined how to modify the organisational, staging and social aspects of expo-centre events to be more sustainable. The project involved benchmarking, carbon footprint calculation, designing a framework for behavioural change, opportunity mapping and idea generation on ways for all expo stakeholders, including attendees, to contribute to more sustainable events.
The resulting environmental roadmap looks not just at the next few months, but at the next decade, showing what needs to start happening now, and how it can evolve and progress over the coming years.
A sustainably competitive edge
Sustainability is an increasingly growing concern, and will only grow more important in the next decade as we approach the 2020 deadline for the EU’s European energy policy (requiring a 20-30% cut of all greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, and for public buildings to produce a considerable amount of their energy on-site). Companies that start to put progressive policies in place now will have a strong competitive advantage as legislation becomes more stringent for building codes and practice standards. All industries will be affected, but it’s important to realise that any business can reduce its impact.
A roadmap like the one created for Kortrijk Xpo provides businesses with the information they need in their journey of change towards sustainability. It takes businesses from “point A” — not understanding their real carbon footprint, where emissions come from and how to reduce them — to “point B”, where they can recognise and track sources of emissions, involve stakeholders in reducing them, and become advocates and “lead users” of more sustainable practices.
Envisioning and Understanding
Understanding the carbon footprint
In creating the roadmap for Kortrijk Xpo, Futureproofed provided the starting point, by calculating the carbon footprint resulting from Kortrijk Xpo’s activities. CO2 emissions are generally categorised into three scopes.
Scope 1 refers to those emissions that come from sources that are owned or controlled by the institution. In the case of Kortrijk Xpo, these were mostly refrigerants and gas for temperature control, and company cars. Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions generated by electricity purchased and used by the organisation. Scope 3 refers to all other indirect emissions that are caused by the institution’s activities, but not under their control or ownership: for Kortrijk Xpo these included travel of attendees and expo presenters and transport of waste.
When calculating a carbon footprint for an organisation, often only scopes 1 and 2 are considered. This is a rather limited way of looking at CO2 – which is why Futureproofed also uses scope 3 to calculate carbon footprints. This more complete picture of both direct and indirect emissions will give an organisation much more confidence in how to manage costs, limit risks, create new markets and develop brand value. In this project, Scope 3 was particularly important, because the nature of temporary events means that many emissions will be produced by sources not fully under the institution’s control.
As expected, Futureproofed found that once scope 3 was added to scopes 1 and 2, the expo centre’s carbon footprint was 36 times larger – 51,442 tons of CO2 emissions, compared to a much smaller 1,402 tons if only scope 1 and 2 were considered. They also found that scope 3 emissions were clearly dominated by transport, with transport of event visitors accounting for a huge 84.9% of the carbon footprint. From an analysis of the carbon footprint, Futureproofed then identified the biggest carbon emission problem areas, and elaborated reduction targets for the expo centre.
Using the report’s 10 most significant sources of carbon emissions as a guide, Experientia began to benchmark best practices in sustainability in expo centres, temporary events, and large transit buildings (e.g. airports, train stations) all over the world. They investigated the most innovative and effective practices in action today, ranging from technical solutions for temperature control and overall building impact, to innovative ways to reduce travel and the impact of transportation, and fresh and contemporary ways to involve visitors and participants in the solution space. The benchmarking process revealed solutions as varied as on-site power production, native plant rooftop gardens, and remote trade fair attendance using robot avatars.
Framework for behavioural change
Experientia also designed a behavioural change framework, based on the latest theories in the area, as well as Experientia’s own previous work on behavioural change that it developed in other sustainability-focused projects. The framework outlined the process that behavioural change in an expo centre should take, as well as the roles and motivations of the various stakeholders. Existing behavioural change frameworks were adapted to refer more specifically to temporary settings and events and sustainability.
The three ingredients from the analysis phase – carbon footprint, international benchmark and behavioural change framework – offered detailed information on implementing the reduction targets, with appropriate time-frames, and a guide to catalysing organisational change. Then the concept development phase of the project began.
To start the design phase, Experientia led a participatory stakeholder workshop, also including Futureproofed, in which the findings from the analysis phase were presented, together with some initial idea generation. Based on the analysis insights, four strategic focuses were selected: “Travel and transportation”, “Materials and waste”, “Ecosystem”, and “Global perspective”.
During the workshop over 100 solutions to specific sustainability problems that conferences and trade fairs face were generated. These were then mapped onto opportunity maps, and thematic clusters were identified. In consultation with Futureproofed and stakeholders, the four strongest ideas (one from each strategic focus) were selected for further iteration, with Experientia developing them into more robust concepts.
So what does the sustainable trade fair of the future look like?
The selected concepts envisioned a trade fair where both exhibitors and attendees could take responsibility for their carbon footprint, and implement simple actions to reduce it, while sharing these actions and values within the wider urban context, and with a global network of ecological event venues.
The travel-focused concept, Virtual Xpo, allows people to attend Kortrijk fairs remotely – possibly at a reduced rate – without compromising the richness of the direct experience of the events, even offering platforms to participate in Q&A sessions with exhibitors and presenters. Social media solutions extended on-site experiences and networking into trend spotting from afar. This was a direct answer to the overwhelming issue of the high footprint of travel.
Focusing on materials, as well as raising people’s awareness of their carbon impact, the Booth dashboard idea aims at engaging exhibitors in CO2 and energy reduction by making their consumption information transparent, publicly available and comparable with their peers’ consumption. This includes making the carbon footprint of booth creation, design and production explicit, as well as emphasising how much each exhibitor has saved through more sustainable sourcing and construction techniques. It also visualises the energy consumption of the booths during the event. The concept focuses on local carbon production, and aims to catalyse behavioural change through making companies more responsible for their own impact.
Living in Kortrijk
The Living in Kortrijk scenario takes a city-wide perspective, highlighting how changes at the expo centre could impact the future of the local ecosystem. It sets out how sustainable tools, facilities, information and services available to people at the trade fair can be made available to the entire city, thereby allowing good practices to spread from their original context, and become embedded in people’s daily lives. This concept looks beyond the fair, imagining the full experience of a person visiting the city for the fair. In order to be fully sustainable, the expo should involve a set of local stakeholders and create a co-ordinated infrastructure, which extends sustainable principles across the whole range of activities a visitor might participate in.
Finally, looking at the global scale, the EcoFair network envisions an international network of expo sites that agree on shared eco practices, and which actively promote their vision and initiatives and deliver their services to the users. Travel is also addressed here, as the community of attendees can explore alternative, lower-impact ways to reach the event venue. The concept is based on the idea that behavioural change can be triggered, facilitated and reinforced through gradual adoption of new behaviours and collective action, leading to new values and norms at community levels. In this case, a community of EcoFairs creates a forum within which best practice can be shared, comparisons can be more easily made, and reinforcement can be mutual.
Putting Kortrijk Xpo on the map
The environmental roadmap for Kortrijk Xpo provides detailed information on implementing the reduction targets within the staged time-frames. It acts as a guide to catalysing organisational change, and to triggering change in event attendees. It takes the organisation through all the milestones of the process, from carbon reduction targets, to strategies for achieving them, supporting Kortrijk Xpo on its way to becoming the most environmentally sustainable trade fair and congress complex in Belgium by 2020, and a top five player in Europe.
This will be a considerable achievement for the expo centre, but it is our conviction that in spreading these values to other exposition centres and eventually becoming a standard for what event venues can achieve in terms of sustainability, Kortrijk Xpo will really put itself on the map as a far-sighted leader.
Carbon Footprint Analysis (by Futureproofed)
Behavioural change framework
100 initial concepts
4 in-depth concepts, illustrated with storyboards and visualisations
Video presentation of 4 best concepts