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On June 13 and June 20 Van Straaten organised the first CoCreation 2020 sessions for the events & exhibitions industry. I’m proud that we’ve welcomed almost 40 industry experts in our Experience Centre near Schiphol Airport (the Netherlands). In two highly interactive meetings personal experiences, knowledge and doubts were exchanged about a theme we are all concerned about: sustainability. In this blog I’ll share the most important findings with you.

Why sustainability?

Kenneth Erselina of sustainability experts Bushwick, with whom Van Straaten cooperates for years already on this theme, led both sessions. His first statement was clear. Sustainability is a theme that can no longer be ignored. Protecting our planet is a must for every business, as you simply cannot do business on a dead planet. There are also commercial reasons for embracing a sustainable approach. Consumers expect - and increasingly demand -  this from the companies they purchase from. And with global brands, from Ford to Unilever and from Nike to Apple,  moving towards a sustainable business model, they increasingly insist from their suppliers to comply to their sustainability terms & conditions. Sustainability it is also relevant when it comes to recruitment. In an era characterised by a war on talent, millennials are more attracted to organisations operating sustainable. Take for example a fashion brand like Patagonia, they daily receive hundreds of open applications.

Where do you start?

During the sessions it became apparent that everyone is fully convinced of the importance of sustainability. However, it’s also a theme that leads to uncertainty. What makes you really sustainable? According to Kenneth, it starts with being aware that sustainability is not a public relations tactic, with fancy press releases and web statements. Sustainability must be part of your long-term strategy and earnings model, where being sustainable goes hand in hand with improving your bottom line. A sustainable approach must, of course, provide a minimum ecological footprint, but only succeeds if it actually yields returns to an organisation.

The following six steps help:
1. Ask yourself the question: why do we do this?
2. Then list what you miss if you do not invest in sustainability.
3. Determine what sustainability really means for you: is it purely ecological, or is there a socio-cultural or economic component?
4. Be transparent about your sustainable approach - first internally, afterwards also to your external stakeholders.
5. As with any major change: ensure commitment at the highest level in the organization.
6. Set SMART goals to measure progress and success.

Sustainability in the exhibitions & events industry
If we zoom in on the exhibitions & events industry, we notice there are several industry-specific challenges to be taken into account. For example, the world of events, retail and advertising is a fast-paced world with many short-term assignments. This can be an obstacle for a sustainable approach. In addition, there are not enough financial incentives towards sustainability. Many smaller venues and smaller clients don’t demand a sustainable approach.

At the same time, everyone notes that the industry is changing. The great interest in our CoCreation 2020 sessions illustrates this. In addition, I believe that only an industry-wide approach to sustainability will eventually make impact. We have to work together and CoCreate an industry that is leading when it comes to sustainability. Leaves me with thanking all the experts for their presence and their input at these first CoCreation 2020 sessions. Being continued!

Image John Faas




“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.