“Event management needs to be increasingly eco-affirmative”
The GL events group, a major worldwide name in the management of large events and notably the organizer of the BePositive exhibition, has been operating an ambitious CSR policy for over 10 years. CSR manager Charles de Lorgeril tells us in detail of the levers the Group pulls to embed eco-responsibility as a memorable marker of its identity.
Charles de Lorgeril, CSR manager
What are the pillars on which the Group CSR policy is founded?
Over 10 years and more, GL events has developed its social, societal, and environmental undertakings across five action programmes: Think Green, which directs our efforts on the environmental issues of our trade, with strong focus on the circular economy and carbon frugality; Think People, which deals principally with our responsibility as an employer; Think Local, which sets out to stimulate districts and regions and create local value; Think Ethics, covering governance, ethics, and conformity—we trained over 1,100 employees in these matters in 2019— and last but not least, Think Safe, which encompasses our health protection commitments.
GL events is a group with a workforce in excess of 4,600, which operates across all three major areas of the event business: management of event sites, with over 50 sites worldwide and an attendance of 14 million visitors, organization of over 400 events and trade shows every year, and the provision of event-related services, which mobilizes over 100 different trades.
These figures are of course from 2019, a “normal” year. But they still give a good idea of the CSR issues involved. Our events are an obvious potential source of negative impacts: waste generation, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and such like; but they can also bring about big benefits through investment in the circular economy, privileging economic spin-off in the regions, leaving a positive legacy in the wake of an event, etc.
As things stand, 90% of the French sites managed by the GL events group are ISO14001 certified and eight sites have gained ISO 20121 certification, a unique CSR standard specific to the event trades. That makes GL events the most extensively certified event venue network.
Can you give some examples of the actions you have undertaken?
Our action programmes are long term and witness regular expansion.
For instance, we have switched to 100% green energy supplies across all the French exhibition sites, significantly reducing our GHG emissions. We are extending this policy to include international sites, while also implementing LED lighting and presence detectors wherever possible in the pursuit of our global consumption optimization initiative.
To minimize waste generation starting at the earliest stage of stand design and layout, we try always to employ reused, reusable, or recyclable materials, placing our operations in a circular economy process.
Alongside this, we are constantly increasing our expertise in handling the waste generated from events we host and encouraging the sorting reflex among our exhibitors and visitors. We multiply local partnerships in our circular economy plan: Ecopack Solutions retrieves and recycles event signage tarpaulins, Aiden collects bio-waste for composting and value release in market gardens, Valdelia gives a second life to furniture damaged when dismantling exhibitions, etc.
On the Eurexpo site alone, for example, we repurposed 86 tonnes of discarded furniture and 22 tonnes of bio-waste in 2019.
Moreover, we are studying the implementation of renewable energy production on some of our sites. This would involve quite a hefty investment given the period we are in, but it’s a medium-term source of savings and of big decreases in our carbon emissions.
The event management business has been hit hard by the pandemic. Could this put the brake on your CSR policy actions?
No, not at all. For a start, the situation we are going through will not last forever, and in any case the transition to a world of eco-affirmative, responsible event management is not up for debate. What’s more, the group has just signed an ambitious partnership with the Les Canaux association to structure and intensify the use of Social and Solidarity Economy stakeholders who can provide our trades with innovative solutions.
The contribution of businesses like ours to the ecological transition is a priority.
More and more of our partners naturally expect eco-responsibility from us, be they exhibitors, visitors, or local governments. This is a strong marker of our vision for the future. In recent months, faced with the cancellation of many exhibitions and trade shows, we have put special emphasis on our Think Safe action programme. We have integrated the full spectrum of health protection requirements in the organization of our coming events, with detection systems, digital assistance services, and a revamped reception.
We are convinced that the virtual gatherings that have been the order of the day during the pandemic have their limits. In the “world after”, women and men will again need to meet face to face to trade thoughts and develop their projects!