hen I came out to my sister in the late ‘90s, she started paying more attention to where she shopped. That might seem like an illogical reaction, but it was a definite cause-and-effect scenario. Her rationale was simple: She would use the power of her pocketbook to advance the social causes that were important to her. For example, she was more likely to shop at Target (a company whose Corporate Equality Index score is 80, as determined by the Human Rights Campaign) over Walmart (which scored a mere 40). And she permanently axed Sandals resorts off of her list of potential vacation destinations after finding out the company did not allow same-sex couples to visit its properties (a policy that was later revoked).

Her intention was to punish companies whose policies did not align with her opinions, while rewarding companies that had gone out of their way to demonstrate that their corporate philosophies matched her personal philosophy. And whether you agree with my sister politically, more and more consumers are following suit, opting to do business with companies whose corporate philosophies are more closely aligned with their own.

So what does all this have to do with the exhibition industry and this issue’s Guide to Green Exhibiting? I suppose it depends a lot on who your customers are and what factors are included in their purchasing criteria. According to The State of Green Business 2008, 70 percent of consumers are more inclined to purchase eco-friendly products over less ecologically friendly alternatives. So it stands to reason that the more your company can do to position itself as environmentally conscious, the better aligned you’ll be with consumers’ current priorities.

That doesn’t mean you need to go 100 percent carbon neutral, but taking steps, however simple, toward sustainability can help to position your company as part of the solution — whereas standing idly by can send the message to consumers that you’re part of the problem instead. Bottom line, going Green doesn’t have to be your top priority, but if it’s on your consumers’ radar screens, the eco-friendly elephant in the room should likely have a seat at the table.

And while you’re pondering your consumers’ purchasing criteria, don’t forget that you have the almighty power of the pocketbook as well. If you possess the authority to make or influence purchasing decisions for your company’s trade show program, you have the power to promote the causes that are important to you and your company — including environmental awareness.

Remember, you have the choice of purchasing your exhibit property, giveaways, flooring, and all the other products and services you need from one of two kinds of companies: those that offer eco-friendly options or those that do not. If you are among the two-thirds of exhibit managers who report a personal interest in the environment, wouldn’t you rather support a supplier who is making an effort to offer Greener alternatives? Much like my sister, wouldn’t you prefer to do business with a company whose corporate philosophy is more closely aligned with your own? Or, as Joshua Mark, executive director of special event production for Fox Broadcasting Co. says, “I can rent a plasma from anyone. But if I can just as easily rent it from a company that’s doing great things for the environment, why wouldn’t I?”

If environmental issues are not important to you or your consumers, you might not have anything to worry about. But if, as many claim, America’s interest in Green is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon, going Greener is a now-or-later inevitability. Just be wary of waiting for later. If your consumers are anything like my sister, past actions and resulting perceptions are often weightier indications of a company’s identity than after-the-fact apologies and too-little-too-late changes of heart.e

Travis Stanton, editor;


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