even years ago, on the heels of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," EXHIBITOR released the results of a groundbreaking survey designed to measure the Green movement's impact on the trade show industry. According to the resulting white paper, titled "An Inconvenient Booth," exhibit marketers had considerable interest in Green exhibiting, and that interest had translated into small, measured steps toward adopting Green alternatives to traditional exhibit-related products and services.
In 2011, we revisited the issue of Green exhibiting to see if eco-friendly interest had weathered the Great Recession. While a larger number of survey respondents had taken initial steps toward Greening their face-to-face marketing programs, personal interest had decreased, and tightened purse strings left companies less willing to consider eco-conscious alternatives that cost more than traditional options.
Three years later, it appears interest in Green exhibiting has returned to prerecession levels. According to EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2014 Green Exhibiting Survey, sponsored by Global Experience Specialists Inc. (GES), 62 percent of exhibitors report "high" or "very high" interest in going Green. Thirty-nine percent believe their company's interest in Green exhibiting has increased "somewhat" or "significantly" in the past three years, and an additional 37 percent anticipate Green interest will continue to increase throughout 2014.
Interestingly, the issue of cost represents a bit of a conundrum when it comes to going Green. Twenty percent of exhibitors who have taken steps to decrease their programs' impact on the environment report that those efforts resulted in decreased exhibit-related costs. But when asked to rate a slew of variables impeding increased adoption of Green products and services, exhibitors scored "generally higher prices of Green solutions compared with traditional options" as the most significant obstacle.
Even more baffling is the fact that cost is clearly not the only reason exhibitors are gun-shy when it comes to Greening their programs. When asked whether they would purchase Green products or services if they cost the same as traditional options, just 83 percent of respondents answered yes, while 15 percent were unsure and 2 percent said no.
So despite the fact that interest in eco-friendly exhibiting has rebounded, it could be a while before that interest translates into sizeable steps toward Greener pastures. But if more exhibitors (and industry suppliers) can convince companies that going Green isn't just the right thing to do, but that it also has the potential to actually decrease costs over time, we'll very likely see a convergence of fiscal and environmental responsibility that could translate into massive overnight strides in sustainability.
The following pages contain data points culled from our 2014 Green Exhibiting Survey, which gauged the interest and adoption rates of more than 100 exhibiting companies. For more info on Green exhibiting – including an expanded research report featuring additional, unpublished data points – check out www.ExhibitorOnline.com/Green.