Our journey to net zero by 2040

Our Journey to Net Zero by 2040

Published 22/04/2024

Getting the measure of event emissions 

In February 2024, RX published its Roadmap to Net Zero Events in 2040. We talk to Global Sustainability Director Helen Sheppard about RX’s sustainability commitments, the challenges of measuring event emissions, and the company’s progress to date.  

Q1. Can you start by telling us about RX’s sustainability commitments? 

A. RX is a founding signatory of the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge, a global collaboration which was launched by the events industry in November 2021 at COP 26 in Glasgow to address the urgent need to limit global warming beyond 1.5 degrees. This pledge commits all signatories to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest and to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In fact, RELX, our parent company, has made it a priority to reduce its environmental footprint and in 2021 signed up to The Climate Pledge which commits us to reach net zero no later than 2040.  In February  2024 we published our Roadmap to Achieving Net Zero, and we are committed to working with our partners, customers and suppliers around the world to achieve our net zero event goals. 

Q2. How do you define event emissions and which ones are you measuring? 

A. As a signatory of Net Zero Carbon Events, RX has pledged to measure and track our Scope 1,2 and 3 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and to report on our progress at least every two years.  

As part of RELX we have been obliged to measure our Scope 1 and 2 emissions against a baseline since 2018. During this time, we have reduced RX’s emissions by 40% and we expect to achieve a 50% reduction by the end of next year, if not sooner. To help us visualise our scope 1 and 2 emissions reductions, RELX launched its CO² Hub in 2022, a cloud-based dashboard that connects data from multiple internal and external sources., much of it in real time.  

Our Scope 3 emissions are much more difficult to measure and reduce as they come from sources that are not directly controlled by RX, such as our venue partners, suppliers and customers. The focus of our efforts so far has been on establishing a baseline against which our reductions can be measured, and significant interventions identified. 

Q. Which emissions have you prioritised for measurement and what challenges have you faced?  

A. When Net Zero Carbon Events published its road map to Net Zero in 2022, it set out the different categories of emissions for all stakeholders in the industry. At RX we said, let's look at which categories we can most easily start to measure andquickly – hence our early focus on energy and waste emissions.  

In the summer of 2022, we began asking our venue partners to report their energy and waste data. We accelerated this process in 2023, and by the end of the year had energy and/or waste data from more than 380 face to face events from 2019 to 2023, with almost 50% of our 2023 events reporting some data.  We are now prioritising 30 venues who represent the lion’s share of our revenues and have been really pleased with their response. 29 of those venues are  reporting to us, and we are working with the remaining venues to understand and remove any barriers to data collection.  

One of the challenges with venue emissions is that they report to us in different ways – some provide estimates based on monthly energy usage, others use metre readings; some report for the whole building, others for the halls that we use; some provide energy or waste data, other provide both. Improving and expanding data collection from our top 30 venues is enabling us to develop a more accurate and consistent measurement and reporting system.  

We have also conducted carbon footprints of 12 events to understand what data is available and to get a fuller picture of emissions categories such as production and logistics. Our goal is to establish clear Scope 3 reporting boundaries and baselines by the end of the year, and to publicly report our event-related carbon emissions in 2025, with a commitment to report bi-annually after 2025.  

Q. How are you measuring the emissions associated with event production, given that much of these are generated by your exhibitors and stand contractors?  

A. As part of the event footprints we have conducted we are collecting data on the production emissions, including the items we purchase or rent for the event such as carpet, signage, furniture, badges, lanyards and marketing materials.  In 2023, we developed a stand calculator for exhibitor emissions, based on information provided by our exhibitors,  contractors and Reed SmartSpace our UK stand production company. Our UK business has led the charge on this, requiring materials information from exhibitors and contractors as part of the stand approval process. By aggregating data from individual stands, we have been able to estimate the emissions per square meter for different stand sizes, and then use these estimate to extrapolate emissions for each event.  

RX also sits on the UFI working group which is looking at production emissions and we have played a key role in the development of a comprehensive Materials Library, identifying all the most common materials used in event production and their specific emission factors – currently the emissions factors haven’t been published but this is definitely a next step as soon as permission has been granted form the relevant emissions factors databases. .  

We have footprinted some 160 exhibitor stands in Europe and the UK so far, to give us these square metre estimates. For 2024 we are focusing on footprinting events in the USA and hopefully China, enabling us to make more accurate square metre emissions estimates on a regional basis.  

Q. By all accounts, third-party event logistics and travel emissions are particularly hard for event organisers to measure. How are you approaching these?   

A. Logistics emissions, by which I mean the movement of stands and goods between venues and stand contractors, are tricky for organisers to get a handle on, because we are at least one step removed from the process. While some venues track the number of vehicles arriving and departing, they don’t all track what type of vehicle it is or where it has come from. But we are seeing some promising developments, for example Excel and Olympia in London have both started using logistics software which gives them, and us, more information on the types of vehicles and distances travelled to our events. This is helping us to develop more reliable estimates for our events. 

 When it comes to travel, we are measuring employee business travel and any travel we pay for such as  conference speakers, and those attending our events on a hosted buyer model, which is widely used by our travel events.  

Separately, we are trying to gain a better understanding of our visitor and exhibitor travel by analysing the distance travelled and destination of each attendee through our registration data so we can also start to make some assumptions about travel emissions.  

RX has also been working on a joint research project with fellow organisers, Informa, Clarion, Emerald and Tarsus, to understand the role events play in consolidating air travel by providing a single location for participants to undertake multiple meetings in one place, at one time. This is due to be published shortly and is also helping to inform our emissions estimates.  

Q. What steps are you taking to share your measurement methodologies with the wider events industry?  

A. We feel it is important to align on a common methodology for measurement so we are hoping to convene a group of event organisers where we can share our measurement approaches and learn from each other.  

Events are produced with the support and engagement of a complex and fragmented mix of stakeholders. Making our events more sustainable therefore relies on more than just the work individual organisers, venues or contractors do. As signatories to Net Zero Carbon Events we are all committed to achieving net zero, and it is in all our interests to align our actions to face the challenge and embrace sustainable change together. 

Q. How is the emissions data you have obtained so far informing the delivery of more sustainable RX events?  

A. Over the last year we have placed a big emphasis on understanding the full life cycle of event emissions, using a footprinting tool which incorporates our venue and waste emissions but also takes into account emissions data and estimates resulting from stand production and waste, food and food waste, logistics and travel.  

As I mentioned earlier, we generated 12 complete event footprints last year across Europe and the US so far, ranging from big events such as JCK Show (jckonline.com) and World Travel Market, to smaller events like the Functional Fabric Fair. Based on the data received we have put together an emissions report for each event team highlighting those things which the teams can directly influence, be it energy usage, the use of more sustainable production materials, waste reduction, including food waste, and recycling opportunities.  

There are still gaps in our knowledge, particularly around production and logistics, and we are focused on growing our data bank in 2024 to give us a more complete and accurate picture, so that we can generate reliable estimates where we don’t have the data.  This will include obtaining some complete event footprints in the USA and hopefully China too.  

Measurement is critical – you can’t manage what you can’t measure  ̶  but it takes time. Aware that every day, month, and year counts in the fight against climate change, we published the RX Sustainability Playbook in January 2023 to support all of our event and operations teams in making more sustainable choices now – be it through switching to digital catalogues, using sustainable badges and lanyards, recycling waste within the local community, or any number of other transformative opportunities. What is exciting about the footprinting we have been doing is that it enables you to define not only our baselines, but also to develop many more specific actions and goals which will be embedded into our event strategies for next year.  

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Click here to listen to Helen discuss our Roadmap to Net Zero on the Trade Show Talk Podcast

Click here to listen to Helen discuss our Roadmap to Net Zero on the Trade Show Talk Podcast

RX Sustainability Series

The RX Sustainability Series, Part 1:

Talking Sustainability… with Helen Sheppard

In the first of a new series of articles focusing on sustainability at RX, we talk to Helen Sheppard who joined us as Sustainability Director in January 2022. She tells us about her background in corporate responsibility, what inspired her to take on this important new role at RX, and how the company is aiming to achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2050 (or earlier), as a founder signatory of UFI’s event industry pledge.  

The RX Sustainability Series, Part 2:

Exploring RX's Sustainable Events

RX is a founding partner of UFI’s pledge which commits the event industry to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. As we develop our own roadmap to achieve net zero by 2040, in parallel with our parent company RELX, we shine a light on four RX sustainable exhibitions which are taking an industry lead on event sustainability and informing our journey with their best practice.

The RX Sustainability Series, Part 3:

RX partner with venues and suppliers to drive net zero carbon events

On 6 November, the COP27 Climate Change Conference gets underway in Sharm El-Sheikh. As a founding signatory to the UFI Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, RX is committed to helping the events industry achieve Net Zero by 2050. Collaboration between organisers, venues and contractors is key to making our Net Zero goals a reality. We reveal how RX is partnering with ExCel London, New York’s Javits Center, Messe Wien, Freeman, amongst many others, to drive the sustainable change we all need to see.

The RX Sustainability Playbook

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The journey to net zero carbon events starts right now. Check out how RX’s new Sustainability Playbook is informing and supporting our event and operations teams to make more sustainable event choices.

Later this year, RX will publish our Pathway to Net Zero, setting out our carbon reduction strategy to achieve net zero by 2040, with key milestones for all our shows. As a first step, we have developed a new carbon reduction toolkit or ‘Playbook’ to support all of our event and operations teams in making more sustainable choices – be it through switching to digital catalogues, using sustainable badges and lanyards, recycling waste within the local community, or any number of other transformative opportunities.

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2022 saw a strong return to face to face events for RX and good progress on our corporate responsibility priorities and Sustainable Development Goals, as highlighted in our Annual Report. We look back on an exciting year of diverse and sustainable growth.

Corporate responsibility at RX is not a programme or prescriptive set of activities; it is how we do what we do on a daily basis. Like every RELX business, we align all our objectives to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make our own unique contributions to specific SDGs through our products, knowledge, resources and skills.

 The very nature of our business at RX is to foster communities, and in doing so we are particularly mindful of SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 13 (Climate Action). Here’s how we have made a difference over the past year.

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Head over to our website to discover more about RX and our journey to Net Zero.