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Alexander Alles (JMIC) sheds light on the ambitious NetZero Events project

Alexander Alles (JMIC) sheds light on the ambitious NetZero Events project

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Interview Alexander Alles from NetZero
We published recently the launch of “NetZero Events”NetZero Events , an initiative of the “association of associations” of the event industry, JMIC (Joint Meeting Industry Council). We spoke with its executive director, Alexander Alles, to better understand this project which aims to be (and could be). And we take this opportunity to simply remind you that this is the most important issue of our current lives, both professional and personal. Time to get moving!

Can you remind us the mission of JMIC? Is it a mix of industry coordination and of lobbying to be better recognised (one of our old failures)?

Absolutely, JMIC was created to provide advocacy guidance. For instance, we created the terminology of what the meetings industry is about, and industry players are using this terminology. We also have studies, advocacy guides and the project “The Iceberg” to analyse the impact and added value on events. And now we are coordinating an industry-wide project to achieve a common vision and roadmap on sustainability – Net Zero Carbon Events – these are examples of what we do.

The NetZeroCarbonEvents project seems to be a bit more focused on the trade show industry, is it a correct impression?

The project was initially run by UFI (international association of the trade show industry), but now the project office has been transferred to JMIC and is really industry-wide and global: it is for all players who organise events, even an association which is not per se an industry player but does organise events, can be part of this. Even an association which is not per se an industry player but does organise events, can be part of this.

I understand the focus is on CO2, even if there are many other causes to work on?

Yes, this is the diagnosis, that we have to decarbonise, this is the priority. There are other causes like water protection for instance, and we have to consider the environment as a whole and improve on many aspects, but the focus here is CO2 indeed.

We have specialized working groups: transportation and lodging, logistics, measurement, etc.

I understand the focus is on CO2, even if there are many other causes to work on?

True, but there also is a target for a 50% reduction by 2030. This is 7 years away so there is a lot of movement now to achieve results in a reasonable time frame. This topic is getting such a momentum, more and more people are realising the importance of the topic, so I trust we will work internationally, together with other industries, to bring that change.

By the next COP we would like to present methodologies and intermediary outcomes, as well as case studies. It will not be complete yet, but we will have interesting outcomes.

A problem is that we don’t really know our impact today, no?

Yes Indeed, the measurement workstream is very complex. We need to have coherent methods, comparable. To define this 50% reduction we need a good measurement of today’s footprint.

One challenge is that we would like to include the entire value chain, counting everything the various part of the chain emit, but avoiding double counting. The “Smart production and waste management” workstream is working on defining how much CO2 is generated when producing wood or metal for a stand, but it is complex because we control what we do inside the event, but not what other industries do; we should avoid “paralysis by analysis”, or getting lost in measuring in too much detail what other providers are doing.

We are first considering Scope 1 and 2 which are what we control directly (energy in the congress centres, the lorries which bring the materials to the event…); while scope 3 is what is produced by your supplier. If everyone in the value chain tackles steps 1 and 2, then there is no need to focus on scope 3 since the other company is doing it. This being said, we don’t live in an ideal world, so we have to take into account scope 3 emissions: we want to be transparent and work to reduce what we do but also stimulate the reduction of our providers or partners. Furthermore, we want to avoid double counting.

Why do we have to do this? Is it a matter of saving the planet… or saving our industry?

It is our industry’s answer to climate change. If we don’t do anything now, then when? More and more industries, political players, and we as citizens realise the urgency. More and more industries, political players, and we as citizens realise the urgency. We want to get ahead of the legislation that will be coming in all these fields, to find solutions that fit our sector and goals and a timeframe that we can achieve. Could we be considered tomorrow as a dirty industry? I am not sure, many other industries are more polluting, but everyone from our employees to our clients pay more attention to sustainability. This awareness gets us all to want to play a role to reduce emissions.

Can we be an especially powerful industry to be a thought leader, a model which inspires the rest of society, since so many other industries interact with the meetings industry?

Yes, we can play a role by showing what we are doing. We can inspire and give ideas to many other industries, without a doubt. Additionally, events and exhibitions showcase new technologies and provide platforms for exchange on research, knowledge and new products. We help all other industries to advance faster, too! We help all other industries to advance faster, too!

Any company can join this programme?

Sí. Yes, absolutely. Recently we had an association of engineers joining, they are not really from the events industry but they organise 2,000 events a year, and want to see how they can be more sustainable. This project is very inclusive.

How formal is the commitment?

Anyone who signs the pledge commits to doing a reporting on a regular basic. We are developing a reporting template, we already have a first version. But this is not a certification with a formal checking process. The funding for this initiative stems from the players of our industry, those who want and are able to financially support this work on change for all of us.

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