Uwe Behm, member of the executive board at Messe Frankfurt, on the company’s move to renewable energy.
How has Messe Frankfurt’s attitude to sustainability and CSR evolved in the last decade?
Responsible business practices, including social, environmental and economic aspects, are central to Messe Frankfurt’s work. Our company has always been committed to long-term thinking and planning, following in the great tradition of our ancestors and working closely together with our longstanding shareholders, the City of Frankfurt and the federal state of Hesse. We build on well-established CSR measures and invest in new developments.
The Group’s CSR activities can be structured in four central areas of activity:
- Environment/Sustainability – e.g. systematic energy management.
- Social Responsibility – as an employer and supporting social institutions.
- Commitment to culture, especially music and art.
- Education/Science – since the 2018/2019 winter semester, Messe Frankfurt has been helping to fund programmes at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS).
Do you feel that sustainability is becoming a priority for companies in the exhibition industry?
Our flagship events are key indicators of the economic performance and outlook of their industry sectors. Here, innovations and trends tie in closely with factors that influence our society worldwide, such as globalisation, digitisation, urbanisation and ecologisation. On our interaction platforms around the world, experts in their respective communities come together to discuss global challenges and changes towards a values-based growth approach and to present discussions as part of an interdisciplinary exchange. However, there has been an increasingly great focus on sustainability at various levels in recent years.
What was the process of switching entirely to renewable energy?
A lot of energy is needed to power the Frankfurt exhibition grounds with its current total of eleven halls, two congress buildings and up to 300 or so events a year. Messe Frankfurt is well aware of its responsibility in this regard and operates an active energy management system across its various departments. Our energy manager ensures that we use energy resources as efficiently and sparingly as possible. For instance, solar energy has been playing more and more of a key role at Messe Frankfurt for years.
There are now three photovoltaic systems in operation on our exhibition grounds – the most recent addition has been harvesting solar energy on the roof of Hall 12 since 2018. It was built for Messe Frankfurt’s own use and, measuring some 9,000sqm, is as large as our other two systems put together.
Our Kap Europa congress centre has been supplied exclusively with green power since first going into operation, as is also the case with a number of guest events. We are receiving more and more enquiries about sustainable trade fair participation. Because of this, when renewing our contract with our energy provider, we decided to switch over entirely to green power as of event year 2020.
Do you believe that venues should be leading the way when it comes to sustainability?
With specific measures designed to protect resources, increase efficiency and minimise distance travelled, exhibition venue operators can bring about extensive changes, position themselves accordingly and, of course, work more cost-effectively as well. For trade fair companies like Messe Frankfurt, sustainability is not only a relevant business attribute in its ‘big picture’, but is also proving to be more and more of a locational advantage for us as a company.
What is the biggest challenge the industry faces when it comes to sustainability?
Over three decades ago, sustainability did not feature at all in political, business or social discourse. Today, holistic sustainability is a megatrend that, in view of the ecological and social challenges throughout the world, affects companies in all industry sectors with respect to values-based corporate management. This aspect begins in companies’ strategic statements and subsequent actions and extends through the entire value chain for products. This means that, with regard to sustainability, trust and credibility constitute a competitive advantage, not least because companies can also ensure in this way that they are accepted by society