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New RX sustainability director unveils net zero plans

by Emily Wallin

Helen Sheppard joined RX as sustainability director in January 2022. Here she talks about what inspired her to take on the role at 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.  Sheppard started her career in the charity sector before joining RX owners RELX in 2011 and has spent the past 10 years in a number of corporate social responsibility roles. She helped develop and implement RELX’s inclusion and diversity strategy which has now been rolled out globally across the organisation, including at RX.

What inspired you to take on the new role of sustainability director at RX?

RX has undergone huge transformational change over the past two years in the wake of Covid-19, and I saw a real opportunity to drive the sustainability agenda forward in response to climate change.  My interest co-incided with RX signing UFI’s Net Carbon Zero Events pledge in November 2021. RX is a founding partner of the pledge which commits the event industry to achieve net zero by 2050, at the latest, and halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Can you explain your role and responsibilities?

My role is to develop a roadmap on what becoming net zero means to us at RX and for all of our show brands. What do we mean when we say we want to achieve net zero? What are we measuring? Where are our carbon emissions coming from? Are they direct or indirect?  And how do we reduce them? I will be working closely with our event and operations leaders, and external partners such as our venues and suppliers, and the other companies who have signed the UFI pledge, to define and benchmark key metrics, and then to identify and create best sustainable practices for our own offices, our events, and the sectors we serve.

Net zero by 2050 is an ambitious goal. Where do you start?

In fact, RX is aligning with the RELX commitment to achieve net zero by 2040. You start with a top-down commitment to achieve your goals. You also need event and operational leaders who are inspired and equipped to make the journey with you. So my immediate priority is to establish a sustainability structure within RX, so that each of our business hubs has a task force that clearly understands our carbon emission targets and is responsible for driving change.

We are also setting some key metrics in areas where we can affect the biggest change, namely energy and waste. We will be working with our venues and suppliers to determine how much energy our events consume, and how much waste we produce, recycle or dispose of into landfill. We’ll be looking at stand construction and transportation, printed marketing collateral vs digital alternatives, food waste and its journey to compost or the incinerator.

Some of our events have already gone some way down this road giving us a great kick-start. Having teamed up with Iniciativa Verde to reduce its carbon footprint, ILTM Latin America is now carbon neutral. STANDout, our Austrian stand building business, is embedding sustainability into its business, from using recyclable stand building materials, to driving electric vehicles. And many of our shows now offer SMART badging, eliminating the need for business cards, paper brochures and catalogues. Their learnings will help inform our journey to becoming a fully sustainable business.

What is also really encouraging is that we are not doing this alone, but as part of an industry effort alongside our UFI carbon pledge co-signatories. It is good to know that many of our venue partners and suppliers are as committed to the cause as we are.

In what other ways is RX working to support sustainability?

As a global organiser of market-leading events, we are committed to promoting and supporting sustainable business transition within the sectors we serve.

For example, World Travel Market’s Responsible Tourism programme is the largest of its kind in the world ‒ an international forum that aims to engage businesses, DMOs, government and decision makers in spreading sustainable practices and ethical methods across the travel industry.  in-cosmetics Global is helping to accelerate the move to cleaner, greener beauty products through its Sustainability Corner, Formulation Summit, Innovation Zone and industry awards. Functional Fabric Fair – Powered by Performance Days in the US is dedicated to showcasing the latest sustainable trends in textiles, with every exhibitor reviewed to ensure they fulfil global sustainability criteria.

RX is also proud to run a global portfolio of energy business events which are all working to accelerate the UN’s sustainability agenda. Our market leading brands include World Future Energy Summit, Pollutec, All-Energy, and World Smart Energy Week. By providing a platform for thought leadership, and a showcase for clean energy transition, we are helping to solve the most pressing climate issues of our time, and creating blueprints for a sustainable future.




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