The efforts made to run trade fair sites and activities under sustainability criteria has come to assume major importance: salons, congresses and other events generate a lot of waste, consume considerable amounts of energy and have an impact on local transport and the environment which must be properly addressed. This was underlined by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, which represents most of the world’s trade fair organizers and who give out the Sustanaible Development Award each year.

In 2017 the award went to Fira de Barcelona, in recognition of the initiatives that the institution has taken to improve its energy efficiency, the ecological design of its stands, its management of the waste generated by the shows and congresses it hosts (from the construction of the exhibition spaces to the catering, for example) and the replacement of paperwork by digital processes.

A joint action

The award, announced in May and presented during the UFI world congress held in South Africa in November, also recognises our efforts to work alongside the authorities, local groups and other entities to make Barcelona a leading light in terms of sustainable trade fairs. In its announcement of the award, the UFI wanted to highlight that “the wide-ranging effort towards sustainability by Fira de Barcelona is much more than an isolated initiative. Its close collaboration with Barcelona city council and other local organizations has played an important role in the changes and innovations made, and in the remarkable results achieved”.

Fira has indeed embarked on a number of different actions in collaboration with other institutions, such as the preparation of the manual of good environmental practices (with the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Catalan Waste Agency); participation in the Sustainable Tourism programme of the Barcelona Convention Bureau; promotion of the use of public transport among visitors to our fairs and congresses and the launch of the programme “Towards Zero Waste” started by Smart City Expo World Congress, the world summit for smart cities.

The DNA of Fira

The Managing Director of Fira de Barcelona, Constantí Serrallonga, who was present at the Johannesburg meeting, said that “the commitment to sustainability by the institution is long-standing, and not only have we introduced these measures in our shows in recent years, but we have started a number of events that seek to make companies, cities and our environment better, and we are constantly urging our partners, clients and visitors to take part in this collective effort. Sustainability is written into Fira de Barcelona’s DNA, and to receive this award from the UFI is more than an honour, it is recognition that serves to reinforce our determination to continue with new initiatives in this area”.

It was not the first time that Fira de Barcelona has won a UFI award. In recent years, it has received awards such as the Operation Awards in recognition of the quality of the services it offers exhibitors; the Innovation Operation Awards for its use of mobile technology to improve visitors’ experiences and the Education Award for its programme for developing international talent, among others.