Royal Jaarbeurs – global leader in sustainability

Royal Jaarbeurs is the largest Exhibition and Conference venue in the Netherlands, located right in the heart of Utrecht. With four separate conference centres, a theatre and an Exhibition Centre spread over 11 halls covering about 100,000 m², the venue is home to some of world’s most exciting and varied trade fairs, corporate events, meetings, concerts, and festivals.

With the 2.3 million guests Jaarbeurs hosts on a yearly basis and a clear focus on sustainability, the positive environmental and societal impact such a large venue can make – and by extension that of the events they host – is significant.

A clear strategic vision

As proud and involved residents of the Utrecht region, Jaarbeurs aims to be the most sustainable conference and events venue in Europe. To achieve this vision, the team has set some pretty bold objectives.

Even more, the hardworking team is well on its way to achieving these goals thanks to the strategic vision implemented by Chief Sustainability Officer Marloes van den Berg. The strategic plan encompasses various themes including sustainable employment, sustainable business and operations, and social responsibility.

With 2.3 million visitors annually, we owe it to our city to not just focus on financial values. We want to have a positive impact on our environment and the people we reach,” says Marloes.

Aim to be Climate neutral by 2030

Jaarbeurs is set to achieve 50% carbon neutrality by in the next two years. And by 2030, they aim to not just be carbon neutral, but to become climate positive. From zero waste initiatives to cradle-to-cradle design, there is not a single facet of the event industry that the team has not taken into account when it comes to achieving carbon neutrality. Other examples of projects that contribute to their sustainability ambitions are the development of the Jaarbeurs Live App to stimulate digital communications, looking into more efficient visitor flows and logistics and the installation of solar panels on the rooftop of the large venue.

In regards to the hospitality side of the business, Jaarbeurs has made a conscious choice to focus on quality. Their menu consists of mainly vegetarian options, and uses locally sourced food that is cooked to order, in order to use fresh produce as efficiently as possible and avoid waste. By introducing a 90% vegetarian-based menu in their restaurants and hospitality packages consisting of at least 80% vegetarian options for conferences, Jaarbeurs has already been able to cut CO2 emissions by 500 tonnes. In addition, a smart waste management system means the team can investigate even better separation of waste flows. A composting machine for kitchen scraps allows them to make their own compost, which, in the future, will be used to grow their own vegetables to complete the circular approach. Jaarbeurs also hopes to open up the use of the composting machine to the citizens of Utrecht in the future, so the whole neighbourhood can enjoy it.

Support Local Initiatives

Jaarbeurs acknowledges its role as an influential partner of Utrecht, to create a place with a focus on healthy urban living. The many local initiatives they support are varied, ranging from donating laptops to fellow Utrecht residents to giving disadvantaged youths the opportunity to intern at Jaarbeurs.

“We want to be a sustainable employer and make a positive social impact,” Marloes adds. “For example, we are an active partner of the Prinses Máxima Centrum – the hospital for paediatric oncology, located in Utrecht. By collecting the empty (plastic) returnable bottles after our events, we are able to donate some €30,000 to the hospital annually. We also work with companies such as the Koekfabriek, Jinc, and Young Digitals, which – each in their own way – work with people with a labour market disadvantage.”

Sustainable Trade shows and events

Finally, Jaarbeurs has made it their mission to accelerate sustainable growth within all key industries and sectors it is active in via trade shows and events (healthcare, education, construction and IT). By actively helping to drive sustainable ambitions, they make sure to give start-ups and scale-ups, with a focus on sustainability, a podium to showcase themselves at trade shows. Furthermore, Jaarbeurs awards companies with the most sustainable products or stands. And the subject of sustainability is always considered when scheduling the keynotes and speakers in the content programmes of its own events.

Thanks to their central location right next to the national train station hub, in the heart of Utrecht, it makes sense to promote travel by public transport. Collaborating with local suppliers who are able to combine deliveries to Jaarbeurs and other local organisations is another great way of reducing food miles and keeping emissions down.

UFI Sustainable Development Award

Since 2019, Jaarbeurs has been able to save an enormous amount of CO2 through its various sustainability efforts. Solar panels power much of their facilities and they have eliminated the need for paper maps by developing their own smartphone app. Close to 178,000 meals were saved through careful meal planning and local partnerships.

Aside from the aforementioned ‘greener menu’, Jaarbeurs has implemented a new way to reduce even more garbage. Thanks to their smart waste bin system, which tracks the amount of green wastage (swirl), they can make smarter purchasing choices are set to save up to 221,763kg of CO2 in 2023 alone. Unsurprisingly, these Food and Food Waste projects have led to Jaarbeurs winning the 2022 UFI Sustainable Development Award for Best Carbon Emission Reduction Initiative.

For each event hosted within the Jaarbeurs venue – large and small – they have committed to plant a tree via their partner Trees for All. An average year can see them planting up to 8,800 trees, which equals a further 588,000kg of CO2.

This all goes to show that small changes really can have a huge impact. Especially when you welcome 2.3 million visitors a year.

Marloes van den Berg

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