Green Meetings - Interview with Uwe Behm, Member of the Executive Board of Messe Frankfurt

Messe Frankfurt is the world’s largest congress, event and trade show organiser to have its own fairgrounds, with an average of 400 events taking place there every year. 

Uwe Behm, Member of the Executive Board Messe Frankfurt
Uwe Behm, Member of the Executive Board Messe Frankfurt - © Messe Frankfurt / Pietro Sutera

Such an undertaking requires not only smooth operation, but in today’s world also calls for a high degree of sustainability. Uwe Behm has been a member of the executive board of Messe Frankfurt since 2006, promoting sustainability wherever and whenever possible.

Mr Behm, sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in the special events industry. Messe Frankfurt, for example, switched to green energy at the start of 2020. How far has this trend come at Messe Frankfurt?

We have in recent times witnessed an increased sensibility for sustainable events, both on a macro-social level and amongst our guest organisers and exhibitors. As a publicsector company and long-term partner of our customers, we feel an obligation to integrate sustainability and environmental protection into all of our business processes.

Kap Europa, built in 2014 with the highest degree of sustainability in mind, has been awarded the German Green Building Award in Platinum. What exactly makes this congress centre so environment-friendly?

Kap Europa was indeed conceived with particular emphasis on sustainability. Energy-optimised windows, a great deal of natural daylight, acoustic walls and a concrete core that supports the building’s air-conditioning system are just some of its sustainable features. The building’s feel-good atmosphere has been praised time and time again by both event organisers and participants. When the German Sustainable Building Council awarded Kap Europa a certificate in platinum, it became the world’s first congress centre to receive such an honour, thereby confirming our efforts.

Messe Frankfurt also offers event organisers a highly diversified service portfolio. How important is sustainability in this area of operations?

Our in-house caterer, Accente Gastronomie Service, prepares its foods in a resource-friendly manner directly on the fairgrounds. They use regionally sourced products and fair-trade coffee, avoiding disposable tableware wherever possible. They also offer green catering packages. We are also taking great care to leave behind the smallest possible carbon footprint in terms of mobility. Messe Frankfurt is ideally connected to the city’s local public transport system. We are continuously expanding the number of e-charging stations on the showgrounds and are also including more and more electric vehicles in our vehicle fleet. What’s more, we are also an officially certified bicycle-friendly company. Last but not least, our service partners have also obligated themselves to run sustainable and responsible businesses.

Sustainability means more than just environmental protection. Messe Frankfurt is also known to be very active in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility. What are you particularly proud of in this area?

We see ourselves as a valuable and reliable partner engaged in mutually trustworthy relationships with our clients, service providers and employees, a fact that we are indeed very proud of. Our CSR efforts are applied in four core fields of activity – the environment, social responsibility, education and science as well as culture and sport. As a member of the United Nations’ Global Compact network, we have been diligently documenting our CSR activities since 2010. We are in fact the only trade fair organisation to have been included in this network.

Looking ahead, what do you think Messe Frankfurt still needs to do in terms of sustainability?

The infrastructure and energy requirements of our fairgrounds are comparable with those of a small city with approximately 40,000 inhabitants. As such, resource efficiency is obviously of great importance. Our optimisation efforts and investment in “flexible buildings” are aimed at saving resources wherever and whenever possible.

Thank you for your time.