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How to effectively collaborate with procurement teams for sustainable exhibitions and events 

Sustainability is shaping the way organisations approach planning, design and execution like never before. Behind every stand, every booth or immersive experience is an increasing demand for a deeper purpose and commitment to creating a more sustainable future for the industry and the planet.

At the heart of this collective effort is a belief in the importance of sustainability, not only for its environmental benefits but also for its potential to enhance brand reputation, engage audiences, and contribute to positive social impact.

For marketing managers or brand managers, you’re likely driven by the conviction that sustainability is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic opportunity. Beyond reducing carbon footprints and minimising waste, you see sustainability as a powerful tool for building brand trust, loyalty and differentiation in an increasingly conscious marketplace. By prioritising eco-friendly practices and materials, you can aim to create memorable experiences that resonate stronger than ever before with your audience.

Similarly, procurement teams are motivated by a commitment to responsible sourcing practices that align with broader organisational values and goals. Although for these stakeholders, sustainability is not merely a checkbox to be ticked but an integral part of ethical business practices and corporate social responsibility as well as preserving the bottom line.

Let’s dive in to our top 3 tips on how to collaborate with your procurement team more effectively for your next exhibition or event.

1. Collaborative Engagement

Effective collaboration with procurement teams begins with fostering a culture of openness, transparency and shared purpose. Start by initiating early discussions with procurement teams to outline sustainability objectives and priorities for the upcoming exhibition or event. You can start having these discussions as much as 9-12months out from your planned projects in order to win favour and influence your strategic outputs for success. Be sure to emphasise the shared benefits of sustainability, including enhanced brand reputation, cost savings and positive social impact where applicable. Similarly, encourage procurement teams to voice their concerns, insights and suggestions for feedback so as you’re aligned right from the get-go.

By nature, procurement teams are often tasked with balancing competing objectives, such as cost reduction, quality assurance and regulatory compliance. By taking the time to align your sustainability goals with overarching business objectives you can start to demonstrate how eco-friendly practices can contribute to long-term profitability and resilience. Try to collate evidence based arguments and case studies showcasing successful examples of sustainable procurement practices in similar industries or organisations. We’ve collated some quick examples here for you from our experience in working with brands and agencies who have prioritised sustainability in their display builds:

With these examples in your repertoire, you can highlight the potential for cost savings, risk mitigation strategies and your competitive advantage associated with sustainable options. When you present a compelling business case for sustainability, you can garner buy-in and support from procurement teams, fostering a shared commitment to achieving sustainability, brand and ROI goals.

2. Writing Sustainability Criteria for RFPs and RFQ

When issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) or requests for quotations (RFQs), it’s essential that you include sustainability criteria and requirements as part of the evaluation process. When seeking procurement support to endorse your tender proposals, be sure to ask suppliers to provide information on their sustainability practices and policies, certifications, or performance metrics alongside other procurement criteria such as cost, quality and delivery timeframes. Consider this framework to draft your sustainability criteria:

Define Clear and Measurable Sustainability Goals:

Identify specific environmental, social and economic criteria that are relevant to your industry and supply chain. For example, consider criteria related to energy efficiency, waste reduction, ethical sourcing, diversity and inclusion or carbon footprint reduction. 

Prioritise Key Sustainability Metrics:

 Start by evaluating what are the most important sustainability metrics to your organisation’s priorities in the tender request. Focus on criteria that have the greatest potential for impact and improvement and align with industry standards and best practices. For instance, you may prioritise certifications such as ISO 14001 for environmental management systems, FSC or PEFC sustainable forest certifications, Fair Trade for ethical sourcing or LEED certification for green building practices. Choose the most relevant metrics and incorporate them into your evaluation criteria to assess suppliers’ sustainability performance. For more information on the standards, see our recent article on why a sustainable design strategy is worth the investment.

Incorporate Life Cycle Analysis:

Consider incorporating life cycle analysis (LCA) principles into your sustainability criteria as well to evaluate the environmental impact of products or services throughout their entire life cycle. From raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal and reusability or modular design principles, having clear parameters of how you want your display to be utilised throughout its lifespan can be highly beneficial in the assessment of sustainably conscious suppliers. Find out more on how to craft the perfect brief for exhibitions and events in our latest guide.

UNSW Custom Exhibition Stand Lighting and Bold Yellow Colours HSC Careers Expo

3. Contract Negotiation

One of the main challenges in negotiating sustainable contracts with procurement teams is addressing the higher cost of eco-friendly products and materials. Here’s some strategic approaches to overcome these hurdles and gain buy-in from procurement teams:

Highlight Total Cost of Ownership:

Emphasise the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) rather than just upfront costs. Explain how eco-friendly products, although potentially more expensive initially, often have lower maintenance costs, longer lifespans and reduced environmental impact over their lifecycle.

Leverage Supplier Relationships:

Work with your suppliers to negotiate better terms for sustainable products by leveraging long-term relationships or purchasing volume to secure discounts on eco-friendly materials. Encourage suppliers to also explore new technologies, materials or processes that reduce costs and environmental impact. Check out our work with L’Occitane on their Sustainable Pop-Up, where we utilised our research and development to create a recyclable 10×10 circular flooring solution.

Implement Pilot Projects:

Why not suggest testing the feasibility and benefits of sustainable products and practices on a smaller scale if your procurement team needs further persuasion? This allows them to evaluate the performance and ROI of eco-friendly options before committing to a larger-scale adoption across other events, brand activations or retail You can then use these pilot project results to build a stronger case for sustainability, demonstrating tangible benefits and lessons learned that can be applied to future contracts.

Navigating the complexities of integrating sustainability into your exhibitions and events is a journey that requires strategic collaboration and clear communication with your procurement teams. At DisplayWise, we understand the delicate balance between achieving sustainability goals and maintaining the desired look and feel of your exhibition stands, event display or retail and activation campaigns. Our proven track record of working closely with procurement teams ensures that your projects meet sustainability criteria without compromising on quality or creativity.

Ready to take the next step in your sustainability journey? Contact the DisplayWise team today and let us be the extension of your marketing or brand team, to not only get your projects across the line but also ensure sustainable success.

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