28th July 2010
Environmental issues have come to the forefront over the last few years. Big stories, like last year's climate change conference in Copenhagen or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are often top of the news agenda. But, it doesn't stop there. The government is also pushing environmentally-friendly initiatives, while more and more companies are becoming aware of sustainability issues.
And event organisers are increasingly looking for green options when planning events, James Rook, sales and marketing director at exhibition stand provider Nimlok, noted.
"Our clients are not only increasingly cost conscious but also environmentally conscious as well.
"We were one of the first major contractors to be ISA 14001 certified and that's been very well received by our clients."
Eco-friendly options, such as rental or hybrid solutions, often provide a number of financial benefits for customers, he said, because they reduce costs either at the front end - by using expensive materials more carefully, or at the back end, where "less of the stand will need to be put into landfill and more can be recycled or re-deployed in other forms".
"Fortunately, much of what we're doing to reduce cost in turn reduces environmental impact and vice versa, which is perhaps contrary to a common view that going green can be expensive."
Nimlok, which was placed in the top 20 Sunday Times Best Green Companies 2009, also recently announced a new network of storage and logistics facilities, located near many of Europe's major exhibition venues. Called Euro-hubs, the facilities aim to reduce European exhibiting costs and environmental impact by reducing the need to fly crew and offering local storage between events.
"[Clients can also achieve] significant logistical savings by shipping in advance to our Euro-hubs, rather that shipping directly to the venues, where clients often encounter expensive handling charges," Mr Rook said.
The company's local crews will take the clients' displays and other items from the hubs to the event venue, while on more complex projects, a project manager will fly in rather than an entire crew.
Currently, the company is working on a variety of projects across a number of sectors, ranging from financial services to pharmaceuticals and, in particular, renewable energy, which has become a key market for the company.
"Our impressive green credentials mean that we're a big hit with [green] clients who are also operating in a market that has weathered the economic storm better than most."
As well as exhibition projects, Nimlok is also venturing into other markets, creating showrooms, event environments and retail point of sales displays.
"A recent event project involved us literally building a room within a room clad with panoramic giant fabric graphics, just leaving space for the projection screens. You walked into the room and you're no longer in the venue; you're immersed in the message, which adds a lot of impact compared to a traditional stage backdrop."
The company's internal creative agency, Vu, is also playing a key role in growing the business.
"We are going a lot further that just providing the stand to clients now," Mr Rook said, adding that the company has worked with clients on engagement strategies and developing interactive content including surveys, games and challenges built around the brand's campaigns and messages.
"These are significantly improving the lead count for our clients and giving them more personal information to follow up on after the event," he commented.
Nimlok is also growing its sales team in 2010 and launching an incentive scheme for referrals from clients. And, although many businesses are worried about the forthcoming VAT increase, Mr Rook doesn't think it will affect Nimlok too significantly.
"Most of our clients are of a size where they are VAT registered and are able to claim it back so it won't have a huge effect on our trade. However, we may see some knock on effects from our clients in the business to consumer sectors where consumers may feel the pinch and adjust their spending accordingly," he suggested.
However, while Nimlok is optimistic about its future, the company is still feeling some of the effects of the recession.
"As a legacy, there are still budgets being cut and a sense of short-termism in the marketplace, with people not committing too far ahead for projects," he said, noting that Nimlok's rental options have become more popular.
"Overall, we're experiencing a slight increase in our business compared to last year and feel the worse is behind us; we are just starting to see business grow again."