“A historic building can’t be sustainable, right?” We hear that question a lot, and our reply is always the same: “Well, we absolutely work green.” In this article, Willemijn de Vet (our marketing manager) explains the green initiatives of the Beurs, and how we grow more sustainable every day. Working together is essential to achieve that – inside and outside the organisation.
Willemijn de Vet explains why the Beurs van Berlage believes in sustainability: “We mainly organise multi-day, international conferences. The flights and trash of these events alone result in a large carbon footprint. Pre-covid, we already looked into ways to improve our sustainability – where did we stand as far as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) went? Several taskforces were set up and our employees were actively engaged in the subject, which resulted in many ideas and plans. These initiatives ground to a halt when covid broke out, but we picked it up afterwards. As it turned out, small sustainability projects already existed throughout the entire organisation. They were just never written down.” These separate initiatives had to be centralised. After all, sustainability is teamwork.
To further shape our sustainability policy, the Beurs looked into sustainability certification. This led us to the Green Globe Standard, international certification for the travel and tourism industry. “That trajectory provided us a framework to evaluate and improve with. For instance, we were asked how we handled our trash, and what kind of electricity we used. It resulted in a list of things we did right and aspects to improve upon. In many areas we were already heading into the right direction. Many people believe you can’t take certain initiatives when you have an historic building, such as installing double-paned windows or solar panels. But there are still a lot of green options left. Ultimately, it’s already sustainable to use a century-old building and giving it the right to exist.” Eventually the Beurs was successfully certified, making it the first Dutch conference centre with a Green Globe certificate.
This trajectory also led to the continuously improved CSR policy. “We pondered which aspects of sustainability should be part of our DNA, to form the foundation of our green policy. One of the main pillars: we are not just throwing out everything non-sustainable. For instance, some parts of the building still don’t have LED lights, and we only replace them with sustainable lights when they’re broken. Furthermore, taking green initiatives often means working closely with Monument Conservation. We cannot just add double-paned windows since it changes the outlook of the building. But we can work together to choose a sustainable window that looks the same.”
The Beurs actively invests in innovations, such as ventilation. As summer passed, a lot of warmth stayed inside the building – couldn’t that be used for cold winter days? De Vet: “We set up pumps that keep hot air inside throughout winter. When it’s too cold in one room and hot in another, the system will fix that. The same thing happens in summer, only with cold air. Now we don’t need air conditioning and we consume less gas in winter. At the same time the system circulates fresh air – we don’t pump around ‘used’ oxygen. This has been a huge investment, especially for a historic building, but fortunately it was possible.”
You can’t be sustainable alone. The Beurs is depending on many partners and suppliers, such as our catering service. “Currently, we achieved a seventy percent garbage reduction in our kitchens, but there is still a lot of residual waste. For that reason, we actively ask our suppliers to reconsider their packaging materials. Could fish be delivered without the plastic wrapping? Could the coffee cups be made of renewable paper? Our partners responded positively to this, and all signed our sustainable selling policy. They agreed to inform us about environment-friendly alternatives, to align with our green objectives. Additionally, we advise our customers on how to organise sustainable events. Are there any green alternatives for the plastic name plates they’re requesting, for example? The Green Globe certificate was just the beginning – now we’re taking it to the next level.”
Would you like to know more about sustainability at the Beurs van Berlage? Download our infographic!