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Informa Markets Fashion on Making Industry Events More Sustainable

An event doesn’t have to be a Sustainability Event with a capital S to be a sustainable event. Informa Markets Fashion, the powerhouse producer of business-to-business fashion events like Magic, Coterie, Project and Sourcing at Magic, is amping up its efforts to be more sustainable, from the brands it carries to the resources needed to run 14 large-scale events a year.

As buyer demand for more sustainable brands grows, particularly at contemporary Coterie and Project, the pressure is on not just to exhibit brands that fit the bill, but to vet the sustainability claims they make. Sustainability is even on the radar at mass market fast-fashion event Magic, as retailers are increasingly inquiring about it. For that reason, it’s imperative that Informa knows exactly what its exhibitors are claiming and selling.

At Sourcing Journal’s Sustainability Summit panel “Informa Markets Fashion’s New Era” on Wednesday Kelly Helfman, commercial president, Informa Markets Fashion, stressed the importance of getting it right. “To use a licensing analogy, if a boutique were to call me up to say they got in trouble selling a knockoff Rolling Stones tee they bought at one of our events, that would be on me,” she said. “And for sustainability, we believe it’s equally or more important.”

To substantiate sustainability claims, Informa has retained a third-party assessment company called Hey Social Good. This company helps vet and verify (“we go more the verification route, not certification,” Helfman said), to give brands a sustainability score to highlight where they are in their journey.

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Informa can then be transparent with its retailers, showing what a brand is doing, or where they are working to improve. “Maybe a brand can’t afford to manufacture in a specific country but they have a give-back program,” Helfman said. “We are sharing data with our retailers and making sure we hold our friends accountable.”

And while the fashion community pivots its businesses to be more sustainable, it’s imperative that the event producer does so as well.

To trim waste for its events held in New York, Las Vegas and Nashville, Tenn., the fashion division even appropriates ideas from Informa Markets’ non-fashion events, such as natural products event Expo West. “Obviously an event about natural and healthy living sets a great example for us and we’ve learned so much,” Helfman said.

From setting up water stations that don’t give out plastic cups or securing sponsors that give out refillable water bottles, Helfman has personally pledged that her company’s events would be carbon neutral by 2025 and by 2030 hopefully will be zero waste.

For those who think traveling to events to exhibit or shop might not seem the most environmentally sound practice, Helfman pointed out that that flying around the country to visit accounts in cities all over the country creates a larger carbon footprint. “When you have a big marketplace like Magic or Coterie and you can shop a bunch of brands in one place, you’re actually helping save the environment, and gaining a lot of knowledge. You get a lot of bang for your buck in a few days, and that’s something we’re passionate about, for all of our events,” she added.