We’d like you to meet Sonja Van Rooyen, the green champion at Specialised Exhibitions – a division of Montgomery Group. Here she shares a little more about their sustainability journey, including where they are and where they want to be.
Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the exhibition industry and how did you know it was the place for you?
A. I was born and raised in Gauteng. I have a certificate in Waste Management and am currently the Exhibition Manager for Propak. I’ve worked in various sectors – from the Building to Waste and the Property Management Industry. When I was visiting exhibitions or exhibiting with the companies I was with at the time, the excitement and buzz always got me.
When I was head-hunted for my current position, that was a career highlight, and landing the job was a dream come true. Six years later, the industry has become an extension of who I am.
Q. You’ve taken on the role as the green champion for your company. How did this come about, and why do you feel it is important you do this?
A. Because of my background in the waste industry and passion for the environment, it came naturally to take on the green champion role in my company. I saw an opportunity to promote green initiatives and engage my colleagues to act and improve our company’s environmental impact internally and at our shows.
Q. Let’s talk sustainability at Specialised Exhibitions. Where is the company in its sustainability journey, and where do you want to be? What are you hoping to gain from being a member of the Event Greening Forum?
A. We are at the implementation stages – taking action, engaging, and gaining knowledge on how we position our company to run sustainable events and make sure that we collaborate with our suppliers and customers to ensure we all align with the initiatives around sustainable events.
Being a member of the Event Greening Forum, I look forward to connecting purposefully with industry professionals, acquiring new knowledge and gaining insights that I can share as best practices with my colleagues. And to contribute to solutions that can drive change.
Q. It an exhibition level, what are some of the initiatives that you have implemented to manage large events in a more sustainable manner?
A. We have a contractor that does all our recycling, but as an exhibition organiser, we strive to reduce our carbon footprint at our events. Specialised Exhibitions is a division of the Montgomery Group, and the group has signed a pledge which is a commitment to address climate change and promote sustainability. Across all our shows, at the different subsidiaries, our group is working towards reducing our carbon footprint in every way possible.
“Across all our shows, at the different subsidiaries, our group is working towards reducing our carbon footprint in every way possible.”
Q. What has surprised you the most about event greening?
A. The knowing that we have a platform that promotes sustainable and ethical business and practices within the events industry. And what has most impressed me is the access I now have to event industry professionals who, like me, are green champions and want to expand their knowledge, share insights, and collaborate on ideas to improve how we deliver events without compromising our environment.
“What has most impressed me is the access I now have to event industry professionals who, like me, are green champions and want to expand their knowledge, share insights, and collaborate on ideas to improve how we deliver events without compromising our environment.”
Q. If you could share only one sustainability tip with other exhibition organisers, what would it be?
A. It would be more of a call to action to say; climate change is an existential threat to our society and a large extent, our industry. It’s essential to continue the conversation, take action toward carbon management practices and strive to deliver sustainable events.
Q. It can be hard to stay positive in the face of the climate change problem. How do you stay positive, and what do you do to keep your teams motivated?
A. That’s true. It becomes hard to stay positive but, I constantly remind my team that the workaround sustainability is not a once-off nor a tick-box exercise but a continuous pledge to improve our company’s environmental impact. My motivation is always to remind the team that the work is not just for us but for future generations.