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Sustainable development at Palexpo

According to the often-quoted Brundtland Report, "Our Common Future", "sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that meets human needs while preserving the environment. To achieve this goal, one must integrate social, environmental, and economic issues in a company's, city's or country's management. This implies applying strict principles of governance.
Sustainable management has been a tenet of Palexpo corporate culture for many years and this has translated into numerous actions and realizations. Different solutions have been implemented in order to evaluate and monitor progress:

  • Creation of an interdepartmental, multidisciplinary "sustainable development" committee of about eleven people.
  • Setting of general principles and of a code of conduct for environmental-friendly behavior.
  • Setting of Palexpo sustainable development indicators (2011) to monitor the company’s performance on economic, social and environmental issues.
  • Realization of a sustainable management audit (2011), aiming to evaluate Palexpo practices and governance in the context of sustainability.




Governance concerns general running of the business, management methods (business ethics and risks), and information (transparency), as well as the social responsibility of an organization towards its partners and the local community. It guides commitments to ethical and responsible conduct, and to helping partners (suppliers, customers, etc.) and employees make progress towards sustainability.




Regarding governance, Palexpo has achieved multiple goals and set up numerous procedures:

  • Fair competition and transaction control: equity and objectivity in commercial transactions. Three levels of control of tender.
  • Transaction accounting and auditing: IPSAS (Institute for International Public Sector Accounting Standards) accounting.
  • Procurement policy. Systematic evaluation of the most important suppliers’ risks (human capacity, respect for deadlines, financial risk, quality of products and executions. Two principles guide purchases: 1) Buying durable and/or recyclable products and 2) buying locally whenever possible. In 2010, 95% of goods and services were purchased in Switzerland.
  • Place in the local community. For several years, Palexpo has been an active member in the community, whether local (Geneva Canton and its population) or sector-based (exhibition industry).
    • Within the framework of Agenda 21, participation in the conference "SMEs and sustainable development: businesses looking to the future" of November 29th, 2005, as a pilot company in this field.
    • Staff participation in local events related to sustainable development: Geneva "Marche de l’Espoir 2005," a sponsored walk organized by Terre des Hommes on October 9th, 2005; Geneva "Sustainable Development Festival" in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
    • Participation in the construction of the Grand-Saconnex (a Genevan district) "Green Map."
    • Being the first to attain “Label Q“ certification, awarded by the Swiss Tourism Federation.
    • Participation in the Working Committee of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) on sustainable development in the exhibitions industry.
    • Education and raising awareness. Employees are trained to save energy, as well as to reduce waste and recycle. Boards provide reminders of tips for everyday life in these regards.
    • Information on initiatives and achievements in the local and industry press.

Economic dimension of sustainable management at Palexpo

A company’s vocation is to perform its activity in a sustainable way to survive and develop. Rigorous and responsible resource management is necessary to achieve this goal. Moreover, the state of Geneva is the majority shareholder of Palexpo, which is thus committed to serving the public interest.

Palexpo fills its various obligations to a maximum:






    • + 11% gross m2 rented in 2010 compared to 2009 (803,633 m2)
    • + 11.8% exhibitors en 2010 compared to 2009 (5,143 exhibitors) for a slightly decreasing number of visitors (- 4.2% in 2010, i.e., 1.290,657 visitors).
    • + 13% events in 2010 compared to 2009 (113 events).
    • + 3.7% sales (CHF 56,673,317) in 2010 compared to 2009.
    • + 13,1% investments (CHF 24,277,574) in 2010 compared to 2009. An ambitious investment program is planned for the years to come, which will have a strong impact on energy consumption.
    • Competitive advantage. Palexpo and Geneva canton sustainable development policy has induced a significant competitive advantage on the market for exhibitions, events, and congresses. Indeed this positioning, together with the numerous actions taken, has attracted new events and exhibitions to Palexpo.
    • Cost reduction. The cost of various energy sources per gross m2 rented has significantly decreased from 2009 to 2010 (from 19% to 7%), as a result of lower energy consumption. These figures are especially important given the high proportion of energy costs to sales. Water cost per gross m2 rented was also lower in 2010 (by 23% compared to 2009) matching the consumption decrease.
    • Economic spin-offs for Geneva canton are important. They have been evaluated for 2010 at 545 million Swiss francs, including 36 million Swiss francs of tax revenue (for more details, refer to Rapport d'activité 2010, p. 13).


Environmental dimension of sustainable management at Palexpo

Environmental protection demands rigorous management of natural resources (energy and water), of waste production, and of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. Since its relocation to a site close to the Geneva airport in 1989, Palexpo has made constant efforts towards sustainable use of resources.







All electric power in Palexpo, including the supply to exhibitors and visitors is derived from renewable energy sources. Electricity consumed for general infrastructure operation (ventilation, cooling, lighting of exhibition halls and offices; office equipment; kitchen system) is of 100% Swiss hydro-electricity origin. Today, the total electrical load of the site is 36,000 KW in order to answer all exhibitors' needs. Palexpo uses district heating (DH) to heat its halls.
In 2010, Palexpo consumed much less energy, compared to 2009:

  • Global energy consumption: - 12.1%.
  • Electricity: - 18.6%.
  • Thermal energy (District heating): - 3.0%.

Significant energy-efficiency improvement explains these consumption drops, which were achieved thanks to various measures:

  • Energy audits: energy audits (preliminary audit in 2005, in-depth audit in 2008) were made par SIG (Services Industriels de Genève), within the framework of NOE (Nouvelle Offre d'Electricité). NOE is a public demand-side management program aiming at reducing electricity consumption of major Geneva electricity consumers (i.e., sites consuming more than 1GWh of electricity per year). Part of the energy-efficiency measures identified by audits has been implemented.
  • Electricity consumption data collected using Internet (WebEnergie).
  • Ventilation: an ambitious project aiming at improving the exhibition centre’s ventilation will start in 2012. It should lead to important energy savings as well as to improved comfort for visitors and exhibitors. This project is part of the global investment program "20xx."
  • Lighting. Several energy-efficiency measures have been taken or are under way:
    • Replacement of neon tubes in the halls with models consuming 12% less energy for the same lighting quality.
    • Installation of motion detectors in the toilets, basement areas and corridors of the administration building.
    • Installation of energy-efficient light bulbs in certain areas (under way).
    • Switching off of exhibition transformers (40,000 kWh saved in 2007, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of ten Swiss households).
    • Restriction of lighting strictly to those areas in service in the exhibition halls.

Renewable energy

Palexpo promotes renewable energy in partnership with Services Industriels de Genève (SIG), the Geneva canton supplier of natural gas, heat (DH), and electricity.

  • Palexpo uses 100% hydro-electricity for its infrastructure needs (SIG Vitale Bleu).
  • Renewable energy is supplied to exhibitors and organizers: "SIG Vitale Vert" green electricity is supplied to exhibition stands, in case of load need below 10 KW. SIG Vitale Vert electricity is composed of at least 2.5% of "new renewable (solar and biomass), the rest coming from hydro-electricity (SIG Vitale Vert for more information). Above 10 KW, clients may choose between "blue" and "green" electricity.
  • Palexpo became the second-largest solar electricity generating plant in Switzerland, with the installation in 2011 of 15,000 photovoltaic cells on the roof of its exhibition halls (Halls 1-6).
    This project is the result of a close collaboration between Geneva’s public utilities authority, the ‘SIG’, and Palexpo to achieve a common goal : to increase the production of renewable energies in Geneva, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development, as recommended by the Cantonal authorities.
    Today this installation provides sufficient electricity to cover the annual requirements of 1,350 households. A Naturemade Star certificate can be made available upon request to users of solar-powered energy.


Since it is 100% derived from renewable energy sources, electricity consumed by Palexpo is carbon free. CO2 emissions from district heating are low.

  • 2009: Palexpo made a Bilan Carbone of its exhibition center and offices. Bilan Carbone is a method developed by the French public agency ADEME to help organizations mitigate climate change through two complementary steps: 1) the first step consists of a diagnosis of the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions related to an activity; 2) based on the results of the first step, the second step consists of identifying solutions enabling emissions reductions and recommending the corresponding measures. Some of these measures have been implemented, or will be implemented within the energy-efficiency investment program.
  • Palexpo is a member of AEnEC (Agence de l'Energie pour l'Economie), an organization which helps industrial and services firms improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, while avoiding payment of a CO2 tax.


Palexpo has reduced water consumption through investments in water-efficient equipment:

  • 2010: - 23% compared to 2009.
  • Installing automatic taps: all washbasins in the Congress Centre have been equipped with taps that stop automatically.
  • Reducing the quantity water used for toilet-flushing.

Palexpo’s waste policy is strict and ambitious. It applies and promotes the "3 R" concept (Reduce – Reuse – Recycle), by raising awareness internally (with staff) as well as externally (with exhibitors and visitors). In this respect, the exhibition center is a pioneer among Swiss exhibition centers. Waste recycling has reached exceptional levels of nearly 80% for certain exhibitions.
The waste policy has translated into significant achievements:

  • 11% total waste reduction in 2010 compared to 2009. Yet waste flow may vary strongly from one year to another, in relation to Palexpo business variations and to buildings' renovation and construction.
  • 42% of total waste flow was sorted out on site for recycling by Palexpo in 2010, a slowly decreasing rate compared to 2009 (46%). A second sorting is made out by Serbeco on their site of Vernier, what allows reaching an annual recycling rate of 70 %. SERBECO, a waste processing company that has sustainable development and corporate social responsibility high on its agenda, collects most of Palexpo waste.
  • Palexpo waste separation program includes fourteen categories:
    • Incinerables, voluminous incinerables, wood, scrap and light iron, girders, aluminum, waste to be sorted, construction waste, paper & cardboard, glass, plastic (PET), carpets, hazardous materials, electric and electronic materials.
  • 70% of the exhibition corridors’ carpets have been recycled in 2010, thanks to partnerships with carpet producers. Palexpo is proud of its new policy in this field, which has been tested and progressively implemented over two years and is now working well. A significant percentage of used carpets is also given to charity organizations for re-use.
  • Wood recycling.
    • Use of recycled wood floors in the exhibitions.
    • Recovery of untreated wood. Recovered wood is mainly used to feed boiler rooms of nearby municipalities. Lower-quality wood is sent by train to Italy to produce particle panels, used by furniture or construction industries.


  • Drawing up a list of dangerous products and pollutants along with their characteristics, and use of the least toxic substitutes to prevent, eliminate or reduce pollution.
  • Use, whenever possible, of biodegradable products.
  • Purchase of holding tanks for dangerous liquids.

Palexpo exhibitions and events attract hundreds of thousands of visitors (1,290,657 in 2010) and thousands of exhibitors (5,143 in 2010) every year. Every effort is made to reduce the noise, pollution and traffic congestion which may result from activity. The transport policy is aimed at increasing the use of more sustainable transportation modes, at regulating staff travel and at optimizing materials and waste transport.

  • Promoting more sustainable transport modes.
    • Development of public transportation. The location of Palexpo itself has favored the integration of public transport: by air, rail, and bus.
    • Promotion of public transport by prompting Palexpo customers (organizers, exhibitors, visitors) to use the “Geneva Transport Card,“ allowing free travel over the entire cantonal transportation network for people staying in a hotel, youth hostel, or at a camp site.
    • Inciting walking from the airport and railway station to the exhibition center (five minutes by foot).
    • Installation of an electrical charge port for two-wheel vehicles in the parking area, which may be used free of charge.
    • Purchase of electric vehicles.
  • Staff travelling. A strict travel policy is applied to regulate staff travel and choice of transportation (plane or train) according to distance.
  • Transport of goods. An intermediate parking area connected to the site has been created for lorries, in order to reduce pollution and traffic noise as well as to improve logistics.
  • Transport of waste. 39% fewer kilometers in 2010 compared to 2009 for waste, thanks to waste reduction and optimization of container filling over this time period.


Social dimension of sustainable management at Palexpo

The social dimension of sustainable management includes employees' human rights and working conditions. It prescribes application of fair working conditions and an anti-discrimination policy, encourages employment of the local workforce, and promotes a safe work environment.







Palexpo is a model of a company regarding health, safety and security. A complete management system is in place.

  • Staff is informed and trained.
  • A trained officer responsible for health and safety has been appointed to maximise Palexpo health and safety facilities for staff, clients, suppliers, visitors and those using the site, as well as for neighbors.
  • Safety of persons, materials and infrastructures is ensured by a global prevention and communication system, underlined by ambitious policy and goals. Risks have been identified and treated.
  • Health:
    • Application of SUVA guidelines (Swiss Insurance Company against accidents) regarding safety and health at work and of MSST guideline (enforced since January 1st, 2007, which prescribes identifying dangers and implementing measures within a company security system to protect groups at risk.
  • Vaccination campaigns and anti-addiction programs.
  • Security:
    • Palexpo is in legal conformity and, additionally, has put voluntary measures in place. Procedures are well documented.
    • Staff is trained and exercises are performed on a regular basis.
    • Ad hoc material is available.


Within Palexpo, 138 employees (2010), of which 41% are women, fall under thirty-two different job categories! Presence in the local working market is excellent since 100% of the management is hired locally. Women make up 56% of the management staff.
Staff welfare is a permanent concern at Palexpo. We do our best to attract, recruit and keep skilled and experienced employees.

Some of our working conditions are the following:

  • Working time flexibility.
  • Recognition of employees' working availability -a condition indispensable to our business- through appropriate compensation.
  • Equal remuneration for women and men.
  • Detailed and documented procedures for integrating new employees.
  • Staff performance assessed and career plan discussed each year (taking into account limitations due to the size of the company).
  • Training program updated each year. Twenty-five hours training in average per employee and per year. English and German classes offered to many staff members.
  • Measurement of employees' satisfaction, based on questionnaires, surveys, and meetings. Results communicated on the intranet and integrated into strategic objectives.
  • Detailed procedures exist to fight against possible problems of harassment, mobbing, and hierarchical fault.
  • Employees' meals in the cafeteria are subsidized and well-balanced.
  • Sports activities are organized on site.