Putting sustainability into practise – the ZEISSIG model

Everything is interdependent. So when sustainability is integrated economically and environmentally as a key element of one’s own business philosophy, this means: working at several levels simultaneously in a forward-looking manner. Back at the end of the 1980s, Hartmut Zeissig, as the managing partner of ZEISSIG GmbH & Co. KG, already began to pave the way for resource saving measures in production, as well as the operative business of the internationally active exhibition stand construction company, and to improve the energy balance of the company in the long term. And these were not the only aspects.

At the time, Zeissig started to shred all of the residual wood from production, and the no longer reusable wooden construction components, and to store this shredded material in silos so that it could be used in winter for heating, instead of having to dispose of it expensively by other means. “Ever since then, we have not only dispensed with fossil fuels and saved ourselves a lot of disposal expenses, we also have our own independent supply chain, and have considerably improved our energy balance,” says Zeissig.

This initial measure has long grown into a major platform: a modern air extraction and filter system with heat recovery is connected to all of the production machines, and returns the heat from the waste air to the production buildings again. Zeissig installed a photovoltaic system covering over 1000 sqm on the roof in 2009, and uses this cleanest form of energy to cover 25 per cent of its own electricity requirements, and slash electricity costs by around 60 per cent thanks to the revenue generated by the feed-in tariff. This upgrading of the building infrastructure was carried out in parallel to rigorous modernisation of the whole machine pool over the years, which not only led to significant energy savings, but primarily also optimised the material processing activities – in other words, reduced the amount of waste. For Zeissig, sustainability in exhibition stand construction also meant early on counteracting the throw-away culture of former times by way of an innovative exhibition architecture based on individually designed but still reusable components. This formed the basis for creating a new business model: the multi-reusable modular customised exhibition stand.

For the wind turbine engineering company Enercon for instance, Zeissig realised a modular exhibition stand system which dispensed with the conventional system components, and was rented by the company from Niedersachsen for a defined period of time and specified number of uses. The stand is sometimes 20 sqm in size, and sometimes covers 280 sqm, and is therefore adapted from exhibition to exhibition in accordance with the exhibitor’s corporate requirements, and the varying amount of exhibition space available at each event.

The rental fee is linked to the number of times it is used at shows within a specified time period. This not only allows the exhibiting company to implement project-oriented budgeting, and multiple reuse of the individual components, but also to satisfy the growing demands for more environmentally-friendly construction. The obvious economic advantages for ambitious exhibitors is married here to the sustainability aspect: thanks to the careful selection of materials, the design and the flexible variability in size, the modular construction can be used for many years, even in the face of changing requirements. This saves resources.

This is also one of the concepts pursued by the state of Niedersachsen, which therefore uses the modular exhibition stands designed by Zeissig ever since 2007 for its major appearances at CeBIT and the Hannover Messe.

A prerequisite for the full implementation of this concept is the availability of significant storage capacities. When the stand is not being used, Zeissig temporarily stores all of the components in its own warehouses. 12,000 m2 of warehouse space is now required for this purpose, and the construction of additional storage capacities is planned in the medium term – the modular customised exhibition stand on a rental contract: a success model.

Membership of the international OSPI Service Network also generates significant resource savings. Zeissig has been an active member of this network for more than 30 years. The OSPI Network brings together over 150 exhibition service companies from 51 countries, which provide mutual support when required. “Whenever we realise a stand for one of our clients at a show in a foreign country, we call on the support of local partners at the location, which carry out all of the necessary work on our behalf, build components according to our specifications, and carry out the assembly work. This enables us to solve time and logistics problems, avoid otherwise considerable transport and travel expenses, as well as making a small contribution to reducing waste gas emissions,” says Hartmut Zeissig.

To improve the company’s environmental footprint even further, Hartmut Zeissig took on a responsible position early on as a foundation founder and member of the foundation supervisory board of the FAMAB foundation established in 2013. The foundation sponsors sector-related social/charitable nature and environmental protection projects. In a first step, a deforested plot in Panama covering 100,000 sqm was acquired, renaturised, and replanted with trees to make an active contribution to climate protection. The initiative is now supported by almost 50 companies and private individuals.