Meet Trevor Lui, Director of Operations & Sustainability at The International Centre. From the dish lines of a tiny restaurant to producing some of the largest and most prestigious events in Canada, he’s always focused on thinking outside conventional trends and is a strong advocate for change. His mission is to take his nearly 20 years of experience and change how people think before they plan to meet, eat and socialize. As a life-long foodie, Trevor is also a co-creator and owner behind two of Toronto’s foremost food experiences, La Brea Food and Kanpai Snack Bar.
The International Centre is one of only four event venues in Canada to have Level 1 ASTM/APEX certification. What does that mean for the venue? And what does that translate into for planners?
It solidifies our mission and commitment to being a leader and venue that provides businesses and event professionals viable options to produce sustainable events.
Tell us how you incorporate sustainability into food and events at the International Centre.
We partner with local growers who can provide a supply of seasonal ingredients. We also have a strong focus on providing viable healthy options, bulk, non-packaged options and offer monitoring or guidance on how to reduce excess ordering and minimize food waste.
You’re known for thinking outside conventional trends and transforming experiences for the future. What do you see as the biggest trend/opportunity for sustainable events going forward?
Dealing with the ongoing challenges of commodity price increases. There is a direct correlation of how our industry over-indulges so we want to work closely with willing partners to change their buying habits to mitigate rising prices of food and labour. Water is also going to be a bigger hot button in the near future. Beyond bottled water, I think we may see a backlash in future of how much water is being wasted in meetings with jugs that are set on tables, untouched and discarded. The biggest though, is the emerging topic of event security and how we can ensure our attendees feel safe at events. I think that there is a direct effect on individual wellness and how people perform/attend business events so opening the dialogue on this topic is imperative.
What do you hope planners will start doing more or less of that we aren’t currently seeing in the industry?
Redefining how we meet. Everything from content, room setup and face to face engagement. Attention spans are much shorter so we want to think of how we can convince planners to move away from their workable agendas and try different things. We also have to do a better job at understanding how important our industry is to the local and regional economies. On set education and advocacy will help to sustain an industry that has seen some leveling off in recent years. We do this by ensuring we meet more with open dialogue. The combined direct and indirect impact to our GDP as an industry is more than people would think it is.
Do you think millennial audiences have a lot of influence on the sustainability agenda?
Very strong influence but combined with the next emerging generation behind them (just entered the work force), even more. They both account for a much larger share of buyers which means they are in one form or another, influential decision makers. If sustainability is one of their differentiating factors in making a decision (and there is data that proves this) then they certainly are an influential group that companies need to focus their attention to.
How do you use social media to promote change in the meetings and events industry?
It’s part of the ‘story-telling’ behind messaging. The social media platforms are the most prevalent forms of communication so ‘point, click and sharing’ through Snapchat, Instagram, etc is the best and most effective way to speak to a unique audience.
For over 40 years, The International Centre has been home to many of Canada’s largest and most popular events with 548,000 square feet of expansive and versatile exhibit and conference space. It’s also the event venue of choice for the socially minded. Learn more about their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.