Launch of the New Global Destination Sustainability Index

A prize-winning grassroots Scandinavian initiative that evolved into the first-ever sustainability ranking for event destinations worldwide has been launched today. Initiated by ICCA’s Scandinavian Chapter in collaboration with the MCI Group, the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDSI-Index) partnership has now been expanded to include IMEX and ICCA (the International Congress and Convention Association).

The GDS-Index is a collaborative platform that aims to promote the sustainable growth of international meeting destinations, highlighting best practices and responsible business tourism. It looks to bring cities together to benchmark and improve the social and environmental performance of their city and its business events industry.

In a world increasingly focused on responsible business and addressing our environmental impact, the GDS-Index helps destinations to engage clients with sustainability, align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and drive the adoption, promotion and recognition of sustainable practices in their city.

The GDS-Index will evaluate the sustainability performance of cities and bureaus in four key areas, including: city environmental strategy and infrastructure; city social sustainability performance; industry supplier support (restaurants, hotels and convention centres); and Convention Bureau strategy and initiatives. The GDS-Index is designed to take account of the destinations’ existing sustainability initiatives and certification programmes and provide an objective, overall evaluation of the city as a sustainable events destination.

“Our vision is to have over 100 cities benchmarking and collaborating together by 2020. Today I am pleased to announce we have 25 Scandinavian cities based in Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Sweden, as well as our first wave of global cities including Geneva, Stuttgart and Sydney,” said Guy Bigwood, MCI Group Sustainability Director and GDS-Index project leader. “The Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) industry has a unique role to play to help cities and businesses implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and create a more prosperous future for us all,” he added.

Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, continued: “The unique feature of the GDS-Index is that this is a bottom-up phenomenon, driven by the destinations themselves. The ICCA members in Scandinavia have invented a powerful engine to improve their destinations’ sustainability and business competitiveness, and we are delighted that they want ICCA to help them share this with the whole world, rather than keeping the GDS-Index to themselves. We believe this is an excellent platform for leaders in sustainability from every region to showcase their policies and good practices, and for any ambitious destination to swiftly improve their competitiveness.”

Sigurjóna Sverrisdóttir, ICCA Scandinavia Chair and Director of Exhibitions and Events at the Reykjavik Convention Bureau, explained: “The Meetings and Events Industry needs to be a champion for the development of local economies, the environment and society.  Participation in the Index helps bureaux and cities focus attention on developing sustainability programs which can benefit us all in the long run. Furthermore it also helps in terms of positive market profiling and positioning.”

“Our industry requires greater focus and efforts to make sustainable events easier, cheaper and totally widespread,” added Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “IMEX is proud to support the development of our industry and this ground-breaking initiative to pioneer sustainability globally for meeting and incentive destinations.”

The Scandinavian GDS-Index was published in 2012 and 2013, and has stimulated a large volume of sustainability initiatives across the Nordic region that continues to this day. The two-year project demonstrated impressive results, with nearly half of convention bureaux in the region developing a sustainability strategy, compared to only 20% before the Index was launched. Sustainability communication has improved by 50%, and eco-certifications across the region rose to include 60% of meetings industry suppliers, more than any other region in the world. The project was also honoured to receive the UN World Tourism Organisation Award for Innovation.



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Guy Bigwood, Director of the Global Destination Sustainability Index:



MCI is a global leader in engaging and activating audiences. Since 1987 we have been driving innovation in events and production, meetings, incentives, congresses, and association and community management. Through our creative consulting, analytics, sustainability and digital services, MCI helps multinational companies and international associations enhance their organisational performance, grow globally, energise communities and drive their business results. MCI is an independently owned company with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Our 1,800 professionals in 60 cities and 32 countries help clients across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, India, the Middle East and Africa.

MCI’s pioneering and award-winning Sustainability Consultancy advises cities, governments, associations and corporations on how to accelerate transformation, catalyse innovation and enhance brand reputation. With over 700 high-profile environmental, social and governance (ESG) events managed to date and industry-wide recognition for our pioneering sustainable event management, ISO certification consulting and sustainability reporting, we have become the world’s leading organiser of sustainable events and events about sustainability.

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ICCA – the International Congress and Convention Association – is the global community and knowledge hub for the international association meetings industry. ICCA represents the main specialists in organising, transporting, and accommodating international meetings and events, and comprises over 1,000 member companies and organisations in over 90 countries worldwide. ICCA specialises in the international association meetings sector, offering unrivalled data, communication channels, and business development opportunities.

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IMEX in Frankfurt, the worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events takes place at Messe Frankfurt from 19 – 21 April 2016. For press releases – .

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The IMEX Group also runs IMEX America, America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings & events, which will take place 18 – 20 October 2016 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center at The Venetian® | The Palazzo®, preceded by Smart Monday, powered by MPI on 17 October.

For further press information, please contact: Emma Ward: Or Chris Lewis: