Sustainable Destinations – Choosing the Right Place

“Going green” isn’t just a PR buzzword anymore, as pioneering organisations across all industries are making serious efforts to manage their environmental and social impact. In the meetings and events world, a new ground-breaking initiative, the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), was launched in March 2016 by IMEX, ICCA and MCI. Initially started by ICCA’s Scandinavian Chapter and MCI, its goal is to drive the adoption, promotion and recognition of sustainable practices in business tourism.

As an event professional, why should you start paying attention to this global initiative and how can you benefit from it?  In addition to helping event destinations improve their sustainability performance, the GDS-Index was also created in order to help planners:

1. Understand the Fundamentals of Event Sustainability

We’re used to corporate jargon, but when it comes to walking the talk, what are the concrete practices, steps and measures needed in order to align event operations with corporate values? Sustainability can be such an abstract concept – where do we start and what does it actually involve? After all, it’s not just about saving trees or recycling – local community impact and financial viability need to be considered as well. The GDS-Index breaks this complex topic down into bite-sized pieces to help the event planner approach sustainability simply and holistically. By incorporating detailed evaluation criteria over four categories: environmental, social, supplier and convention bureau performance, the event professional can gain insight into best practices and learnings that are being implemented across destinations worldwide.

2. Accurately Assess and Compare a Destination’s Sustainability Performance

Given the variety of sustainable city indexes and data out there, how does one choose a destination without spending days (or even weeks) poring over their climate action plans or searching venue eco-certifications? More importantly, while certain indexes give an indication of sustainability, they do not include criteria that take into account MICE-industry specific considerations such as venue accessibility, industry supplier support or Convention Bureau strategy. Thus an event industry professional will find that these rankings and reports may complicate the destination search process instead of making it easier – and being a planner is stressful enough as it is!

To simplify this task, the GDS-Index works as a tool that allows planners and organizers to assess and compare a mix of global destinations and their unique features, including two major criteria that are events-industry specific: Supplier Support (restaurants, hotels and convention centers) and Convention Bureau Strategy and Initiatives. This makes the GDS-Index the first-ever sustainability ranking for event destinations worldwide, created specifically to help destinations, event planners and suppliers to evaluate the sustainability strategies of destinations and their events industry.

3. Join the Global MICE Movement Towards Sustainability

The MICE community needs to bring sustainability closer to the forefront of the industry, and joining this initiative is the first step towards incorporating more ecological practices into our events. “But sustainability was never a top priority for my client,” you may protest. However times are changing in the events sphere, and it’s no longer feasible for your client not to care (or for you to claim so).

According to Julie Lindsey, Director of Gap Inc. Global Events: “Sustainability in the meetings and events industry is not only good for brand perception, it’s becoming easier to execute and more noticeable to attendees and stakeholders. Your attendees, customers, sponsors and employees will notice a sustainable meeting, and even more so an unsustainable one, so it’s a planner’s imperative to implement those meeting standards.” She continues: “This is why initiatives like the Global Destination Sustainability Index are so useful and will only grow in importance. It is a perfect example of how we can connect our community to implement and drive sustainability progress together.”

Indeed, considering the boom in associations and corporate brands committing to sustainability, it won’t be long before demands for “sustainable suppliers” and “eco-friendly destinations” become trendier than Vogue. The event planner must now think of sustainability as a competitive edge and be armed with the right tools. Are you prepared?

In 2016, three Danish cities joined the GDS-Index – Aalborg, Aarhus and Copenhagen. Find out how they compare at