The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), initiated by the Scandinavian Chapter of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in collaboration with professional conference organiser MCI Group, is geared at driving the growth of sustainable meetings destinations worldwide.
The ambitious initiative, which has gathered data from 21 participating cities since the creation of the Index in March this year, aims to bring destinations together to benchmark and improve the social and environmental performance of their respective meetings industries by highlighting best practice and promoting responsible business tourism.
It’s hoped more than 100 destinations will have signed up by 2020.
Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the GDS Index helps cities and convention bureaux to progress the adoption and recognition of sustainable practices locally.
Evaluation criteria covers four key areas: city environmental strategy and infrastructure; city social sustainability performance; industry supplier support (restaurants, hotels and convention centres); and convention bureau strategy and initiatives.
The Index is designed to take account of the destinations’ existing sustainability activity and certification programmes and provide an objective, overall evaluation of the city as a sustainable meetings destination.
Glasgow is leading the way in the UK in its commitment to sustainability following the launch of Sustainable Glasgow in 2010 – a public / private partnership bringing together Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Skills Development Scotland, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the Wheatley Group and the city’s academic and industrial sectors to champion a programme designed to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.
The programme has delivered a number of sustainability projects over the past six years in areas including transport, green infrastructure and renewable energy with plans also now in place for sustainable waste management for Glasgow.
Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: “Glasgow is working towards becoming one of Europe’s most sustainable cities by 2020 and a world-leading centre for sustainable policy, innovation and action. From the installation of ‘smart’ LED streetlights and significant investment in low-carbon travel options to the creation of renewable energy schemes and green jobs, we are committed to improving quality of life for our communities, protecting our environment and developing a green economy with sustainability at the top of the agenda.
“Glasgow is really at the forefront of developments in the energy, sustainability and low carbon industries, with a growing reputation for business and academic excellence in these areas. We’re home to some of the world’s biggest energy companies and we’re internationally recognised as having one of the healthiest and most diverse energy industries globally. This in turn has had a hugely positive impact on the volume of conferences that we’re attracting in these sectors, which is reflected in our position as the only UK city to be featured in the GDS Index.”
In the next two years Glasgow will host 20 energy, sustainability and low carbon industry-related meetings, which will deliver nearly 60,000 delegate days and boost the city’s economy by more than £23 million. Beyond this, some 40 new conferences won by Glasgow in the last financial year, for future years through to 2022, came from those sectors. That represents 8% of all conference business secured by Glasgow in 2015/16 and 48% year-on-year growth.
One such conference is the 38th Euroheat & Power Congress, which will bring nearly 500 overseas delegates to the SECC in May next year.
Silke Schlinnertz, Head of Operations and Events for the congress, said: “Glasgow’s bid marked the city out as a strong exemplar of the pattern of development that is likely to typify future UK district heating expansion – Glasgow is aiming to cut 30% of its CO2 emissions by 2020, with district heating expected to play a major role.
“The city’s well-researched bid has been combined with a premium service from both Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and the SECC convention centre highlighting their shared commitment to environmental sustainability and the values and principle that make it possible. The entire team at Euroheat & Power congratulates Glasgow on achieving the certification as the first UK city to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index. It’s yet another confirmation of Glasgow’s commitment to sustainability and gives event planners one more reason to choose the city as their next meeting destination.”
The Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre (SECC), which is located on Glasgow’s riverfront, holds the highest award possible – the Gold Award – for international Green Tourism and provides free city bike hire for conference delegates through Glasgow City Council’s Nextbike hire scheme – the largest in Scotland with more than 400 bikes and over 40 pick-up locations across the city.
Over 80% of the city's hotel bedrooms, representing more than 10,000 rooms, are within 30 minutes of the SECC and are easily accessible by public transport – including two fully electric buses which operate between the city centre and the SECC campus. Moreover, some 40% of Glasgow’s hotels have achieved a Green Tourism award.
Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales at the SECC said: “We welcome this very important initiative. This recognition and ranking as the only city in the UK on the GDS-Index amongst leading international conference destinations will undoubtedly put Glasgow at a competitive advantage and underlines the city’s appeal as a world-class sustainable events location.”
Carly Thompson, Events Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Glasgow is at the heart of Scotland’s renewable energy industry, with figures from our members showing more than 2,000 people are employed in the sector in the city. Companies including Sgurr Energy, ScottishPower, Star Renewable Energy and many others are all based in Glasgow, with their operations extending across the UK, Europe and the world.
“Scottish Renewables holds numerous events in the city throughout the year, including a growing number of headline conferences and the hugely-popular Young Professionals Green Energy Awards. We’re proud to work with venues in Glasgow, many of which are proactively adopting sustainable practices which are very much aligned with our own goals and ambitions.”
Guy Bigwood, Group Sustainability Director of MCI, said: “To remain competitive in today’s socio-economic climate, leading event destinations need to highlight more than the technical capacity of their MICE industry. They need to demonstrate how their destination adds value – for delegates, our environment and society overall. By being the first in the UK to participate in the GDS-Index, Glasgow has firmly positioned itself as a leading, and responsible, destination.”