The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) was first inspired by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Scandinavian chapter and MCI Group as 15 cities created the Scandinavian Destination Sustainability Index to measure the sustainability efforts of each destination. Today, the GDS-Index is a collaborative effort between ICCA, IMEX Exhibitions, City Destinations Alliance, MCI Group, and GUBI Consulting. The global index evaluates destinations worldwide across four key areas: environmental performance, social progress performance, supplier performance, and destination management performance. And per the release of the 2023 GDS-Index, Canada is now home to the highest concentration of destinations participating in the index, which can be attributed in part to Destination Canada’s Business Events Sustainability Plan.
“Destination Canada’s Business Events Sustainability Plan is a first-of-its-kind program aimed at improving the economic, sociocultural, and environmental sustainability practices of business events hosted in Canada,” explains Virginie de Visscher, executive director of business events at Destination Canada. “Developed in three phases, it starts with training, continues with a performance improvement program, and ends with storytelling and sharing results.”
The primary goals of the plan are to help global clients develop business events with a heavy focus on sustainability, emphasizing international association conferences, trade exhibitions, workshops and seminars, and corporate meetings and incentive group events; to inspire change and increase knowledge of the environmental, sociocultural, and economic impacts events can have on a host destination; and help Canada become a model for countries around the world for sustainable business events. “We all have a responsibility to economically, socially, and environmentally benefit the host communities and global ecosystems we visit,” says Visscher. “The Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan empowers our partners and our clients to do just that and ultimately foster a regenerative tourism ecosystem that produces positive net benefits for all Canadians.”
Notable Canadian destinations participating in the GDS-Index include Victoria, British Columbia; Ottawa, Ontario; and Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. Destination Greater Victoria in British Columbia, the first carbon-neutral destination management company in North America, became the first urban destination in North America to earn the Responsible Tourism Institute’s coveted biosphere certification, which recognizes a commitment to environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, and equity and social responsibility. Banff & Lake Louise Tourism’s Community Impact Program allows organization hosting events in the area to purchase prepaid co-invested cards for their clients and attendees to use to support local businesses, and the program was recently shortlisted for the GDS Innovation Award.
“It’s incredible to see the Canadian participation in the GDS-Index,” says Visscher. “There’s no other country in the world with as many destinations as Canada participating in the GDS-Index. Having [a total of] 20 Canadian destinations committed to improving their sustainability practices through the index, including 16 destinations that are also participating in the Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan, means that global meeting clients have an incredible array of options in our country when choosing where to host an event.”