A Guide to Creating Meaningful and Sustainable Events

16th May, 2023

“Explore Edmonton” – Edmonton Convention Centre Exterior Event

Sustainability has become a core component of business events. So, how can planners create sustainable meetings, without compromising on quality or budget? Canada has some ideas.

Although important, today’s sustainable destinations are doing a lot more than eliminating water bottles or swag at conferences. They’re taking a holistic approach to the issue — offering guidance on how to minimize environmental footprints, support host communities and preserve and sustain local cultures through business events. When it comes to destinations leading the charge in just that, Canada is among the most progressive.

Here are some of the top ways you can create impactful sustainable events:

Set the right goals

Setting achievable goals, alongside experts, can play a powerful role in jumpstarting your sustainability quest. In Canada, Explore Edmonton is one destination marketing organization that offers this type of guidance. Edmonton was the first city in Western Canada to join the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (GDS-Movement), an annual benchmarking process for destinations around the world.

Both the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre are Green Key and Climate Smart certified, and have launched greenhouse gas reduction plans. These efforts, and the city’s introduction of 13 kilometres of light rail transit, are part of Edmonton’s larger plan to be carbon neutral by 2040.

“Today, living in the time of the climate emergency, making real progress requires an accelerated rate of change,” explains Melissa Radu, Director of Social and Environmental Sustainability, Explore Edmonton. “Initiatives like our carbon-neutral events initiative are helping to transform the meeting and event industry, and providing better accountability for events that want to help reduce emissions over time, as well as their contributions to climate change.” 

Destination Vancouver © Hubert Kang

Embrace local

Knowing that food management and sourcing play an integral role in reducing an event’s environmental footprint, many Canadian destinations have made working with local vendors a standard. For example, in the province of Nova Scotia, the Halifax Convention Centre reduces the carbon footprint of events and supports local communities by partnering with 70+ local suppliers on a menu that celebrates seasonal, readily available organic products.

Over in Toronto, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre  goes as local as the rooftop of its South building, which features six beehives housing 50,000 bees. These insects act as pollinators for the city and provide honey for the culinary team. 

Less is more

When it comes to environmental sustainability, minimizing harmful emission output is key. Planners have a number of resources to help improve the environmental sustainability of their events, like working with dedicated sustainability staff at hotels like the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, or venues that incorporate clean energy initiatives. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre Regina, for example, became the first in Saskatchewan to incorporate green electricity from Canada’s Bullfrog Power.

Choose powerful partnerships

Another way to lessen an event’s impact: work with partners who have sustainability measures in place. On Canada’s West Coast, the Vancouver Convention Centre stands as the world’s first and only double-LEED Platinum certified convention centre. In addition to featuring a six-acre living roof with more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses, the centre uses a seawater heating and cooling system, and local wood products from sustainably-managed forests are incorporated throughout the facility. 

In the province of Québec, Palais de congrès de Montréal is leading the way with urban agriculture initiatives on its expansive rooftop, like VERTical, a project working with new vertical farming technology, and Culti-VERT, a technological showcase for green roofs and container gardening. To make these projects happen, the Palais’ building management team worked with a host of environmental experts, including scientists, engineers, crop farmers and bee farmers.

In Ottawa, the Shaw Centre has a partnership with Food Rescue, developed by Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organisation, and donates surplus food to those in need in the community.

“Palais des congrès de Montréal” (Montreal Convention Center) © Palais des congrès de Montréal

Helping you reach your sustainability goals

Canada is at the forefront of helping planners create sustainable — and meaningful — events. To move the needle even further, Destination Canada launched its Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan in May 2022.

“The plan is meant to inspire and drive change within our destinations — helping them take concrete action to be better stewards of sustainable business events,” says Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director, Business Events, Destination Canada. “We want to show clients that sustainable events can be done, while maintaining a positive experience for all.”

For impartial insights, inspiration and introductions, planners can contact the Destination Canada Business Events team via their website; Or reach out to Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director, Business Events, Destination Canada directly.

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