Canada Emerges as a Sustainable Event Leader in the Latest GDS Index 2023

9th Oct, 2023

Driving through Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia) © Destination Canada

Following the release of the 2023 annual Global Destination Sustainability-Index (GDS-Index) benchmarking results, there are now 20 Canadian destinations participating in the Index, representing the highest national concentration of GDS-Index destinations globally.

Achieved in collaboration with the 16 Canadian cities already participating in Destination Canada’s Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan, this milestone not only speaks to their commitment to be sustainable hosts for international events but signals the beginning of the final phase of the Plan.

The GDS-Index is the world's leading sustainability performance programme for urban tourism and events destinations around the world. Used by over 100 cities globally, the GDS-Index benchmarks and improves the sustainability performance and strategies of the municipality, its tourism supply chain, and the destination management organisation.

"Participation in the GDS-Index by 20 business event destinations across Canada is the highest of any country in the world. It shows our sector’s commitment to meaningful, long-term transformation that really matters. The GDS-Index will help track where our destinations are currently on their sustainability journey, and how to improve from there,” says Marsha Walden, President and CEO, Destination Canada. “Understanding the results of the Index is just the beginning of an incredible movement to host exemplary events in Canada.”

“The GDS-Movement envisions thriving destinations and communities activated by regenerative tourism and events.” says Global Destination Sustainability Movement’s Chief Changemaker and CEO, Guy Bigwood. “With so many Canadian destinations committed to using the GDS-Index and to improving their destinations sustainability practices, clients looking at Canada to host their event won’t be confined in where they want to go. Instead, they’ll be able to choose and work with destinations who are in action and can help them organise events which can regenerate their organisations, society and nature."

Launched in the spring of 2022, Destination Canada’s Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan is a first-of-its-kind national programme aimed at improving the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental sustainability practices of business events hosted in Canada. There are currently 16 cities participating in the Plan:

Banff Lake Louise; Calgary; Edmonton; Halifax; Kelowna; Montreal; Niagara Falls; Ottawa; Charlottetown; Quebec City; Saskatoon; St. John's; Toronto; Vancouver; Victoria; Winnipeg

Northwest Territories (NWT) © Destination Canada

Recent Business Event Sustainability Advancements:

  • Destination Greater Victoria

In March of 2023, Victoria – the first carbon-neutral Destination Management Organization in North America – broke new ground again when it became the first urban destination in North America to earn the Responsible Tourism Institute’s coveted biosphere certification that recognises commitment to environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, equity and social responsibility.

  • Ottawa Tourism

The Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa is always thinking about the future with their Leave a Legacy programme. The Shaw Centre’s team identifies opportunities to donate anything left over, whether non-perishable food, obsolete marketing collateral, promotional items, furniture, displays, carpets, or anything else to the local Ottawa community with volunteer assistance from local partners. The Shaw Centre looks after all the arrangements to ensure your donations go where they matter most.

  • Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

The Community Impact Program is a unique initiative that allows organisations to purchase prepaid co-invested cards for their clients to support local businesses and charities such as the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, Banff Pride Society, and many other non-profits. The programme was recently shortlisted for the GDS Innovation Award.

“When we reached out to start the programme in 2022, I was hoping to have about 10-12 destinations across Canada join us. In the end, we had 16 destinations join the Plan – and that’s really exciting," adds Virginie De Visscher, Acting Executive Director, Business Events, at Destination Canada. "This plan is meant to inspire and drive change within our destinations — helping them take concrete action to be better stewards of sustainable business events and create an environment of change within their destinations. The results of the GDS-Index will be paramount to continued forward momentum and continuous sustainability improvements.”

Earlier this year, the Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan was named the winner of the 2023 IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award, acknowledging Destination Canada’s commitment to driving sustainability and innovation. When the Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan is complete, the 16 participating destinations will have a complete inventory of the sustainability programmes available across the country. This inventory will inform the turnkey economic, socio-cultural, and environmental sustainability solutions provided to global clients, empowering them to take action and understand how Canadian host cities can help them meet their own sustainability goals.

Mount Thor (Nunavut) © Artur Stanisz

Other Articles

About Us

Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.