Liverpool and Edmonton Are the Two New Additions to the GDS Index

27th Aug, 2021

Edmonton Convention Centre

After declaring a climate emergency in 2019, and initiating 2030 Hub, Liverpool now joins the GDS-Index 2021 to guide its path towards net zero and delivering a more sustainable and inclusive economy. Set in the sunniest province in Canada, Edmonton is fast-growing and fast-learning. It has just joined GDS-Index to be benchmarked for responsible and regenerative tourism under Explore Edmonton, a Climate Smart-Certified marketing organisation.

The GDS-Index’s meticulous set of seventy-one criteria equips destinations to identify, measure, and action sustainability strategies and initiatives at source. The benchmarking ultimately brings together the city, DMO, and tourism service providers to ensure more effective economic, social, and environmental regeneration through the tourism and events sector. Championing this regeneration are Marketing Liverpool, Liverpool City Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and the Liverpool Convention Bureau.  

Councillor Dan Barrington, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Transport and Environment, said, “I’m delighted that Liverpool is adopting the GDS-Index 2021 to inform and shape our path to becoming a carbon net zero city. The city’s tourism and events sector has boomed in the past 15 years and by measuring and analysing its footprint, we can identify new ways of working which will have a huge impact on creating a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”  

The city is already bursting with regenerative projects, with positive changes in business and behaviour emerging from the events sector, broader industry, and society. Wildflower power is blossoming thanks to Head North for Beauty and the Liverpool City Region Community Environment Fund. School children and residents transformed 10 derelict sites into buzzing, colourful meadows filled with local flowers. The delightful new urban regeneration trail reaches from Litherland in Sefton to Everton in North Liverpool. 

Adding to the city’s built environment is the newly-completed Spine building; a climate-conscious workspace with a strong focus on sustainability and well-being. Its eco-credentials include communal, low-carbon heating, and biophilic design principals like natural lighting and oxygenating indoor plants. There is also an onsite charging station for electric vehicles.  

Investment into carbon literacy training from the Carbon Literate Communities project3 lets adults sharpen up their carbon knowledge in a free and accredited training programme. The city has a consciously sustainable food scene. Chefs buy from local farmers and customers vote with their feet by flocking to eateries that actively reduce food waste and offer healthier menus. 

From a mobility perspective the inner city is walkable, with e-bikes, bicycles, and new cycle lanes coming forward all the time. With participation and presence as powerful drivers in this increasingly popular destination, “this is a journey the whole city is taking together,” said Jenny Jensen, Head of Business Tourism for Liverpool City Council. “Going through the GDS-Index submission process, we realise we’re doing so much but need to bring it all together and we are hopeful that the auditing and benchmarking process of the GDS-Index will help identify areas we are performing well in, and also areas for improvement which will then help shape our policy development in future.”  

Liverpool was not only the first to initiate its 2030 Hub modelled on the UN Local2030 Hub4, it is the fifth most-visited UK destination for international visitors; 4th-most for domestic visitors, making its stakes in regenerative tourism significant.  

Edmonton is the first city in Western Canada to join the GDS Index and looks forward to measuring and improving its sustainability strategies and skillsets with the GDS-Movement. It has the mindset already, as interim CEO of Explore Edmonton, Maggie Davison, demonstrates.  

 “Explore Edmonton continues to strive to be a leader in sustainability,” she emphasises. ‘We offer carbon offsetting for meetings and events coming to our city. Our venues, Edmonton EXPO Centre and Edmonton Convention Centre, are Green Key and Climate Smart certified.  Explore Edmonton hopes to gain from the global collaborative approach the GDS-Movement offers and will work to identify best practices and develop new sustainability strategies.”  

“We believe that with strong partnerships and collaboration with government, we can support a strategic future of the global event industry that demonstrates sustainability,” says Melissa Radu, Director, Social and Environmental Sustainability (photo below). “The GDS-Index allows us to take a holistic approach to sustainability at the destination level and assess what new partnerships, sharing opportunities, and strategies can help us to further advance this important work and attract more major business, sporting, and entertainment events to Edmonton.” 

The sustainability efforts already in place across the city are inspirational. Here’s a tiny taster: 

  • Edmonton offers climate-conscious visitors increasingly more bicycle lanes, electric buses, light rail transit, electric vehicle roll-out, and electric scooters and Segways.
  • The National Hockey League arena and events venue, Rogers Place, and the Edmonton International Airport are highly efficient, healthy, and cost-saving green buildings that are LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
  • The City of Edmonton’s Ribbon of Green ensures that the North Saskatchewan River Valley and Ravine System can be enjoyed without damage to its essential ecological corridor, celebrated recreation area, and culturally-significant local attraction.
  • Social concerns are as high on the list as environmental and economic ones are, and food security is a central part of it. The Edmonton Food Bank is the country’s first, actively supported by continuing donations from convention centre, exhibition grounds, and arena.
  • In 2020, Explore Edmonton launched a carbon neutral initiative to ensure that any event that chooses Edmonton can tap into free, expert support to lessen, measure and offset emissions generated as a result of events.

"In so many ways the tourism industry can be a powerful mechanism for change to help inspire a more sustainable world,” says Melissa. “It is when a destination can come together in collaboration, work together to take meaningful action, that we begin to realize the huge potential we have as an industry to serve our community and our planet.”  


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