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When it comes to sustainability, we need less conversation and more action

When it comes to sustainability, we need less conversation and more action
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This article originally featured in HQ Magazine. It has been republished with Meeting Media Group's full permission.

Whether it’s your children on strike from school, a David Attenborough documentary or the front page in your newspaper, you can’t deny that society wants greater action from governments, corporates and you to tackle climate change, pollution, plastic waste and a long etcetera of environmental and social challenges. As the 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg said to world leaders at Davos: "I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is."

While many in our industry have made efforts to implement more sustainable events and operational practices, we are not reacting like our house is on fire. As Elvis said we need less conversation and a lot more action. NOW!

Driving Change

To accelerate this action and catalyse change, pioneering Scandinavian Cities and leading event industry organisations (IMEX, MCI, ICCA and European Cities Marketing) launched the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index). The GDS-Index is a multi-stakeholder partnership created to break the current status-quo on how things work and unleash the power of the MICE industry.

The GDS-Index helps destination management organisations to craft and improve their sustainability strategy, align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), make it easy to adopt sustainable event practices and share knowledge.

The GDS-Index is a simple tool to help associations identify and compare the social and environmental performance of potential destinations, connect with local sustainability initiatives, and uncover how they can get support to organise their events in a more sustainable fashion while leaving a powerful legacy.

Today over 50 cities including Barcelona, Copenhagen, Washington, Bangkok, Brussels, Geneva, Frankfurt, Oslo, Houston, Stuttgart and Sydney are participating in the GDS-Index. These DMOs are in motion; strategically and progressively changing the way they work to make a more sustainable destination. We have a goal to grow this purpose-based community to over 300 destinations by 2022.

New Partnership

We agree with Greta Thunberg and also feel the panic. We passionately believe that events, suppliers and associations need to do more. Working with HQ Magazine, we have decided to establish a new partnership to promote action and share key learnings from destinations and associations around the world who are working on sustainability. We will look deeper at the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and see how these 17 SDGs translate into a powerful framework for associations to catalyse a transformation in their sector, and become a leader in a more sustainable and circular economy. Finally, we will ask the tough questions, challenge your ideas and look for answers to the key social and environmental issues facing our industry.

For more information, visit

About The Author

For the last 15 years, Guy Bigwood has been delivering award-winning consulting services focused on helping cities, governments, corporations and associations step up, scale up and speed up their sustainability programmes and operational practices. Guy leads sustainability at the Smart City Council, and is the Managing Director of the Global Destinations Sustainability Index; a multi-stakeholder partnership to accelerate the development and performance of sustainable business tourism destinations. Guy was previously the President of the Green Meeting Industry Council, and was the Sustainability Director of MCI, the world’s largest association management, communications and events agency.

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