Canada is emerging as a leader in sustainable events through the Destination Canada Business Event Sustainability Plan

Pooja Sharma
6 Min Read

Destination Canada is pleased to announce that following the release of the 2023 annual benchmark results of the Global Destination Sustainability-Index (GDS-Index), there are now 20 Canadian destinations participating in the Index, representing the highest national concentration of GDS-Index destinations represent worldwide. This milestone, achieved in collaboration with the 16 Canadian cities already participating in Destination Canada’s Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan, not only reflects their commitment to being sustainable hosts for international events, but also marks the beginning of the final phase of the plan.

The GDS Index is the world’s leading sustainability performance program for urban tourism and event destinations worldwide. The GDS Index is used by more than 100 cities worldwide and improves the sustainability performance and strategies of the municipality, the tourism supply chain and the destination management organization.

“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 us track where our destinations currently are in their sustainability journey, and how we can improve from there,” said Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination Canada. “Understanding the Index results is just the beginning of an incredible movement to produce exemplary events in Canada.”

“The GDS movement envisions thriving destinations and communities, activated by regenerative tourism and events.” says Guy Bigwood, Chief Changemaker and CEO of the Global Destination Sustainability Movement. “With so many Canadian destinations committed to using the GDS Index and improving their destinations’ sustainability practices, customers looking to Canada to host their event will not be limited to where they want to go. Instead, they will be able to choose and work with destinations that are in action, and help them organize events that can regenerate their organizations, society and nature.”

Destination Canada’s Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan, launched in spring 2022, is a unique national program 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


● Kelowna

● Montreal

● Niagara Falls

● Ottawa

● Charlottetown

● Quebec City

● Saskatoon

● St. John



● Victoria


Recent developments in the field of sustainability at business events:

● Destination Greater Victoria

In March 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 achieve the Responsible Tourism Institute’s coveted biosphere certification, which recognizes its commitment to environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, equality and social responsibility.

● Tourism in Ottawa

The Shaw Center in downtown Ottawa is always thinking about the future with their Leave a Legacy program. The Shaw Center team identifies opportunities to donate whatever is left over, whether it is non-perishable food, outdated marketing materials, promotional items, furniture, displays, carpets or anything else, to the local Ottawa community, with volunteer help from local partners . The Shaw Center will make all the arrangements to ensure your donations go where they matter most.

● Tourism in Banff and Lake Louise

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

“When we reached out to start the program in 2022, I was hoping to have about 10 to 12 destinations across Canada join us. Ultimately, we had 16 destinations that signed on to the plan – and that’s really exciting,” added Virginie De Visscher, Acting Executive Director of Business Events, Destination Canada. “This plan aims 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 in their destinations. The results of the GDS Index will be critical for continued forward momentum and continuous improvements in sustainability.”

Earlier this year, the Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan was named winner of the 2023 IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award, in recognition of Destination Canada’s commitment to driving sustainability and innovation. When the Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan is completed, the 16 participating destinations will have a full inventory of the sustainability programs available across the country. This inventory will inform the turnkey economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability solutions offered to global customers,

empowering them to take action and understand how Canadian host cities can help them achieve their own sustainability goals.

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