In Capetown, 1966 Senator Robert F Kennedy in a now famous affirmation address to the National Union of South African students delivered his most respected speech, he took a bold stand against apartheid inspiring a generation and bolstering the mission of an imprisoned Nelson Mandela. One of the powerful soundbites from the “Ripple of Hope” speech was his reminder that we can create a better world, that we should and must aim for that goal. For those doubting their ability, he said this
“Only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly”.
It often takes bravery to open yourself to judgement but if we are to create cities where equality thrives, where the environment is considered in development, where the air and water is clean and where birdsong is heard alongside traffic we must be bold and hold ourselves accountable to a high standard.
The GDS-Index was created with such a vision and is valued by the many nations and cities taking part. Since March 2016 we have grown to 38 cities participating from 5 continents but there’s a clear trend to greater participation from Europe with just a handful of leaders elsewhere. Representing 50 States in the USA we have a sole leader in Houston and no participating countries in South America or the Middle East. Credits to Cape Town, Tshwane and Durban for representing Africa, and to Kyoto, Sapporo, Melbourne and Sydney representing the 30+ potential countries present in Asia Pacific.
Whats behind this trend? Perhaps there’s an element of fear that many destinations will not boast the infrastructure and progress in sustainability to match the likes of Sweden and Germany but is this founded on fact? Looking at Asia as an example, nations such as Singapore and Korea frequently appear in the global legal tables. The 2016 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index ranking 100 global cities on three dimensions of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit placed Singapore as number 2 in the world behind Zurich with Seoul not far behind in 7th. Out of the top 10 but still strong performers Vancouver and Montreal represent Canada at 23 and 28 with San Francisco at 39. Yet none of these cities so far have joined the movement for sustainable MICE destinations.
We spoke with Melbourne Convention bureau and learnt that they use the index to bring together key stakeholders and leverage the city’s credentials to attract conferences, Karen Bolinger, CEO states
“As a leading convention bureau, we are using the GDS Index to raise benchmarks to ensure that conference organisers benefit from hosting sustainable events, while working with industry partners to enhance the Melbourne experience now and into the future.”
Dima Azarov, Sapporo Convention Bureau shared his perspective,
“As a city that is covered by 60% of greenery or 6 meters of snow in the winter time, we’ve always been considerate of the environment but we’ve found the platform established by the GDS-Index provides bureaus with the means not only to promote their practices, but also to tackle the matter on broader scale. To be able to learn from the best and to be able to apply that to your own efforts is the value we share with the GDS-Index members.”
Increasing Pressure & Global Focus
Corporates and Associations are increasingly focused on sustainability and the most recent formalization of a global approach is the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the accompanying Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). These goals set out a clear framework for driving sustainability for both institutions, businesses and governments. US Special Coordinator for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Tony Pipa stresses that the goals are vital to ensure universal achievement and that environmental conservation and action on climate change is especially critical in this region. It is clearly ever more important that stakeholders from across the MICE industry come together to catalyse and support change in policies, investment, business practices and client behaviour. A focus on sustainability can also help a destination develop new knowledge, create jobs and accelerate innovation which ultimately leads to competitive advantage. MICE destinations of the world this is your invitation, be bold, for to be great we must all dare to fail.