How Bangkok, Belfast and Gothenburg are creating sustainability stories

CVBs from these three destinations share their efforts on the sustainability front.

Three representatives from Thailand, Belfast and Gothenburg offer insights into their approach to sustainability.
Three representatives from Thailand, Belfast and Gothenburg offer insights into their approach to sustainability. Photo Credit: Adobe

The Global Destination Sustainability Index is a performance improvement programme supporting destination management organisations (DMOs) and convention bureaus to adopt and promote responsible and regenerative practices.

The latest Index and awards were revealed last week, with Gothenburg in Sweden winning the ‘Leadership award’, Bangkok in Thailand being named the ‘Most Improved’ and Belfast in Northern Ireland picking up the ‘Innovation award’.

Three representatives from these destinations offer insight into their approach to sustainability:

Pat Satkhum, sustainability advocate and strategic planner, TCEB
“At TCEB, we have been working on carbon footprint calculation and carbon neutrality for the last 10 years but it’s been very difficult, it’s been very academic and people aren’t ready. But in the past couple of years, carbon footprint has been knocking on our doors, we cannot ignore this issue. How can we get results fast enough to slow down global warming? Thailand has come up with a framework, but we are not only focusing on offsetting our carbon footprint - we are trying to avoid it. We should do everything in our power first, to avoid and reduce carbon footprint in our events, and then you can offset. It seems that we talk less about avoiding it.

One important thing that I have learned from being in this Index is that you learn from your colleagues, those who have achieved very good scores. I don’t see the Index as a competitive platform, it’s not about which destination is better than the other. My team is not only focusing on the score - we look at where the gaps are, what areas we can improve upon and what we have done already that is positive and how we can share this. That is our philosophy - it’s not so much about whether we have good recycling in place or not - we look at how we can work around that.

Jac Callan, sustainability and impact manager, Visit Belfast
We looked at the UN Sustainable Development Goals, at number one and two, which are ‘no poverty’ and ‘zero hunger’. We really weren't stepping up in that space. So we wanted to look at ways to change that. We partnered with our clients and with our industry to look at ways that we can respond and reuse supplies to really support food banks right across the city, pioneering a new initiative called ‘Changing the menu for good’. It’s a project co-created with People’s Kitchen, one of the largest food banks in Belfast and developed with founding industry partners, such as hotels, caterers, venues and PCOs. There are a variety of ways to donate, meaning business events, gala dinners, conferences and meetings can choose a method that suits their event. Funds raised will be used for food parcels, hot food and drinks, homeless outreach and emergency financial support to cover heating bills or essential supplies.

It’s contributing to the wellbeing of the local community and citizens and helping us become a responsible tourism and events destination. It’s also providing clients with a really easy solution. It has made a real and tangible difference in Belfast.

Katarina Thorstensson, smart tourism and sustainability strategist, Göteburg & Co
You have to be patient when you work with these [sustainability] issues as you can lose faith from time to time. One of the important things is to have a common vision together with your stakeholders about what you want to achieve. We set a bold goal to become one of the global leaders in sustainable meetings and events and we were inspired by looking at what other industries were doing. We also carried out thorough research and we could see that associations were asking for more sustainable suppliers and wanted to know what the destination could do.

We’ve had a strategic approach to legacy and impact for many years. For new cities that are considering benchmarking, take a look at what you are already doing, as you are probably doing quite a few things already. An outside eye is always useful too and be patient.