December is a special time of year for associations. It indeed marks the month when members of the BestCities Global Alliance invite organizations from various fields to join them for four days of networking, knowledge exchange, and discussions on association management and events. This has been a tradition for a few years now, and it is a wonderful opportunity for international associations to come together.

Words Remi Deve

A great part of the 2022 Global Forum, hosted by Destination Vancouver, was about sustainability and showcased projects that came as a nice follow-up to Wonderful Copenhagen’s Legacy Lab, which Boardroom already extensively wrote about, and Madrid Convention Bureau’s Madrid Challenge, which saw the light of day last year when associations took the pledge to incorporate legacy into their RFPs. 

Ongoing commitment

These projects demonstrate the ongoing commitment to sustainability and the continued evolution of these efforts.

Ocean Wise, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the protection and restoration of the world’s oceans, gave extensive presentations at the event. As part of their efforts, they certify businesses who produce sustainable seafood, helping customers to make the right choice. This, in turns, helps to empower communities and individuals to take action for the benefit of our oceans.

The transition to clean energy in Vancouver was also a significant topic of discussion. The city has set a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2050 and developed a detailed roadmap to achieve this vision of a sustainable, carbon-free future. The plan brings together various sectors, stakeholders, and communities in support of this ambitious target.

A tour of the Vancouver Convention Centre demonstrated some of the sustainability initiatives implemented at the facility. The venue, which is the world’s first double LEED Platinum Convention Centre, was built on the waterfront in 1995 and expanded in 2009. Its architecture takes into account the ecology of the site and includes features such as a 450m “habitat skirt” at the base that promotes the reestablishment of marine life along the formerly industrial water’s edge. 

The most iconic feature of the centre is perhaps its vegetated roof, which replicates the plant species of coastal habitats to create a home for birds and honey bees. The venue also has a black water treatment facility that manages and reuses black and grey water for irrigation and toilet flushing, resulting in a water savings of 72% compared to a reference building. The use of water-conserving fixtures also contributes to this reduction in water usage.

Legacy Impact Study

At this year’s Global Forum, the first results of the Conference Legacy Impact Study conducted by Capilano University were also presented. The study collected data from five in-person conferences held at the Vancouver Convention Center in 2022 and focused on identifying and measuring conference legacies and outcomes. Conference legacies are the long-term impacts on society that result from conference and meeting activities, while conference outcomes are the actions that attendees take after attending an event. The study used the UNSDGs as a framework to guide the identification of legacies and outcomes that can be applied to other destinations. Associations were encouraged to take the lead in engaging conference attendees in identifying and measuring legacies and outcomes.

Social Procurement, a term brought to attention by Gwendal Castellan, Manager of Sustainable Destination Development at Tourism Vancouver, refers to the practice of organizations utilizing their purchasing influence to produce a positive social impact in addition to the value of the goods, services, or construction being procured. This approach aims to minimize or reverse environmental harm and address social disparities. Partnering with and sourcing from social enterprises is an effective means of achieving these goals. According to Castellan, “Social procurement generates community capital,” emphasizing the significant impact that associations’ purchasing decisions can have on local communities.

Adequate time was allocated for roundtable conversations, allowing organizations to express their difficulties, share successful strategies, and generate ideas. Leslie Zeck, Director of Meetings for the International Association for Dental Research, stated, “This is my favorite aspect. BestCities guarantees that the interactions among peers are of exceptional quality. During this year’s Forum, we were able to delve into subjects like expanding our sources of income, identifying suitable vendors, and maximizing the impact of our events. The topics covered were diverse and enlightening. I was particularly impressed by the synergies that emerged from the discussions.”

The International Hepato Pancreato Biliary Association (IHPBA) serves as a prime illustration of the benefits that destinations and associations can reap from working together. After participating in the 2021 Global Forum in Madrid, IHPBA had an ongoing dialogue about the concept of legacy. This conversation led to the inclusion of legacy in the strategic plan for the association’s upcoming congresses in Cape TownSingapore and Vancouver, all of which are members of BestCities. This is definitely a fine example of how cities and associations alike can gain a lot from being a part of the global conversation on social, scientific, and environmental impacts.

The next BestCities Global Forum will take place in Melbourne, Australia, at dates soon to be revealed.

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