How a healthcare association made its RfP more sustainable

Sustainability /  / 
The Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow The Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow Photo Credit: Supplied by Glasgow Convention Bureau

The meetings industry is familiar with the traditional Request for Proposal - the document that sets out a conference planner’s requirements to ensure potential host destinations can meet their logistical needs, such as venue capacities, hotel provision, and social programme options.

But where does environmental responsibility - the desire to minimise the negative impacts of meeting - fit in? How should socially aware organisers find the right host and venue?

This was the challenge faced by the Guidelines International Network (GIN), an association for people involved in setting evidence-based healthcare guidelines, when sourcing somewhere to convene its 2023 international conference.

CEO, Elaine Harrow, explained: “As an international network, we recognise the importance of the innovation that happens when people get together and interact - this cannot be fully replicated online. Therefore, we wanted to consider how we could support our members by enabling them to meet and maximise human interaction, collaboration and innovation, while minimising our impact on the environment and promoting sustainability.

“We changed our conference model to reflect this.  The starting point for our 2023 conference was to look to the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index of sustainable tourism and conference cities and select several locations from the top 20.  We then looked at venues within those locations that could deliver a fully hybrid event and developed full proposals for five venues. The locations were narrowed down to three and in 2022, our Board selected the forerunner, the Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.”

The GDS Index is the leading sustainability benchmarking and improvement programme for tourism and conference destinations around the world. It is used to assess the current social and environmental performance of a destination and to help drive improvement.

Glasgow GDS-IndexGlasgow was one of the first cities to join the GDS-Index Photo Credit: Glasgow Convention Bureau, Glasgow Life

Guy Bigwood, GDS Movement chief changemaker and CEO, said: “GDS-Movement salutes Glasgow’s continuous commitment to measuring and managing the sustainability contributions of its tourism and events sector. Glasgow is one of the GDS-Index’s legacy destinations, having joined at its inception in 2016 to make great strides as a steward for its social, environmental, and economic well-being. It’s critical for the business events community to leverage the opportunity to act now, raise the bar, and invest in a thriving destination on a journey towards greater regenerative destination management, today and going forward. It’s also good for business, as Glasgow’s hosting of the GIN network demonstrates.”

Aileen Crawford, head of Tourism and Conventions, Glasgow Convention Bureau, said: “Glasgow was the first UK city to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index in 2016, in association with the launch of the Convention Bureau’s People Make Glasgow Greener strategy to help conference organisers deliver responsible and sustainable meetings aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, it is heartening to see that associations, such as the Guidelines International Network, are responding to the climate emergency by incorporating sustainability into their conference planning from the outset.”

Gordon Hodge, head of Conferencing & Events at the University of Strathclyde, added: “We’re working hard to ensure that we deliver every element of our operation more sustainably, playing our part in reducing the University’s emissions 70% by 2025. We constantly update our sustainability webpage to help organisers and delegates make more sustainable choices, and our conference apps reduce the need for printed materials. In terms of food and beverage, we’ve completely removed red meat from our menus in favour of plant-forward dishes, and standardised buffet options have reduced waste and energy consumption, while maintaining quality and value. We’re so proud of our recent Green Meetings Gold award and delighted that our approach to sustainability was a key factor in bringing Guidelines International Network’s meeting to the city.”




James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.


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