Canada's Leadership in Sustainability Drives Business Success in the Meetings Industry

A powerhouse leader developing clean technologies across many industries, Canada offers a wealth of resources for business events focused on sustainability.

Experts in Excellence
Experts in Excellence
Destination Canada Business Events' specific knowledge of this vast land makes this team a first stop for executives and organizers focused on sustainability, tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. 

A recent survey revealed that delegates prefer attending conferences when purpose-driven, sustainable practices have been incorporated into the event. Attendees also gravitate towards cities driving important change towards sustainable, inclusive change. As a powerhouse leader developing clean technologies across many industries, Canada joined other nations in committing to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards a more prosperous, resilient future. 

Five Canadian cities cracked the top 40 of the most recent Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, which measures the social, environmental and economic health of cities. And seven of its universities counted among the top 30 worldwide in 2020 when assessed against the United Nation's SDGs by the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

Canada is a global leader in the cleantech sector, ranking first among G20 countries and fourth worldwide by the Global Cleantech Innovation Index. Plus, many of its cities promote sustainable practices that limit their environmental impact. Between its economic strengths, top-notch tech talent pool and natural beauty, Canada has positioned itself as a top choice for memorable international business events. Here are seven leading destinations in this space.

Vancouver: One of the greenest cities in the world

Vancouver is home to pioneering companies including Westport Innovations, General Fusion, Ballard Power Systems and Saltworks Technologies.
Vancouver is home to pioneering companies including Westport Innovations, General Fusion, Ballard Power Systems and Saltworks Technologies. Photo Credit: Tourism Vancouver

When North America's largest and longest-running sustainable business conference and trade show chooses the same host city again and again, that city is clearly doing something right. 

"GLOBE Forum has been hosted in Vancouver every two years since 1990, with only a couple of exceptions. Vancouver is our home. It's a natural fit for GLOBE Forum," says Elizabeth Shirt, managing director of the GLOBE Series. "Our thousands of participants appreciate Vancouver's longstanding commitment to sustainability, its accessibility, and the excellent amenities. And of course, a little natural beauty doesn't hurt when you need inspiration to activate a more sustainable economy." 

Centers of Excellence
Centers of Excellence
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, natural resources and more.

Indeed, the Vancouver Convention Centre — the world's only Double Platinum LEED Certified convention venue — provides a spectacular setting for global events, with a six-acre living roof and a restored marine habitat built into the foundation of one of its buildings. 

The West Coast city has much to offer planners seeking to round out their speakers' programs. Simon Fraser University — one of many post-secondary institutions — was ranked most sustainable university for research, while the world's first Centre for Ecocities is based at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Vancouver hosted 2019's Clean Energy Ministerial, thanks to innovative green policies like the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan launched in 2011, the provincial CleanBC action plan and the 100% Renewable Strategy, which aims to remove all carbon-based energy from the city by 2050. 

Sitting at the forefront of global innovation — especially in fuel-cell solutions, power electronics, and waste/wastewater treatment technologies — Vancouver is home to pioneering companies including Westport Innovations, General Fusion, Ballard Power Systems and Saltworks Technologies.

GLOBE Forum 2022 takes place in February 2022 with in-person and virtual components, plus regional hubs, bringing Vancouver to the world. 

Victoria: A carbon-neutral destination

The Royal BC Museum is one of the sustainability-focused venues in Victoria.
The Royal BC Museum is one of the sustainability-focused venues in Victoria. Photo Credit: Tourism Victoria

In February 2021, Destination Greater Victoria achieved a prized designation from leading climate advisory services company Offsetters: It became North America's first destination marketing organization to become carbon neutral, setting the standard for all the city can offer groups in the cleantech sector.

Planners wishing to tap local experts and suppliers focused on sustainable business practices have a wealth of choices, including TOPSOIL, which grows thousands of pounds of produce on unused urban spaces; Eagle Wing Tours, which practices regenerative tourism in partnership with the Eco-Guardians of Race Rocks, and the Victoria International Marina, which has made major green advancements in the industry this year.
 
"Victoria was the right fit for our event because it aligned with and embodied our values of sustainability," says Kayli Anderson, program director of the IMPACT Sustainability, Travel & Tourism conference, which has welcomed 300 attendees to Victoria annually since 2018. 

"The Victoria Conference Centre, which became carbon neutral in April, offered a flexible mix of event spaces. Our event is carbon neutral, and we kept our emissions low by taking advantage of the walkability of Victoria's downtown core and encouraging guests to book in one of Victoria's Carbon Neutral or five green-key-rated hotels."

The event's pre-conference tours featured local sustainability experts and allowed attendees to see regenerative practices in action. Tours were hosted on 100 percent carbon neutral, fuel-efficient catamarans from Eagle Wing Tours. 

"Our events were hosted at a variety of sustainability-focused venues including the Victoria International Marina (which earned 5 Anchors from Clean Marine), The Atrium (LEED certified) and the Royal BC Museum," adds Anderson, whose team encouraged attendees to dine at restaurants certified by the Vancouver Island Green Business Collaborative.

Toronto: A leader in environmental performance

At Exhibition Place, multiple green initiatives include a co-generation plant, lighting refits, a compostable food packaging program and a four-stream waste diversion program.
At Exhibition Place, multiple green initiatives include a co-generation plant, lighting refits, a compostable food packaging program and a four-stream waste diversion program. Photo Credit: Destination Toronto

Having ranked high in the Sustainable Cities Index, Toronto — which has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent since 1990 — continues to model how to be energy efficient. In October, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) received the 2020 Tourism Industry Association of Ontario's Award of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism. The MTCC redirects 90 percent of its event waste from landfill by recycling or donating food and materials to local charities — equal to about 35 garbage trucks' worth each year. The venue was also the first convention center in Canada to offer clean renewable power. 

At Exhibition Place, which houses two of the industry's most environmentally responsible buildings — the LEED Silver certified Beanfield Centre and the LEED Platinum certified Enercare Centre — multiple green initiatives include a co-generation plant, lighting refits, a compostable food packaging program and a four-stream waste diversion program. 

Toronto proved the perfect choice for the National Association for Environmental, Health, Safety & Sustainability Management's 2019 Forum.

"Toronto was the right fit for the group because of airlift into the city from everywhere in the U.S. and Europe for its membership," says Pam Lackland, CMP, vice president of ConferenceDirect in Canaan Valley, W.V. "Toronto also has a wonderful downtown so these senior-level corporate executives could benefit from the many upscale restaurants and activities."

NAEM delegates gathered at the Hockey Hall of Fame for an evening activity that included photos taken with the Stanley Cup and a Canadian whiskey tasting bar. 

Edmonton: A clean energy powerhouse

The Edmonton Convention Centre is one of only five Canadian venues certified to ASTM standards, and the first conference venue in Canada to receive Green Key Global Meetings level five certification.
The Edmonton Convention Centre is one of only five Canadian venues certified to ASTM standards, and the first conference venue in Canada to receive Green Key Global Meetings level five certification. Photo Credit: Edmonton Convention Centre

Nestled within urban nature, Edmonton is working hard to reduce its carbon footprint. The city has a fleet of 21 battery-electric buses. The world's largest net-zero hydrogen energy complex has recently been announced for the Edmonton Region, making it the most competitive and lowest-carbon-intensity hydrogen network worldwide: Once it's at full operation, it will sequester three million tonnes of CO2 each year. 

The world's largest airport solar farm is currently being planned for the Edmonton International Airport, where Alpin Sun will develop a 627-acre, 120-megawatt solar farm. The EIA is also the first in the world to join the Climate Pledge, committing them to being carbon neutral by 2040. 
 
Explore Edmonton's major conference venues are leaders in sustainable business operations. 

The Edmonton International Airport is the first in the world to join the Climate Pledge, committing them to being carbon neutral by 2040.

The Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC) is one of only five Canadian venues certified to ASTM standards, and the first conference venue in Canada to receive Green Key Global Meetings level five certification. Home to Canada's largest building-integrated installation of photovoltaic glass panels on its atrium roof, the venue harnesses its own renewable energy and reduces 150,000 kg of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Both the ECC and the Edmonton EXPO Centre — also a Greenkey Global Meetings certified venue — have Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plans and waste-reduction plans.

In 2021, Explore Edmonton earned the Corporate Climate Leader of the Year Award from the City of Edmonton for the work its venues are doing to help make the events industry more sustainable. 
  
The ECC's Responsible Events Program encourages planners to collaborate with its in-house sustainability experts to reduce their event's environmental footprint. Emission Reduction Alberta's SPARK 2019: Carbon Positive was the first carbon neutral convention in Edmonton and the first to participate in this program. 

Calgary: Canada's energy city is becoming a leader in the global energy transition 

Analysts predict that Calgary’s energy sector will spend $2.3 billion on digital transformation between 2022 and 2024, trailblazing for a cleaner industry.
Analysts predict that Calgary’s energy sector will spend $2.3 billion on digital transformation between 2022 and 2024, trailblazing for a cleaner industry. Photo Credit: Meetings Calgary

With its abundance of oil, natural gas, sun and wind, Alberta is a global energy leader with some of Canada's best bioenergy and geothermal resources. Analysts predict that Calgary's energy sector will spend $2.3 billion on digital transformation between 2022 and 2024, trailblazing for a cleaner industry. 

The city is raising the bar for ESG standards and developing new ideas such as reimagining existing oil wells to build geothermal solutions like the Eavor-Loop — the first scalable form of clean baseload power. Another local company, Carbon Upcycling Technologies, is capturing CO2 emissions and converting pollution into materials like concrete and plastic. 

As the epicenter for the country's energy sector, Calgary boasts head offices of major companies including Canadian Natural Resources, Greengate Power, BluEarth Renewables and Suncor. 
 
"Alberta is now Canada's largest market for new wind- and solar-energy development. Both the Canadian Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Solar Industries Association recently hosted events that captured the excitement of growing opportunities in the Alberta market," says Robert Hornung, president and CEO of the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, which merged both these associations in 2020. "We know Alberta will be an exciting destination for future CanREA events, given the accelerating deployment of successful wind- and solar-energy projects in the province."

Ottawa: A capital of green innovation

Canada’s capital is known as a green city where residents and visitors use public transit, walk or cycle to its compact downtown core.
Canada’s capital is known as a green city where residents and visitors use public transit, walk or cycle to its compact downtown core. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

With its open swaths of land and diverse natural spaces, Canada's capital is known as a green city where residents and visitors use public transit, walk or cycle to its compact downtown core. Featuring the highest concentration of technology companies and people working in cleantech per capita than any other Canadian city, Ottawa boasts more than 65 R&D centers and labs in the technology space, along with four universities and many government departments and agencies.

The Shaw Centre’s Environmental Responsibility Program encourages the hospitality industry to minimize its environmental footprint — the meeting venue was Canada’s first founding industry member of the international Convene Green Alliance.

Two sustainability initiatives planners can tap into include an excess food management program with La Tablée des Chefs, which liaises between food surplus producers and donors from hotels, restaurants and institutions to safely donate leftover food from events to the community. The Shaw Centre's Environmental Responsibility Program encourages the hospitality industry to minimize its environmental footprint — the meeting venue was Canada's first founding industry member of the international Convene Green Alliance.  

Ottawa hosted the Clean Tech Summit 2018, which brought together leaders and policymakers from the sector.

Montreal: One of Canada's most dynamic innovation hubs 

montreal-Palais-des-congres-sustainable
Palais des congrès de Montréal, is home to the 6,000-square-foot VERTical and a rooftop garden and Culti-VERT container farming system that helped the venue land ASTM Green Meetings Standards Certification. Photo Credit: Palais des congrès de Montréal

Having been certified several times as an environmentally sustainable destination for meetings and events by BPA Worldwide's iCompli, Montreal's green efforts range from grassroots neighborhood programs to the development of environmentally-friendly buildings and public spaces. Nearly all the province's electricity produced each year comes from renewable resources.

The city's award-winning convention center, Palais des congrès de Montréal, is home to the 6,000-square-foot VERTical — North America's first urban vertical scaffold farming project in collaboration with AU/Lab — and a rooftop garden and Culti-VERT container farming system that helped the venue land ASTM Green Meetings Standards Certification. 

In June 2021, Montreal, together with Paris and Singapore, hosted Movin'On, the world summit on sustainable mobility, which brought together 250 public and private organizations and 80 speakers. Later that month, Montreal hosted the International Conference on Green Transportation and Sustainability, during which leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars gathered to share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Green Transportation and Sustainability, as well as recent innovations, trends, and concerns.

destination-canada-logo-smallIn Canada, cleantech and sustainability leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world's easiest visa regimes. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada Business Events. The team's specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer's first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. To learn about assets and opportunities and (arrange research trips and site inspections) go to businesseventscanada.ca.

Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, natural resources and more.

Content sponsored by Destination Canada Business Events