Glasgow has been recognised as one of the world’s top five cities for its commitment to sustainable business tourism.

The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) published its 2019 rankings today (Thursday, October 31), with Scotland’s largest city climbing three places from joint-seventh to fourth.

The announcement comes at the close of the 58th annual International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) World Congress, which has been taking place in Houston, Texas this week.

It’s a huge boost for Glasgow as the city prepares to host the United Nations’ 26th Conference of the Parties Climate Change Conference (COP26) next year.

Governments and destinations around the world are responding to the global climate emergency and Glasgow’s ambitions include a pledge to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2030. The Scottish Government has set a net zero emissions target for Scotland by 2045.

The GDS Index was launched in 2016 and promotes responsible business tourism best practice.

Compiled by global sustainability academics and policymakers, it ranks nearly 60 cities around the world based on four key criteria – environmental strategy and infrastructure; social sustainability performance; the strategy of the host city’s Convention Bureau; and industry supply chain support (from the likes of convention centres, meetings venues, hotels, restaurants and transport operators).  

To date, Glasgow remains the only UK city to feature in the Index, which also includes Sydney, Barcelona and Kyoto.

Glasgow’s ranking recognises the city’s People Make Glasgow Greener campaign, which was launched by Glasgow Convention Bureau in 2017 and updated again this year.

A key feature of the campaign is a toolkit identifying some of the city’s leading sustainable businesses – from hotels and restaurants to conference venues, transport operators and corporate entertainment providers. It’s geared at simplifying the process of organising a sustainable conference in Glasgow and helping meetings organisers to find the services they require from suppliers with similar green objectives.

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Glasgow’s ambition is to be at the forefront on climate action and we are determined to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2030 and a world-leading centre for sustainable policy and innovation.

“Being named as one of the world’s top five sustainable conference and business events destinations by the Global Destination Sustainability Index shows the great strides that we are making in that respect.

“Glasgow is home to some of the world’s biggest energy companies and we’re internationally recognised as having one of the healthiest and most diverse energy industries globally; particularly in terms of low carbon industries, which has had a hugely positive impact on the volume of conferences that we’re attracting in these sectors.

“Today’s announcement is a fantastic achievement for Glasgow and it would not have been possible without strong partnership working and collaboration between the city’s tourism sector, academic and business communities, and the City Government.”

Glasgow hosted 25 energy, sustainability and carbon reduction related conferences in the 2018/19 financial year, boosting the city’s economy by nearly £8m. 

Kathleen Warden, Director of Conferences Sales at the SEC, said: “This is fantastic news for the city and we are proud to play a key role in helping to position Glasgow as the world’s fourth most sustainable conference destination. At the same time, being named a finalist for the GDS-Index’s Leadership in Sustainability Award is testament to our ambitious goals as a city.

“The SEC has been nominated to host COP26, which will put both our venue and the city on the global stage in terms of showcasing our green credentials. This is an incredibly important event for Glasgow, Scotland and the UK at a crucial time for governments across the world as they address climate change. We’re looking forward to working with partners across the city to build on our sustainability efforts and ensuring that we provide the best possible environment for world-class events.”

Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of the GDS-Index, said; “Glasgow as a meetings and events destination has made a significant jump in sustainability performance in 2019. We are delighted to see that a UK city has risen to number four in the global rankings, and has a strong strategy to develop even further. Glasgow is in the first division of pioneering cities that is defining what sustainability leadership stands for.”


Notes for news editors:

About Glasgow Convention Bureau

Glasgow is one of the world’s leading conference destinations and, today, business tourism contributes significantly to the city’s economy. Some 538 conferences were held in Glasgow in the 2018/19 financial year, bringing nearly 160,000 delegates to Scotland’s largest city. Collectively, UK and international meetings were worth just over £150m in delegate spend, reflecting Glasgow’s most successful conference year-to-date.

Glasgow Convention Bureau is the city’s primary point of contact for conference organisers, working with partners on over 100 bids for major UK and international conferences each year.

Glasgow Convention Bureau has been voted the UK’s ‘Best Convention Bureau’ for the past 13 years in a UK-wide poll conducted by the influential industry magazine, Meetings and Incentive Travel (M&IT). Since first winning the M&IT title in 2007, Glasgow Convention Bureau has worked with industry, academia, city and national partners to deliver nearly £1.4b worth of business to Glasgow. That equates to securing more than 4,400 domestic and international conferences, with some 1.5m conference delegates having spent more than four million nights in the city’s hotels.

Glasgow Convention Bureau was the first convention bureau in the world to be recognised by the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), winning a silver award in 2017. Three of Glasgow’s other major conference venues, the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) – gold; the Kelvin Hall – silver; and the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) – gold, have also received Green Tourism Business Scheme awards in recent years while the TIC won the Green Champion Award at the 2019 Glasgow Business Awards. Some 40% of Glasgow’s hotels have also achieved a Green Tourism award.


 About the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index)

The GDS-Index is a prize-winning grassroots Scandinavian initiative that evolved into the first-ever sustainability ranking for business event destinations worldwide. A collaborative partnership between the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), IMEX and event agency MCI Group, it aims to promote the sustainable growth of international meetings destinations; highlighting best practice and responsible business tourism.

In a world increasingly focused on responsible business and addressing our environmental impact, the GDS-Index helps destinations to engage clients with sustainability, align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and drive the adoption, promotion and recognition of sustainable practices in their city. Currently, more than 50 cities are participating in the initiative including Sydney, Kyoto, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Houston, Barcelona, Geneva, Helsinki, Stockholm and Frankfurt. The objective is to have more than 100 destinations benchmarking by 2020. Find out more at


For more information contact:

Graeme Watson

Senior Corporate Communications Manager

Glasgow Life

+44 (0)141 566 0835

[email protected]