France’s Green Commitment

In 2015, France became an early adopter of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help the world reduce poverty, fight inequality, and protect the planet. These SDGs led to the establishment of additional goals — to which France is equally attached — with respect to sustainability in general. The French meetings industry is definitely playing a key role in this very matter.

With more and more French cities listed in the GDS Index, France has recently making huge strides in the sustainability area. The Index is a collaborative platform that promotes the sustainable growth of meeting destination through knowledge sharing, capacity building and benchmarking. The fact that France has, over the last few years, greatly improved not only in terms of city environmental strategy and infrastructure, but also in terms of social sustainability performance, industry supplier support, and convention bureau strategy says a lot about the country’s vision and strategy. And cities like Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux or Toulouse which successfully joined the Index won’t prove otherwise.

The French government, together with the private world, has embarked on a journey to be green and sustainable. In 2016 for instance, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea launched the "Green Tech,” a new incubator in order to assist 50 start-ups to develop 14 new services and applications for citizens in the sustainability field. Meanwhile, the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) for 2011-2020 has aimed to make France “a model biodiversity restoration country,” rolling out many activities nationally to tackle biodiversity loss. There are also initiatives like “Finance for Tomorrow” which are committed to making France the world capital of green and sustainable finance.

In this context, the French meetings industry is riding the sustainability wave as well. In order to improve the environmental performance of business events, Atout France works, for instance, in synergy with the ADEME Environment and Energy Management Agency to amplify the dissemination of the ISO20121 certification — a voluntary international standard for sustainable event management — among destinations and industry professionals. Likewise, the new French pavilion that will showcase France’s ability to host conferences and congresses of any type and format at trade shows will be testament to the country’s green vision.

Suppliers like Viparis are also leading the way. In 2014, they were the first player in the events sector to be ISO20121 certified at all of their ten sites, and hosting the COP 21 later in 2015 confirmed their capacity to take on large-scale sustainable events. In 2018, they took one step further with Better Events Viparis 2030, a green program encompassing the whole value chain. Its goal? To reduce Viparis’ environmental footprint, by offering smooth mobility solutions, creating new sustainable and innovative partnerships, and fully integrating the meeting sites into their surrounding areas. Case in point: the 14,000sqm urban farm on the roof of Paris Expo Porte de Versailles’ Pavilion 6, which will offer a range of activities later this year.

As Caroline Leboucher, CEO of Atout France concludes: “More than ever, the requirement for sustainable development is becoming a short-term objective. Everyone must act within their field of responsibilities because the challenges are numerous, among which water management, the preservation of biodiversity or global warming, just to mention a few. We have to able to offer sustainable experiences to our visitors, planners and delegates alike, and support our many destinations in their ambitious strategies to host major, sustainable events. We also have to encourage innovation in terms of sustainable tourism development. That’s definitely where our future lies.”

Remi Deve, Chief Editor, Boardroom Magazine

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