Climate Leadership: Examples from Canadian Destination Management Organizations

Last year, we published an article highlighting the steps that Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and tourism businesses can take to start measuring their organizational carbon footprint by completing a greenhouse gas inventory. An organizational carbon footprint looks at the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that result from operating a business or organization. Once the carbon footprint is understood, short and long-term science-aligned decarbonization goals can be set, and an action plan created to achieve these goals. 

Taking it Further

Several destinations in Canada have taken this exercise one step further and have measured the carbon footprint of the visitor economy for their geographic boundaries. While this is a significant undertaking, it can become the catalyst for support programs and funding for the industry, as well as meaningful conversations and advocacy with all levels of government. In this article, we’ll share some great examples of Canadian destinations that have measured their carbon footprint at the organizational and destination level, and how they are beginning to use the results. 

Destination Canada

Destination Canada has made a tremendous commitment to improving the sustainability performance of the Canadian tourism industry, with the launch of its Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan which has a strong focus on decarbonization. Leading by example, Destination Canada created an internal environmental sustainability team and in 2022 partnered with GreenStep to measure its organizational carbon footprint and support the development of a net-zero action plan to help inform future decisions and plans within its operations and events. One such early action was to consolidate their international office space, helping to reduce their Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon footprint. 

Destination Sherbrooke

Destination Sherbrooke, which became the first destination in Québec to become certified by GreenStep Sustainable Tourism in 2023, has also completed an organizational carbon footprint assessment, looking at its operations as well as the operations of the Sherbrooke Exhibition Centre. One action implemented as an outcome was a work-from-home policy, which enabled team members to work from home up to three days per week, providing a 60% reduction in GHGs resulting from employee commuting. 

At the Exhibition Centre, which is responsible for 60% of Destination Sherbrooke’s total emissions, opportunities for up to a 90% reduction in GHGs and cost savings of up to $30,000 per year were identified. Additionally, it was determined that the original goal of achieving a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, could potentially be achieved by 2025. Without the carbon footprint measurement exercise, which helped to identify carbon hotspots, Destination Sherbrooke would not have known where to focus its efforts.

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association – Destination Carbon Footprint 

For the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA), signing the Glasgow Declaration was the catalyst for the development of their Climate Action Plan, which follows the five pathways of the declaration: Measure, Decarbonize, Regenerate, Collaborate, and Finance. Part of TOTA’s commitment as a signatory is to deliver a climate action plan and report publicly on an annual basis on progress against its interim and long-term targets, as well as on actions being taken. 

As a first step, TOTA engaged GreenStep to measure both its organizational and destination carbon footprint. The boundary of the destination carbon footprint included the most impactful elements of the visitor economy; transportation, accommodation, activities, shopping, food and beverage, and waste. TOTA is in the final stages of this process, and is developing a robust climate action plan, which will include actions for their organization, as well as actions to support the visitor economy within the Thompson Okanagan region to decarbonize. 

Taking Climate Action

For every business, organization and destination that is serious about taking climate action, measuring your carbon footprint is best practice and an important part of your journey. Without this information, it can be difficult to understand where the hot spots are and measure your progress and impacts over time. However, if you have ideas for how to reduce your carbon footprint now, move them foreward, even if you haven’t measured your carbon footprint yet. Taking bold action is what is needed, and as quickly as possible.

GreenStep offers a range of software tools, training, and direct support for organizations looking to get started with climate action and carbon footprint measurement. Reach out for a free consultation to learn more.