France’s Strides Toward Sustainability

5th October 2022

Sustainability isn’t a new subject in France. The country was an early adopter of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), and more spots continue to improve their environmental strategy and infrastructure. This has earned cities across France both a place in the GDS-Index (Global Destination Sustainability Index), as well as confidence from the meetings industry. Hotels, convention bureaus and venues have gotten on board to ensure 360-degree sustainability that starts in the community and extends to meetings and events coming to town.

Words Remi Deve & Lane Nieset

Smart Tourism in Lyon

Lyon was awarded European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019 for its innovative and responsible approach to tourism. The capital of France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, it has strived to respect the environment while also promoting its heritage. Low-impact transport (walking, cycling) has become more popular and is helping to grow cycle tourism, since the city sits at the crossroads of two major cycling routes. 

The city created a dedicated “Lyon, Fair and Sustainable City” label — the sole of its kind in the country — designed to promote and champion local businesses that are more mindful of the environment and community. It’s also one of the aforementioned cities that recently joined the GDS-Index, and, with a score of 55%, ranks first in France. Further proof of the major progress the city has made: if Lyon Convention Centre and Eurexpo have ISO 20121 certified since 2019, the Tourist Office followed their footsteps in 2022, showcasing the city’s efforts to develop a sustainable events industry through eco-labeling and eco-responsible activities.

Normandy: Renewable energy powerhouse 

Close to Paris, the UK and Ireland, Normandy is not only known for world-famous attractions (D-Day Landing Beaches, Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny, Mont-Saint-Michel), the region has also gained a reputation for its welcoming and innovative spirit. Some of the projects taking place are perfect proof: two offshore wind farm projects are underway, thanks to Normandie Energies. One, off of Fécamp, will feature 83 wind turbines that will generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 770,000 people, while the other, Parc éolien en mer Dieppe Le Tréport, will install 62 turbines to supply power for 850,000 people annually.

Parc éolien en mer du Calvados, meanwhile, is the second offshore wind farm under construction in the region — and one of the first four in the country. Once it’s running, the turbines will have the power to supply energy for 90% of the people in Calvados. The region is also helping boost young companies through a business incubator for the social and solidarity economy in Caen, which will strengthen the start-up landscape and knowledge capital of the area.

Eco-savvy Strasbourg

It’s no surprise that in Alsace, considered the French cycling capital, since it’s crisscrossed with more than 600 km of bike paths, the city of Strasbourg has a strong cycling culture (16% of workers commute this way). The city is also pedestrian friendly — with one of the largest pedestrian areas in France. While Strasbourg tries to make public transport as convenient and streamlined as possible to avoid traffic and congestion, the Eurometropolis will take things one step further by 2023 by implementing an unprecedented programme designed to increase the number of trains and buses significantly.

Delegates coming to Strasbourg are also encouraged to be ‘softly mobile’: thanks to the partnership between the CTS (Strasbourg Transport Company) and the Strasbourg Convention Bureau, event organizers can benefit from special rates in public transport.

This September also heralded a welcome newcomer into the city: the 24,000-sqm Parc des Expositions de Strasbourg, which commemorates the 90th edition of the Strasbourg European Fair. The nature-inspired design, conceptualized by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, features geocooling and natural ventilation, plus 5,000 sqm of photovoltaic panels.The exhibition centre aims to help boost the city’s plan to have 30% less energy consumption, 40% less greenhouse gases, and 30% more renewable energies in the mix by 2030. “Thanks to the use of renewable energies and materials, such as wood, which integrate seamlessly into the environment, it also sets a stunning example for complying with new requirements relating to energy efficiency,” adds Pia Imbs, president of the Eurometropolis.

Nantes: Committed to Sustainability

In Western France, Nantes, the regional capital of Pays de la Loire, has received both national and international attention for is commitment to the environment. Case in point: Nantes was the first French city named European Green Capital. It was also the first MICE destination to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index in 2016 and one of the nine pilot cities for France’s Sustainable Innovative Destination certificate.

By promoting social equality, hiring people with disabilities, and encouraging community spirit, Nantes has succeeded in creating a socially responsible and inclusive environment — one that is also embraced by the business tourism community. 

The convention bureau also promotes zero-waste, responsible purchasing, and lowering carbon footprints through an advanced training plan for its members. Those philosophies are also carried out by Exponantes, which is certified ISO 26000 – ISO 20121, and ISO 20121-certified La Cité Nantes Congress Centre, the first French convention centre to earn “Healthy Venue” status, as well as AIPC Quality Standard Gold.

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